Reflections on the History and Development of ALE and JOLE

The Association of Leadership Educators (ALE) grew out of a need for professional development for persons who work with leadership programs in a variety of contexts. The idea of a professional association developed over the course of three annual leadership development seminars in the late 1980s; ALE was formalized at the third seminar held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1990. The first official conference and annual meeting of the Association of Leadership Educators was held in Denver, Colorado in September 1991. Membership was open to any individual with an interest in leadership education, although the targeted individuals were “career professionals.” The association celebrated ten years of success at its 2001 conference in St. Paul, Minnesota. The purpose of this article is to share some of the early history of ALE as an organization—how the idea originated, who were involved in the early stages, how the transformation from informal seminars and discussions to today’s organization came about, and why ALE has a unique niche among the growing number of other leadership organizations. This paper is written from a personal viewpoint, combining some memories with information gleaned from board and association minutes and conference proceedings. A general sequence of events within several categories is provided to illustrate the association’s developmental process. Some explanation of the Cooperative Extension Service1 and related groups is provided in the footnotes. (Preparation of this paper brought to mind the need to preserve ALE records in some form of archives and to do a more comprehensive, objective, factual documentation of ALE history in the near future.)