Empowering Our Region’s Future


Southwest Michigan First believes 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 develop 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.” Since 1987, 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.


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 an orientation, two-day retreat, three community tours and five training sessions from January through November 2022. 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. A calendar and program details are available in our Playbook, accessible below.



Program Curriculum

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. 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 Inclusion 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 economic development, health care, education and public safety.


Who Should Apply

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.



The cost to participate in Leadership Kalamazoo is $1,987 — in honor of the inaugural year of the program, 35 years ago! This fee 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.


Application Process

Application season for the Leadership Kalamazoo Class of 2022 is now closed. We hope you will consider applying in the future. If you would like to be added to the contact list and notified when applications are released for the Class of 2023, please use the button below to share your information and a team member will reach out to you at that time.


Want to talk? To learn all about Leadership Kalamazoo, get in touch with Gretchen Slenk at 269.553.9588.


Program Sponsor

Southwest Michigan First is proud to bring you Leadership Kalamazoo in partnership with our presenting sponsor, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Blue Cross Blue Shield