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Developing leaders key to region's success
 Developing leaders key to region's success
As seen in Inside Business

Unquestionably leadership is a necessary imperative to the success of a business and a community.

That’s why we take leadership development seriously at the Hampton Roads Chamber. Everything we do is built on a desire to set the conditions for businesses to be successful. That includes the development of talented, engaged leaders who understand the issues, challenges and concerns of their community and are willing to get involved to make Hampton Roads a better place to live, work and raise families. Our understanding of the importance of strong civic leadership is not new to us; we’ve learned it firsthand over the years.

In the mid 1980’s business leaders of the five Southside Chambers of Commerce began to sense a change in the way businesses, and their employees, were operating. With a growing number of companies expanding across municipal lines, the emergence of revolutionary technology and increasing competition for federal and state dollars, a course correction was required. The five Southside Chambers of Commerce merged and became the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, a regional chamber that would speak and act with one voice on critical economic and community issues. But, speaking and acting effectively as a region proved to be a challenging goal.


It was essential for the leaders of our richly diverse and unique communities to come together and find common ground from which to build and strengthen our region. Part of the answer was the establishment of LEAD Hampton Roads, an immersive program of the Hampton Roads Chamber, designed to gather leaders from all sectors of the region and provide them with expanded knowledge, life-long connections and the inspiration and support to confront our challenges and seize our opportunities….together.

Twenty-nine years and over 1,300 graduates later, the impact of LEAD Hampton Roads is evident throughout the region’s companies, non-profit organizations, educational institutions and political and governmental entities. Our alumni include CEOs, university presidents, a congressman, city council members, a lieutenant governor, members the Governors’ cabinet, artists, religious leaders, economic development directors, city managers and police and fire chiefs. Their collective commitment to finding common ground and serving selflessly has been instrumental in breathing life into the “audacious goal” of building 17 communities, linked and divided by water, into one world-class community.

The concept of a regional leader working across boundaries remains complicated and, at times, hard to identify. So each year LEAD Hampton Roads “puts a face on” such regional leadership as we honor The First Citizen of Hampton Roads and other Visionary Leaders at BRAVO! A Celebration of Leadership. This year we look forward to being inspired by the lives of Dr. William and Kathy Magee, the founders of Operation Smile, as we also graduate 50 executives into the growing ranks of LEAD Hampton Roads alumni.


LEAD Hampton Roads is one of the foremost ways the Hampton Roads Chamber serves the Hampton Roads community as an inspiring ignitor. LEAD Hampton Roads plays an integral role in exploring regional business issues and emerging economic opportunities while developing the next generation of regional leaders. It’s important work. Without a strong cadre of good leaders who understand the importance of regional cooperation at the helm, poised and ready to work together for the good of the region, Hampton Roads could not actualize its potential and be the premier business region we know it can be. Leadership is essential to our region’s success, and LEAD Hampton Roads is integral to creating regional leaders.

Bryan K. Stephens
President & CEO
Bryan K. Stephens is President & CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber.
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