GLF was founded by FW de Klerk in 2004. The GLF concept grew out of a suggestion put to him  when he retired from office in South Africa: that political leaders rarely have the opportunity to draw on the wisdom of former leaders, unlike the chairmen and chief executives of companies who can turn for discreet advice to some of the experienced non-executive directors on their Boards.

Political leaders, especially those new to power and with little or no experience of government can often receive a deluge of advice from international organisations, consultants and special interest groups. They must also deal with expectations that cannot be fulfilled. They are often isolated and lack the sound advice of an objective civil service necessary to take  the initiatives needed to develop their countries peacefully. GLF aims to help fill that gap by offering quiet, behind-the-scenes, advice to leaders trying to work through difficult democratic or economic transitions, or who are facing other problems where they might find helpful an experienced shoulder to lean on.