Association History

The Personal Leadership Association (PLA) is a not-for-profit public educational organization. Started in 1991 by founders David Dyson and Johnny Johnson and Dyson Institute in the State of Alabama in 1992, the Birmingham-based Association is a core member of the Plan for Life Alliance Network (PLAN) of Dyson Institute and serves the mission focused on “planning and leading inspired lives and serving others” by offering seminars and services to members and the public. Birmingham Magazine called the Association a “mutual improvement society” in a feature story published in 1993 that followed the Association’s sponsorship of Dr. Stephen Covey’s first lecture in Alabama.

Dyson and Johnson became colleagues at BSC (Birmingham-Southern College) in 1980. They discovered that they had similar interests in advancing the school as well as learning and improvement. They formed a habit of meeting weekly for breakfast on Saturday mornings before doing extra work in their offices at the College.

After meeting for approximately ten years, in the summer of 1991, they decided to invite others and formed a discussion group that started meeting weekly on Saturday mornings primarily to share ideas from books and other points of interest. David had shared with Johnny ideas he had learned from reading books about Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon Hill that emphasized groups of like-minded persons. Franklin had met regularly with a “mutual improvement club” for many years. Hill, based upon research among 500 of the world’s most prolific persons, advocated forming “master mind alliances” and associating with others who shared “harmonious” values and goals.

In September 1991, the idea of an association was born and an interest group formed to test the idea plus prepare a public seminar to present in January 1992. In addition to the inspired thoughts of Franklin and Hill, David had seen through his professional practice of teaching seminars, speaking, and executive coaching that many good people in organizations want opportunities to learn and improve even when they do not have time or budget to pursue them. Further, he learned that many people implement better around goals and resolutions if they invest a little time monthly over time rather than through one big block of time without follow up. The calling of creating an organization that connected people through shared values, seminars and systems rather than focus on single events grew stronger. This association provides low-cost opportunities for people plus provide a means of continuity for those who attended short seminars or courses through Dyson Institute.

The association was officially launched with its first public seminar in January 1992 presented by Dr. David Dyson of Dyson Leadership Institute and Chris Crouch, then president of SouthTrust Securities. The seminar held at the Mountain Brook Inn in Birmingham included food, musicians, and the seminar focused on “Personal Leadership” and “Creating a Vision for Life” with approximately 90 persons in attendance.

Seminars have been presented monthly since then, typically on the first Tuesday or Thursday, along with additional special events such as member retreats, book discussions, and socials. Within six months a core group of 20 or so members had formed, though the organization still had no checking account and expenses were covered monthly. David met with Maureen Krison at BellSouth headquarters to discuss the idea of “second annual” leadership program for the next January. With virtually no resources other than human energy, a vision, and inspired commitment, a committee formed and agreed to pursue sponsoring the author of the then world-leading book on personal leadership.

A year after the first seminar, the Association presented Dr. Stephen Covey, author of the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, in his first seminar in the State of Alabama. Over 1,000 persons registering from nine states attended this day-long lecture hosted by BSC. A private reception and forum with Dr. Covey attended by members of the association and corporate sponsors followed the seminar.

The following year, 1994, the Association presented Dr. Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager and other best-selling books. In 1995, Dr. Denis Waitley, author of the best-selling audio tape program, "The Psychology of Winning", and Hyrum Smith, co-creator of the Franklin Planner and subsequently co-founder of Franklin-Covey delivered the program. This three-year series attracted between 700 and 1000+ persons annually with approximately 50% coming from 10 sponsoring organizations—Persona Leadership Association, Dyson Institute, Birmingham-Southern College, BellSouth, Protective Corporation, Southern Company Services, and other corporate leaders.

In April 2000, the Association celebrated its 100th monthly seminar. David Dyson and Johnny Johnson continued to meet weekly to discuss ways to advance the association, as well as develop the Institute, plus ideas related to the College and personal interests until Johnny’s death in 2001. They “broke bread” together as friends and colleagues over 1,000 times over 20 years.

The Association is governed by a volunteer chairman and team plus the board of trustees and staff leadership provided by Dyson Institute. Resources for seminars, services and special activities come from contributions.

