Leadership Kalamazoo

2021 Is Your Year
Last year took many of us by storm. It certainly challenged our organizations, our families and our personal resolve in more ways than one. We will carry some those same challenges into 2021, but if you are like us, then you are ready to tackle them head on. You do not have to do it alone. We invite you to re-energize your leadership with a group of diverse and motivated peers by being part of Leadership Kalamazoo 2021.

What Keeps Us Going
Southwest Michigan First and its Chamber division believe that at our community’s core, the ultimate catalyst for growth is the ability to identify, engage and empower the right people. We must take a bold approach to developing the human capital required for a sustainable future. According to John Maxwell, “Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.”

As a part of our robust leadership development strategy for our region, we continue the great work of Leadership Kalamazoo. For the past 25 years, Leadership Kalamazoo has been the community leadership development resource for the Kalamazoo Region, providing a unique opportunity for a diverse group of current and emerging community leaders to learn and work together. Southwest Michigan First is proud to bring you Leadership Kalamazoo in partnership with our presenting sponsor, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Participant Commitment

Leadership Kalamazoo is a dynamic, interactive, and intensive program that gathers participants through interactive training sessions, shared experiences, community tours and networking opportunities. The program consists of ten sessions: one orientation, two retreat days, five training sessions and two community tours. Also included in the program is the opportunity to complete Gallup’s CliftonStrengths assessment and a ticket to attend Southwest Michigan First’s Catalyst University.

Attendance at all sessions is critical and full attendance is mandatory. If you plan to apply, please block off the program dates (found in the 2021 Playbook) to ensure you are able to attend the program in full.

2021 Program Curriculum
Each session of the program is focused on a different leadership development competency. Some examples of topics that will be examined are:

  • Strengths-Based Leadership and Cultures
  • Laying a Strong Leadership Foundation: Emotional Intelligence
  • Leading and Coaching High Performance Teams
  • Exploring Race, Gender and Generations in the Workplace
  • Tools for Navigating the 3 C’s: Change, Conflict & Crunchy Conversations

Community experiences and tours focus on exploring community assets and challenges within the following topics:

  • Economic Development
  • Health Care
  • Education
  • Public Safety

We bring together experienced professionals, a world-class faculty and a dynamic curriculum in a setting where the common denominator is a shared commitment to accelerating leadership and impact. The result is a lasting transformational leadership experience.

Who Should Apply for Leadership Kalamazoo?
Established and emerging leaders who have a strong desire to accelerate their capacity as leaders in Southwest Michigan are strongly encouraged to apply. You might consider applying if the following qualities describe you:

  • Personal commitment to ongoing self-discovery and professional development
  • Demonstrated active engagement in your organization and/or community
  • Commitment to shaping a positive future for Kalamazoo and our surrounding region
  • Desire to engage and learn alongside cross-sector leaders with different perspectives
  • Motivated to meet new people, build your network and make new connections

Our Commitment to Diversity + Inclusion
We believe that there are many “right ways” to be a great leader. The language and action of leadership can look very different depending on industry, location, gender, race, worldview, political views and the like. We believe there is room at the table for different perspectives, styles and voices. It is our responsibility to close the gap where one exists. We know there is an unacceptable gap in diverse racial representation in leadership seats. We are dedicated to becoming a more inviting and inclusive organization and are committed to having racial diversity in our Leadership Kalamazoo Class of 2021.

Our Approach in Response to COVID-19
Our top priority is to create a safe learning environment for everyone to learn and grow. Like all of you we have had to adjust our services and delivery in many ways during the 2020 program year. We look forward to 2021 because we have learned many lessons along the way on how to maintain excellence in leadership development programming and how to create a personal and engaging environment using virtual platforms when needed.

Our plan for 2021 is to meet in person for all sessions, adhering to safety and social distancing best practices. We will provide an option for participants to join sessions virtually should they need to for safety reasons.


The cost to participate in Leadership Kalamazoo is $1,800. This covers all program costs including meals, materials, resources associated with the retreats and community tours, CliftonStrengths assessment and a ticket to Catalyst University.

Tuition assistance is available on a limited basis for those who have a financial need. Please indicate in your application if you will need tuition assistance and a team member will follow up on next steps.

The Application Process
The application for becoming part of Leadership Kalamazoo is available exclusively online. Due to the interactive nature of Leadership Kalamazoo, the number of participants is limited to no more than 40 participants. Early application is encouraged since programs often fill to capacity. Applications received after the stated program deadline will be considered only if space remains in the class.

Once you have completed the application, a member of the Leadership Kalamazoo team will contact you to discuss next steps.  Applications are currently being accepted for our next cohort.