A New Leadership
Academy Is Building a Pipeline
of C-Level Executives in Ch

By Anders J. Hare

American Leadership Academy (AALA), managed by One Catalyst Consulting, was
created to nurture, grow and expand the pool of African American leaders in the Charlotte-
Mecklenburg region in a supportive space. The nonprofit is educating and nurturing its fellows,
Black professionals in the area, to serve as top level executives for private and nonprofit
In the U.S., Black people made up only 5.2% of chief executive roles in 2023, according to the
Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“This outcome represents not only a need, but also an opportunity for organizations who
thoughtfully invest in Black leadership to achieve growth,” according to a statement by the
organizational consulting firm, Korn Ferry. One non-profit organization in Charlotte is looking to
do just that.
The AALA, a nonprofit initiative of the CLT Alliance Foundation, in partnership with The Harvey
B. Gantt Center as the venue partner for key events, is working to do just that.
The AALA’s mission is to equip, empower and advance local Black professionals to “strengthen
the impact and pipeline of executive and C-suite leaders for the public, private and philanthropic
sectors.” With an advisory board that includes high-profile executives in the Charlotte area, the
Academy is paying it forward by graduating its inaugural cohort of 14 Black leaders in May
“Being from Columbus, Ohio, I was aware of the African American Leadership Academy there,”
owner of the Academy, Elizabeth Carter Trotman. “And so I really examined their program and
looked at the core components of it and recognized that it was something that would be a great
model for Charlotte — but I also understood that we needed to have something tailored for our

Carter Trotman and the Academy’s Governing Board emphasize the importance of a wellrounded
curriculum tailored to meet the needs of its fellows, Black professionals in the Charlotte
region. One key piece of the Academy is its partnership with Korn Ferry, from which it draws its
“power of choice” curriculum. For Korn Ferry CEO, Gary Burnison, the “power of choice” refers
to the decision to make powerful choices rather than falling into stagnation. The pillared areas of
focus that fellows are given through their time in the cohort are “equip, empower and advance.”
As stated in a recent report by Korn Ferry, “High-performing Black talent exists at all levels
across the corporate community. Yet, despite investing in large-scale diversity and inclusion
initiatives, firms are still not bringing enough Black talent into the leadership pipeline.”
The report goes on to say, “Data shows that companies with ethnically diverse executive teams
are 70% more likely to capture new markets than their less-diverse peers” and “generate 38%
more in revenue from innovative products and services.”
With many of the fellows already occupying space in Charlotte’s private sector, the academy
focuses on supplemental objectives such as wellness and navigating spaces where they are
often told they don’t belong.
“These are already highly skilled professional members at various levels in their respective
industries, and what this program does, it gives them a chance to understand that path toward
additional leadership within their organization and also outside of that,” said Seth Bennett, Chief
Marketing Officer of Hornets Sports & Entertainment and one of the Academy’s governing board

The proof is truly in the pudding when it comes to measuring the success of the Academy so
far. Ahead of the cohort’s graduation in May, one of its fellows has already moved on to a CSuite
level position, and with much accomplished already, the Academy is also equipping its
fellows to step up and pay it forward for the next group of corporate leaders.
“They [the fellows] are going to have an appreciation and affection for Charlotte in the region,
because it was something that was they were fostered in a way that helped them,” Bennett said.
“There will be various levels of reciprocal return on our investment in the individual. Some of it
will be realized in real time, some in the not-too-distant future, and then others who will just kind
of see Charlotte as a progressive, inclusive city that does things to try to help their citizens grow
and kind of lead it that way.”
Carter Trotman said that in various pre- and post-surveys taken of the fellows, many of them
said the program has caused them to reflect on their life personally and professionally. Also,
they’ve become more confident and bolder in their leadership, and much more intentional ––
which is a major goal for this non-profit, she added.
“The African American Leadership Academy of Charlotte is intentional about equipping,
empowering and advancing Black leaders so that our organizations are truly reflective of the
diversity of the clients and communities we serve,” said Kieth Cockrell, president of Bank of
America Charlotte and an Academy advisory board member.
He added, “We know that diversity makes us stronger, and it is important that we support efforts
like this that have a focus on building the bench of leaders for years to come.”