GFW Inc. Dev­­elops Leaders and Cultivates Attachment

For 34 years, Leadership Fort Wayne has been an institution in the city. And with nearly 1,400 alumni, most of them living and working in the area, it’s got plenty of momentum–especially now that it is part of Greater Fort Wayne Inc.

The program is part of Greater Fort Wayne Inc.’s leadership development initiatives, but because of the organization’s holistic approach, it’s also a community development program.


“Leadership Fort Wayne is for anybody who wants to collaborate, who wants to network, who wants to make relationships with others in the community who are driven to see Fort Wayne succeed,” says Audrea Castaneda, a program director at GFW Inc.

Participants are introduced to the history and context of Fort Wayne, as well as different organizations and needs in the city. The program helps them to identify how their particular interests and talents can be put to work to strengthen the community.

This takes place at nine full-day meetings over the course of eight months (October through May). Participants tour city attractions, visit nonprofits, shadow other community leaders, and work on a variety of collaborative projects to benefit the city. Past projects have included the ‘Love Fort Wayne’ video series and the ‘Welcome to Downtown Fort Wayne’ overpass signs; one current group is working to bring a bike-share program to downtown.


Each year, the program accepts up to 40 participants out of a larger pool of applicants, some of whom are nominated by alumni. An anonymous selection committee narrows the list, taking into account the need for a healthy diversity of industries, workplaces, backgrounds, and cultures.

Investing in employees by enrolling them in Leadership Fort Wayne can also be a valuable talent retention strategy, Castaneda said. For sponsorship and tuition information contact Audrea Castaneda at or 260-203-5764.

Participation in Leadership Fort Wayne cultivates attachment, and many of the program graduates go on to serve on nonprofit boards, and continue to participate in projects that improve Fort Wayne.

“It’s 8 months of your life that truly inspire you to get involved,” Castaneda continued. “And I think that’s the exciting [thing]…you’re part of something greater.”


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