Unleashing Leadership Capital

Imagine if Bill Clinton had never started the Clinton Foundation. Imagine if, instead, he had simply retired from public life. Imagine if he had never found a way to continue sharing his gifts with the world after leaving the White House.

2.6 million Africans infected with HIV/AIDS might still be without affordable, lifesaving drugs.

2 million students in Columbia might never have received nutritious meals during the school day.

4,300 farmers in Rwanda might never have grown crops to feed 30,000 of their countrymen.

300 million lives might never have been improved through $63 billion of global commitments.

In the business community, we often talk about the estimated $2 trillion in capital that's sitting on the sidelines unused.

But is our problem that we lack the money?

Or do we lack something else?

I think we're missing intellectual capital. Leadership capital.

When that capital is untapped, we have a leadership gap.

When democratically elected leaders leave office after their terms expire, we rarely hear from them again. It's a pity, because there's so much they could still offer.

Often, they don't know where to start.

They are the ones with the first-hand experience. They've had successes, faced challenges, weathered crises, and have connections.

That's leadership capital -- sometimes more valuable than money -- and we have to summon more of it off the sidelines.

I understand this problem firsthand.

In the course of leading Greece's Olympic effort, I learned a great deal about what the Greek people were capable of, and the challenges that got in the way of that potential.

Although this understanding served us well in executing the Olympics, one of my greatest disappointments is that these lessons were lost afterwards. Nobody was there to keep people on this path that had achieved success. Nobody to emulate my successes, avoid my mistakes, and continue to challenge the Greek people to be a model for the world.

Lessons learned became lessons lost.

That's why, at the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative, I just announced a commitment to underwrite up to five leaders every year who will spend time in residence at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. I want leaders who care more about people than politics. I want them to share their experiences and lessons learned, undertake research, and plan for their next phase of public service.

I have also asked the Club of Madrid to conduct a survey of what former world leaders do after they leave office, so we can base our investments on real data.

I am making this announcement at CGI for two reasons.

First, Former President Bill Clinton is an example of a leader who never lost his passion for service. He created CGI specifically to bring together leaders from all sectors, and challenge them to seek solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. With this investment, I hope to contribute to that important cause by giving other dedicated public servants the means to find new avenues of service.

Second, I hope that, by announcing this gift at a forum of the most prominent political, business, philanthropic and non-profit leaders from around the world, it will become a multiplier that inspires and enables others to consider similar gifts.

With their broad experience and cross-sector connections, leaders who have left office have enormous potential to be catalysts for change. It is my hope that this investment will prevent the loss of this incredible capital, and enable more individuals to fulfill President Clinton's call to "turn good intentions into real action and results."