The Leadership Nashville Foundation was founded in 1976 as an independent, executive leadership program to give community leaders a three-dimensional view of this city. Since Metropolitan Nashville is a union of satellite cities and neighborhoods, participants live and work in communities that are near and yet worlds apart. Leadership Nashville plays a vital role in bringing these leaders together.

The goal of Leadership Nashville today is the same as it was in 1976:

  • To build channels of communication between established leaders.
  • To connect these leaders with community issues.
  • To equip participants with insights not solutions.

The men and women selected each year represent a diversity of races, religions, ages and political persuasions, as well as a geographical cross section of neighborhoods. The class includes native Nashvillians and people who have moved here in leadership positions. Participants are educators, doctors, bankers, artists, business people, rabbis, ministers, lawyers, and representatives of labor, public service, international communities and the volunteer sector.


Each person elected to participate in Leadership Nashville makes an extensive time commitment. Attendance is mandatory for the nine-month program that begins in September. The Opening Retreat is in early October and the Closing Retreat is early June. Between these retreats are seven monthly meetings that average 13 hours each on the first Thursdays of November through May. Participants also work in study groups and present a report at the closing retreat.

In addition to considering Nashville’s strengths that have put it on national lists of outstanding places to live and work, the program also looks at issues that face this city, indeed all municipalities: problems such as crime, affordable housing, school finances, racial tensions, transportation and arts funding. Throughout the year the class will hear approximately 125 speakers and makes on-site visits to all parts of the city.


Once a participant completes the course, he or she remains very much a part of Leadership Nashville. Approximately 200 graduates are working on the current program committee. This ongoing alumni involvement gives a continuity of experience to unite members of all classes, coupled with fresh ideas that address current community issues.

Leadership Nashville does not take stands on public issues nor endorse candidates. In fact, the organization has always sought a low profile. We choose to measure our success by the work of our alumni who know that leadership is a responsibility and that they have a duty to make this city a good place to live and work.

While a number of our alumni have moved elsewhere and helped start other leadership programs, 84 percent of our graduates still live and work in Nashville and Middle Tennessee. Through the civic contributions of these men and women, Leadership Nashville’s impact has grown slowly and subtly across racial and ethnic lines, across political and philosophical differences.