Our Leadership Philosophy & the Josie R. Johnson Leadership Academy

The African American Leadership Forum (AALF) seeks to uplift the Black community by identifying and empowering Black leaders. We believe everyone can be a leader with the potential to impact change. But knowing who you are as a change agent requires an understanding of the varied personas that currently exist within the ecosystem of leadership. Our personas rely on one another and there isn’t one persona that is more important than the others. Instead, the personas are fluid — working in parallel and overlap of each other, webbing the necessary links and building collectivity in our community. Anyone may exhibit the capabilities of one or more leadership categories, but we all have a natural tendency toward one, and we tend to thrive when we build and deploy our talents in that persona. By understanding the characteristics of the leadership types present in our community we can build better systems and develop and deploy our leaders more effectively.



  • Thought Leader: A seeker, analyzer, and synthesizer of information who understands and solves problems by developing progressive solutions through innovation and creativity.
  • Influencer: An activator in community who organizes people to take actions around an issue or strategy. Someone who takes the initiative to impact the distribution of political and/or economic power by encouraging, persuading, or directing decisions.
  • Builder: A developer of programs and infrastructure who utilizes information. A builder is one who prioritizes inputs and desired outcomes to establish support for community-level activity. These people build solutions to problems based on knowledge gained from others along with what they already know
  • Ambassador: A person who promotes community empowerment by working directly with members of the community and organizing action. This person shares stories and information, supports awareness and insight on key issues, acting as a hub for community members.


The Josie R. Johnson Leadership Academy (JRJLA) is an annual AALF leadership development cohort experience that’s designed to meet the personal, cultural, civic and professional development needs of 10 African American leaders. Known as fellows, these 10 people share a lifelong commitment to improving outcomes in the community. With sponsorship from The Minneapolis Foundation and the McKnight Foundation, operating within the Collective Impact model approach, JRJLA leverages the time and talents of established African American leaders. The fellows identify them as torchbearers, experienced in business, philanthropy, community action, government, politics, faith and religion. With individualized coaching and connection to these leaders the JRJLA fellows actively engage in leadership projects designed to benefit the community through collaboration with local businesses and community organizations

Meet AALF’s Adora Land Tolefree, who oversees the Leadership Academy..

                                  To view more videos about the Leadership Academy and other AALF TC initiatives, visit our official YouTube page.


All successful applicants will be required to commit to the following:


Attendance at community excursion events throughout the program’s duration is required with no exceptions. Fellows are expected to come to each excursion on time and stay for the entire event having completed any pre-reading or pre-work assignments. Fellows who miss one excursion may still earn a partial grant of $500. Fellows who miss more than one excursion will not receive a grant once the leadership academy experience is completed.


Fellows are required to execute a sponsored community leadership project during the course of the program. They’ll be responsible for providing an interim progress report. Each fellow will make a formal presentation to the JRJLA leadership for evaluation of their project, explaining also its benefits to them and the intended community.


The African American Leadership Forum has invested in offering six months of leadership development coaching for each JRJLA Fellow. During the course of the leadership academy experience, fellows are required to engage the coach they are assigned for a minimum of one hour each month. Fellows who miss one coaching session may still earn a partial grant of $500. Fellows who miss more than one coaching session will not receive a grant once the leadership academy experience is completed.


During the leadership academy experience fellows are required to develop an individual development plan leveraging insight from coaching and connection with community torch bearers, as well as insight gained from participation in community excursion events.


During the leadership academy experience fellows are required to record reflections on the experiences of each week, as it relates to their leadership development journey.



Upon successful completion of this Leadership Academy experience, fellows will be presented before the community for a rites of passage ceremony to celebrate their graduation from the JRJLA. Additionally, each fellow has the opportunity to earn an investment into their continued leadership development in the form of a $1000 grant.

Through this initiative the African American Leadership Forum provides emerging leaders with the guidance and tools needed to improve outcomes for African Americans in Minnesota. The success of JRJLA is measured by accomplishing the following objectives:

  • Trainings that address the historical, psychological, cultural, civic, and professional aspects of African American culture.
  • A forum that fosters racial pride, collective consciousness, inter-personal skills, relationship building and community.
  • Address the needs of the African American community through identifying solutions and active, project-based learning.
  • Break down intergenerational barriers between established and emerging African Americans in order to build a stronger, more generative leadership pipeline.
  • Prepare and facilitate JRJLA fellows to take on influential positions in business, philanthropy, government, and community action where their participation can advance the interests of the African American community and improve racial equity.

Application Process

In order to be considered for the Josie R. Johnson Leadership Academy your application must be endorsed by a community leader. If you are a community leader who would like to endorse an applicant, please email: Adora@aalftc.org