Aubrey Morrison believes anyone can be a leader — the adjective isn’t tied to a position or job title. True leadership is helping people you know, whether that be personally or through work, become successful.
Morrison plans to bring that mantra to his new role as executive director of Leadership Lee County, a nonprofit that works to identify, develop and inspire future leaders through professional development, educational opportunities and community involvement.
“I think we all have the ability to make decisions to be leaders in our lives, whatever area that is,” said Morrison, 42, of Opelika. “Whether it’s personally through our families or friends, other people, even strangers we don’t even know.
“It’s not always a job title. It’s a decision that you make to do more to give back.”
Leadership Lee County had been looking for a new executive director since March. Morrison was one of 13 applicants who applied for the position.
Morrison is a human resources manager for Afni, a business management consultant in Opelika. He previously worked for Sam’s Club and Belk.
Christin Bancroft served as the nonprofit’s interim executive director this past year. She said Morrison was chosen to lead the organization because he has a vision that aligns with the organization’s long-term goals.
“We believe that his background in human resources and strong interpersonal skills will be a good fit for working with a diverse group of class members each year,” Bancroft said. “Aubrey is also invested and engaged in our community, and continuously gives back his time to serve others. We are excited for him to officially get started.”
Morrison moved to Lee County in 2007 for the opening of Auburn Sam’s Club, where he served as general manager.
He said his time at Sam’s Club helped shape his desire to partner with other businesses and make them more profitable. That is one of his goals for Leadership Lee County.
“Sam Walton created Sam’s Club to allow small businesses to be able to compete with other companies, leveraging buying power and allowing us to be their warehouse,” Morrison said. “Working with businesses has been a key part of my career, going in and looking at their operation and helping them find ways to be profitable.”
“I see a connection with that in this as well because ultimately we want to help grow leaders. We want to partner with local companies so that we can develop their leaders more and, in turn, help those companies be stronger, be more profitable, give our community even more of a draw for future employers to want to come into this area.”
Leadership Lee County offers a nine-month-long program that consists of monthly seminars, guest speakers and a classwide service project dedicated to bettering the community.
In addition to the monthly seminars, Morrison would like to potentially offer day-long classes. And, of course, to get the program more exposure.
“Doing more of those one-day leadership development opportunities I think would help to serve a different need in the community,” Morrison said.
Leadership Lee County did not hold 2020-2021 classes due to the coronavirus pandemic. But it plans to offer classes this year. Class sessions begin in September and last through May.
Participants are selected through an application progress. Roughly 30 people are chosen to be in each class. Applications for the upcoming class session will be available by the end of June, Morrison said.
The program is open to anyone who has the desire to be a leader, and encourages diversity. Since its inception in 1985, more than 700 people have graduated.
Tuition is $900, but there are scholarships available for those who may not be able to afford tuition.
“We have people that do our program that are brand new leaders in business; we have people that are retired,” Morrison said. “It’s really for anyone who wants to grow their abilities and their knowledge.”
Board member and program graduate Dan Chesser said participating in the program has been meaningful. In addition to meeting and connecting with people he may not interact with on a daily basis, he is part of something that betters the community every day.
Chesser was a member of the 2014-2015 class, which, for its service project, restored the nature trails at the Lee County Youth Development Center.
“After living in the area for 10 years at the time of being accepted into the program, I thought I knew everything I needed to know about this community, but LLC opened my eyes to so much more, from the many successes in local industry to families in dire situations,” Chesser said. “It showed me that this community truly works together to lend a helping hand when given the opportunity.”
Another benefit of the program is being able to network with other people in the community. Alumni tend to stay connected even after completing their classes, Morrison said.
“That intangible piece of just the networking, not just within your group, but all the people (you) come in contact with over the course of your time in the program can really help you tremendously,” Morrison said.