"Values-based leadership," says Greg Crowley, president and CEO of the local Coro Center for Civic Leadership, is all about "aligning your leadership with a higher purpose. It's a kind of leadership that we seek to inspire in people – and that is also inspired by the leadership of Martin Luther King."
That's why Coro is presenting its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Awards
on Jan. 24, 2014 at the New Hazlett Theater. The awards honor two individuals in the community (one of whom is a Coro alumnus) and an organization, chosen from among this year's 22 nominees. All of the nominees and winners will have a moment to speak about their work at the ceremony.
"Anybody can be great because anybody can serve," Crowley says King memorably told a Pittsburgh crowd during a visit here in 1966. Values-based leadership is thus not about how competitive the institutions in our region can be with each other or nationally, it's about how the organizations and individuals serve the whole community of people.
The Distinguished Individual Leadership winner this year is Dean Williams, director of the Formerly Convicted Citizens Project. The Project recognizes the huge barriers to employment, housing, even voting – to full citizenship – faced by those once incarcerated, as well as by their families.
Williams began holding workshops for hundreds of people trying to seek a better future after prison by aiming for pardons and expungement of their records. "Those people see him as an inspiration," Crowley says. His "Ban the Box" initiative, looking to eliminate the "Have you ever been convicted?" question from job applications, has been successful so far in changing Pittsburgh's employment forms.
The Distinguished Alumni Leadership Award will go to Tom Baker. "He's a young professional who has been a real inspiration to other young professionals," says Crowley. Baker runs the Pittsburgh Service Summit for those young professionals, as well as college students and leaders in the community, to connect with community organizations offering service opportunities, and he runs the local non-profit organization, Get Involved!, Inc. He is also serving on the North Hills School Board and has written several books.
Gaining Distinguished Organizational Leadership Award this year the Assemble maker learning space for kids in Garfield, run by Nina Barbuto. "Obviously, we have this challenge about how to inspire and teach kids about the arts," Crowley notes. "The committee really liked their catalytic ideas for the community."
"I want people to believe that their leadership is important in making a difference in the direction of our community – not just symbolically, but really," he concludes. "It's possible to have a real impact," especially realizing that most people and groups "started out small, without a lot of advantages. These small organizations and individuals are having an impact and their impact hasn't been fully realized yet.
"The great things we see happening in the community … these things that we feel so good about are occurring because of people who are making things happen on a small scale," he adds. "We want people to walk away thinking 'Maybe I can do more.'"
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Greg Crowley, Coro