A Brief History of the International Leadership Association

The passionate contributions of many people and institutions coalesced to cultivate the networks, connections, and intellectual curiosity required to establish the International Leadership Association in 1999.  Like many ideas, it grew from both a series of informal conversations over many meals as well as more formal discussions in meetings and conferences. While it may be impossible to trace all of the conversations that led to the establishment of the ILA, several events that were foundational to its creation are described below.

The Association's international roots can be traced back to 1995 and the Salzburg Seminar on Global Leadership, Concepts and Challenges held in Austria, co-chaired by Georgia Sorenson and James MacGregor Burns, and attended by scholars and leaders from fifty countries.

Larraine Matusak and Roger Sublett of W.K. Kellogg at the ILA 2000 conference in Toronto, Canada

Throughout the mid 1990's, participants of the Kellogg Leadership Studies Project (KLSP) often discussed the need for an umbrella organization to support the field of leadership studies. Supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation with Larraine Matusak's leadership and based at the Academy of Leadership, the KLSP convened a premier group of 50 leadership scholars and practitioners to create and publish cross disciplinary leadership research.

At the conclusion of the KLSP project a conference was organized called the Leaders/Scholars Association, a meeting of the minds between those who study leadership and those who practice it. Coordinated by Barbara Kellerman and hosted at USC by Cynthia Cherrey the conference was deemed a success. It was decided to continue to meet as an Association of scholars, educators, leadership development professionals, and practitioners who share an interest in leadership and that the Association was to be diverse in thought, discipline, culture, sector, and geography. After many more conversations, the name "International Leadership Association" was chosen.

Around the same time, a group of leadership educators began to rotate conferences between the Jepson School of Leadership Studies and the Academy of Leadership; when the idea of the ILA became a reality, it was decided to join efforts at the first ILA conference in 1999.

Since then, the ILA has become the largest international and inter-disciplinary membership organization devoted solely to the study and development of leadership. Based for its first ten years at the University of Maryland's James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership, the ILA is one of the few organizations to actively embrace academics, practitioners, consultants, private industry, public leaders, not-for-profit organizations, and students.

Following are links to the unfolding of the ILA story starting with our mission and the milestones for the association's first ten years.


1999-2000 2001-2002 2003-2004
2005-2006 2007-2008

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