Why A Pittsburgh Institute That Cultivates Black Leaders is Going National
Ongoing support has allowed The Advanced Leadership Institute to expand its programming across the country and it’s drawing interest from applicants in Georgia, Texas, Illinois and other states.
The Advanced Leadership Institute was formed in 2018 under a similar name — The Advanced Leadership Initiative — to “cultivate Black executive leadership to strengthen companies, institutions and communities.”
President and CEO Evan Frazier says the need has been crucial for many years.
“In 2016, Greg Spencer, founder and CEO of Randall Industries, conducted a study seeking Black ‘C-suite’ executives from local companies. At the time, African Americans made up 13% of Allegheny County, but the studies found that Black representation at the ‘C-suite’ level was less than .1%. Not 1%; .1%. In addition, Vibrant Pittsburgh conducted a different study that indicated that Pittsburgh trailed behind in Black leadership at the executive level in comparison to peer cities. That was completely unacceptable.”
Frazier adds the dismal figures also showed how backward the city had gone.
“Even 20 years earlier, each company had at least one Black executive,” he says. “Every way you looked at it, we were behind. The Advanced Leadership Institute, in partnership with others (Carnegie Mellon University, Highmark Health, BNY Mellon, PNC Bank and UPMC, Giant Eagle, Dollar Bank, etc.), became the catalyst to address those statistics.”
The institute currently offers two programs — The Executive Leadership Academy for Black leaders who have at least 10 years of professional experience under their belts who possess demonstrated leadership and a desire to achieve professional excellence, and the Emerging Leaders Program for future Black leaders with a minimum of 3-5 years of professional work experience and a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. More than 150 professionals have completed either program since its inception.
The organization has also received three generous gifts from the Richard King Mellon Foundation — including a $1 million grant announced on June 6 — to help further its mission. These gifts, along with other major contributions from BNY Mellon, Highmark Health and other organizations, have allowed the initiative to become the Advanced Leadership Institute, and are propelling the institute to branch out to a national audience.
The Advanced Leadership Institute announced The National Executive Leadership Academy, held in continued partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, will begin training its first class in August.
Applicants from Georgia, Texas, Illinois and New Jersey have already shown interest. Applications are being accepted through the end of June.
The hybrid program will consist of three months of online instruction and two, one-week in-person sessions at CMU’s Tepper School of Business.
Intensive training includes instruction on topics such as “Defining Your Leadership Brand,” “Resilience for Executives of Color,” “Global Management and Strategy” and “Building Networks of Influence.”
“The Executive Leadership Academy has been instrumental in addressing an important need to promote Black leadership diversity and we are eager to continue building on this critical work through the national program,” Frazier said in an institute press release.
Frazier says while The Executive Leadership Academy is still 100% focused on its work in the Pittsburgh region, it is excited to expand its offerings to participants to achieve national and global executive advancement.
Frazier notes there are four key pillars to the program.
“One is academic instruction that focuses on topics that can relate to any organization like strategy or negotiation and innovation,” he explains. “The topics covered are unique to the African American experience, such as: How does race play out in organizations and how does it relate to leadership? This is a distinct service we offer that complements the individuals, as well as their organizations.”
The other pillars are mentorship, executive coaching and peer networking.
“Since TALI’s inception, all of our participants have had an incredibly positive experience,” said long-standing partner Haakan Jonsson, chairman and president, Covestro, and institute corporate CEO council member, in the press release.
“We are continuously inspired by our partnership with TALI. The Executive Leadership Academy reinforces our commitment to corporate diversity by allowing us to engage and retain Black talent,” said Nicole Theophilus, executive vice president and chief human resources officer of Wabtec Corp., in the release.
Though another study has not been conducted, Frazier notes they are seeing significant progress and movement. For instance, 96% of the 2020 cohort of leaders had either received promotions or been given additional responsibilities at work and as of 2022, about 90% of Executive Leadership Academy alumni expressed personal and professional growth as a leader after completing an institute program.
“It’s an incredible feeling to see it impacting men and women in our region,” Frazier adds. “It’s also wonderful to see companies say it is filling a need they have in their organizations and getting companies to invest in their Black talent. I’m excited to see what lies ahead.”