The members are casting a vision for the next decade, which includes adding more services, and participating in a broader context as a member of the Plan for Life Alliance Network (PLAN), which includes the Association, Dyson Leadership Institute, Plan for Life Ministry, with more members to follow.The Personal Leadership Association (PLA) is a not-for-profit public educational organization. Started in 1991 by founders David Dyson and Johnny Johnson and Dyson Institute in the State of Alabama in 1992, the Birmingham-based Association is a core member of the Plan for Life Alliance Network (PLAN) of Dyson Institute and serves the mission focused on “planning and leading inspired lives and serving others” by offering seminars and services to members and the public. Birmingham Magazine called the Association a “mutual improvement society” in a feature story published in 1993 that followed the Association’s sponsorship of Dr. Stephen Covey’s first lecture in Alabama. Dyson and Johnson became colleagues at BSC (Birmingham-Southern College) in 1980. They discovered that they had similar interests in advancing the school as well as learning and improvement. They formed a habit of meeting weekly for breakfast on Saturday mornings before doing extra work in their offices at the College. After meeting for approximately ten years, in the summer of 1991, they decided to invite others and formed a discussion group that started meeting weekly on Saturday mornings primarily to share ideas from books and other points of interest. David had shared with Johnny ideas he had learned from reading books about Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon Hill that emphasized groups of like-minded persons. Franklin had met regularly with a “mutual improvement club” for many years. Hill, based upon research among 500 of the world’s most prolific persons, advocated forming “master mind alliances” and associating with others who shared “harmonious” values and goals. In September 1991, the idea of an association was born and an interest group formed to test the idea plus prepare a public seminar to present in January 1992. In addition to the inspired thoughts of Franklin and Hill, David had seen through his professional practice of teaching seminars, speaking, and executive coaching that many good people in organizations want opportunities to learn and improve even when they do not have time or budget to pursue them. Further, he learned that many people implement better around goals and resolutions if they invest a little time monthly over time rather than through one big block of time without follow up. The calling of creating an organization that connected people through shared values, seminars and systems rather than focus on single events grew stronger. This association provides low-cost opportunities for people plus provide a means of continuity for those who attended short seminars or courses through Dyson Institute. The association was officially launched with its first public seminar in January 1992 presented by Dr. David Dyson of Dyson Leadership Institute and Chris Crouch, then president of SouthTrust Securities. The seminar held at the Mountain Brook Inn in Birmingham included food, musicians, and the seminar focused on “Personal Leadership” and “Creating a Vision for Life” with approximately 90 persons in attendance. Seminars have been presented monthly since then, typically on the first Tuesday or Thursday, along with additional special events such as member retreats, book discussions, and socials. Within six months a core group of 20 or so members had formed, though the organization still had no checking account and expenses were covered monthly. David met with Maureen Krison at BellSouth headquarters to discuss the idea of “second annual” leadership program for the next January. With virtually no resources other than human energy, a vision, and inspired commitment, a committee formed and agreed to pursue sponsoring the author of the then world-leading book on personal leadership. A year after the first seminar, the Association presented Dr. Stephen Covey, author of the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, in his first seminar in the State of Alabama. Over 1,000 persons registering from nine states attended this day-long lecture hosted by BSC. A private reception and forum with Dr. Covey attended by members of the association and corporate sponsors followed the seminar. The following year, 1994, the Association presented Dr. Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager and other best-selling books. In 1995, Dr. Denis Waitley, author of the best-selling audio tape program, "The Psychology of Winning", and Hyrum Smith, co-creator of the Franklin Planner and subsequently co-founder of Franklin-Covey delivered the program. This three-year series attracted between 700 and 1000+ persons annually with approximately 50% coming from 10 sponsoring organizations—Persona Leadership Association, Dyson Institute, Birmingham-Southern College, BellSouth, Protective Corporation, Southern Company Services, and other corporate leaders. In April 2000, the Association celebrated its 100th monthly seminar. David Dyson and Johnny Johnson continued to meet weekly to discuss ways to advance the association, as well as develop the Institute, plus ideas related to the College and personal interests until Johnny’s death in 2001. They “broke bread” together as friends and colleagues over 1,000 times over 20 years. The Association is governed by a volunteer chairman and team plus the board of trustees and staff leadership provided by Dyson Institute. Resources for seminars, services and special activities come from contributions. The members are casting a vision for the next decade, which includes adding more services, and participating in a broader context as a member of the Plan for Life Alliance Network (PLAN), which includes the Association, Dyson Leadership Institute, Plan for Life Ministry, with more members to follow.

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