Community Leadership Program

The Community Leadership Program prepares leaders from across Central Iowa to be effective stewards for our community's future. The nine-month curriculum offers a view of Greater Des Moines from different vantage points, heightens participant awareness of current community conditions and issues, enhances individual and group leadership skills, and helps class members see themselves as partners for change. 

Nomination and Application Schedule

  • February: Nominations are closed.
  • March - April: Applications available (all who are nominated are invited to apply) and due on April 20th.
  • June: Class selection and invitations extended.
  • August - May: Program takes place.

Participants and Selection

Each year, fifty leaders from the private, public and non-profit sectors of the community are selected to participate in this transformational program. Ideal candidates have demonstrated some level of community leadership experience and are committed to community engagement.

All nominated candidates will be invited to apply. When completing the application, careful, thorough responses are encouraged in order to ensure the Selection Committee has enough information on which to judge fit for the program and dedication to community leadership development. The long-standing Community Leadership Program is highly competitive and many candidates apply more than once. 



The curriculum includes leadership development training and exposure to community issues through experiential learning, expert presentations, and class discussions. The three pillars of the Community Leadership Program include:

  • Issue and Opportunity Awareness: The Capital Crossroads Vision Plan serves as a foundation for exposure to critical issues within our community. Each class session delves into one of 10 areas of focus for the next five years in Central Iowa.
  • Leadership Development: Championing community change requires a deep understanding of oneself and the skills needed to help others achieve extraordinary things. Participants learn the five practices of exemplary leadership, which is based on 35+ years of research presented in The Leadership Challenge.  
  • Practice through Service: Class members apply what they learn as they work on class projects, benefiting local non-profit organizations. Our concentration on leadership development encourages class members to intentionally focus on group dynamics, respect for different leadership styles, community project management, as well as becoming better advocates for community needs. Design thinking serves as the framework and process guide throughout the projects. See this year's list of class members and projects. 

    Participant Expectations

    Active class member participation ensures a rich experience for the individual as well as for the group. For that reason, participants are held to a strict attendance policy. A program schedule will be provided to those who are nominated for the program, so they may ensure they are able to participate. To receive the most benefit from the class experience and to fully complete program expectations, participants should expect a significant time commitment over the nine-month program. Class members will participate in:

    • 12 five-hour classes held approximately every three weeks.
    • 1 one-and-a-half-day opening retreat and 1 one-day mid-year retreat.
    • Preparation between sessions. 
    • Class project work includes meetings (often weekly) outside of regular sessions plus additional meetings and tasks to accomplish project goals outside of class. This time is significant, so please consider that before applying (it will be worth it though).
    • Full-day commencement.


    The cost to participate in the Community Leadership Program will be added here soon. It is important that cost not be a barrier to any qualified candidate's participation. Those accepted into the program will have an opportunity to apply for financial assistance, including full and partial scholarships.


    Watch this video highlighting the Community Leadership Program experience.


    The Community Leadership Program is generously supported by these major sponsors:


    The program was one of the best experiences of my life. It takes wild promise and channels it where it can make a difference!

     Bo James (CLP '18), Hip-Hope

    Participation in the Community Leadership Program has re-energized me and my work in using philanthropy and community engagement as tools to solve our community's most pressing challenges. As a Class, we learned together, encouraged each other, challenged the status quo, mourned personal losses, celebrated new chapters, shared in civil dialogue, and committed to creating a Greater Des Moines that provides incredible quality of life for ALL! 

    Kristin Huinker (CLP '17), Youth Emergency Services & Shelter (YESS)

    The Community Leadership Program was in one word, transformational. Through exposure to the Capital Crossroads and getting to know other leaders from a wide variety of backgrounds and connections to this community, I am walking away from the experience with the tools, resources, and most importantly, the relationships to deepen my journey as a community leader. I would highly recommend this program to others who are interested in furthering their commitment to our wonderful community. 

    — Hanna Wolle (CLP '16), Principal

    The Community Leadership Program provides training that accelerates the leadership development process. The result – new leadership is continuously being generated for the community. Every Belin McCormick, P.C. attorney who graduates from the program is changed; each graduate renewed in their commitment to lead. Belin McCormick, P.C. strongly supports the initiative to assure the vitality of our community.

    — Steve Zumbach (CLP ’83), Belin McCormick, P.C.

    As a transplant to the Greater Des Moines area as well as a minority it was frightening to move to a significantly smaller city with a significantly less diverse population than the major metropolitan city where I spent 30 years. But since moving to Des Moines, I have found some of the most engaging people I have ever met. The leadership and future leadership seem to be genuinely invested in the betterment of the community. CLP allowed me the opportunity to learn and participate while getting to know and work with some of the most amazingly engaged leaders in the community. I will be forever changed and eternally grateful that I can be a part of its legacy.

    — Antione Terrell (CLP '14), Salvation Army

    The Institute provided rich insight into what a special community we live in and motivated me to be a part of making it bigger and better for all...clearly it was the foundation for my development as a community leader.

    — Cara Heiden (CLP '89), retired, Wells Fargo

    It was an honor to be included in the Class of 2014. The Leadership Institute has done a phenomenal job of organizing each class with a specific purpose, challenging us as both a group and as individuals, and opening our eyes to the inner workings of Greater Des Moines. You cannot go through this experience without becoming a better person.

    — Clint Dudley (CLP '14), Shade Tree Auto


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