September 7, 2007 Terkel

Tommy Spaulding, CEO of Up With People, almost went to trade school, because dyslexia left him at the bottom of his class, barely graduating high school. Two months after seeing Up With People, at his high school during his senior year, Tommy was traveling the globe with the group, destined to, 20 years later, take the reins of the organization. In his two years as CEO, Tommy has overseen an organization that takes students around the world, places them in home stays, does community service, and opens the eyes of people around the globe to the power of community service.

“Leadership is about how you react to failure,” says Tommy, who has seen his share of success and failure. One of Tommy’s most important leadership philosophies pertains to the American connotation of ‘community service,’ which is handed out in courtrooms across the nation. “If we’re going to build a great America,” Tommy warns, “it’s really about building an America of ownership, where community service is what you do when you do something right.”

Another vital piece of Tommy’s leadership is not how, but rather where, leading Up With People to not only developed nations, but also to emerging nations so in need of the inspiration Up With People offers. “If we want to be a truly relevant global program,” says Tommy, “we need to take our students to relevant places around the globe.”