THE BLOG
07/13/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

One In A Thousand

In the business world, Bernie Sucher had always been successful. He began his career on Wall Street, and from there went on to securities trading in London, Hong Kong, and Tokyo before moving to Moscow. There he was one of the founders of Troika Dialog, Russia's largest independent investment bank. After Troika he served as chairman of Alfa Capital, Russia's oldest asset management firm, before taking on his current post as Country Manager of Russia for Merrill Lynch. Despite his outstanding professional résumé, though, Bernie has never been inclined to rest on his laurels. An activist at heart from a very early age, he was determined to use the leadership and power his career had afforded him to make an impact in communities that really needed his help.

Although people like Bernie are uncommon, they are not rare. There are in fact others like him--talented and successful individuals imbued with strong values and an unshakeable desire to give back to their communities. This is where the Aspen Institute's Aspen Global Leadership Network comes in. Founded in 1950, the Aspen Institute itself has long served as a seedbed for values-based leadership, and as a gathering-place where leaders of all stripes can find common ground on critical issues.

In the late 90s, the Institute began to focus some of its attention more specifically on young entrepreneurs by establishing the Henry Crown Fellowship, a two-year program to encourage the next generation of business leaders to move "from success to significance." Bernie is a member of the 2002 class of Fellows. Inspired by the success of this program, the Aspen Institute (AI) has gone on to help launch others like it, including the Africa Leadership Initiative, the AI-NewSchools Fellowship for Public Education, the AI-Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership and the Middle East Leadership Initiative, to name a few. Together, the Fellows from these programs make up the Aspen Global Leadership Network.

After years of quiet growth, the AGLN is finally stepping out from behind its curtain. The Network is now in its thirteenth year, and comprises nearly 1,000 Fellows in 43 countries. The majority of its members are entrepreneurial business leaders committed to applying their unique skills to some of the greatest challenges of our times. The network is about action, not talk; all Fellows engage in a two-year journey during which they explore their leadership and and their view of "a good society... Along the way, they develop the skills and the contacts they need to step up and more effectively engage in their communities, countries, and regions.

This weekend scores of Bernie's fellow Fellows will converge on Aspen for the "official" launch of the global network. They will share experiences and offer invaluable advice to their colleagues, all of whom aspire to effect real and lasting change in the world.

Bernie Sucher for one has already delivered on that promise. While living in Moscow, he quickly realized that due to a lack of organized funding or support, Russian education and medicine had reached a state of near crisis. To make matters worse, the laws in Russia were structured in such a way that the types of charities that might normally support universities and hospitals can't legally operate. To address this problem, Bernie set up a pioneering new endowment for Tarusa Hospital in Tarusa, Russia. Through the endowment, Bernie has raised the desperately needed funds the hospital needs to hire qualified doctors and buy modern equipment. Bernie hopes the endowment's success will allow it to serve as a model in Russia, to help other great causes mobilize the funding they need.

Even all on its own, Bernie's story and work would be inspiring. The fact that he isn't alone is exponentially more so. Thanks to the Aspen Global Leadership Network, Bernie is only one in 1,000, and each year that number grows. If two heads are better than one, just imagine the difference that these 1,000 heads, and those who have yet to join them, will make in the world in the years to come.