Leadership Springfield has been helping engage local professionals for more than 30 years. Programs are designed to give participants a deeper understanding of their community and strengths as emerging and established leaders. More than 1,000 individuals have graduated from this premier leadership program to be inspired, developed, and connected to leaders across the community. With roots in community collaboration, Leadership Springfield began as a response to leadership development needs. In the early 1980’s, volunteerism was at an all-time low in Springfield.  The city had undergone Council recalls, and there was a general thought in the community that a program to train leaders was greatly needed.

  • About 1984, the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, Junior League of Springfield, and United Way of the Ozarks joined forces to research a leadership program for Springfield.  Andy Montebello represented the Chamber, Karen Sweeney represented the Junior League, and staff representation from United Way was provided.  One of the primary resources utilized to form Leadership Springfield was the National Association of Community Leadership Organizations, currently known as Community Leadership Association. The Chamber, Junior League and United Way may have contributed small amounts of seed money to form the organization.  Beginning with Class I, 1985-1986, the tuition income supported the program.  The original board of directors included two people each from the three organizations named above.
  • Leadership Springfield entered into a Management Services Agreement with the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.  In return for the annual management services fee the Chamber provided salaries/benefits for staff to coordinate the program, building space, and overhead operating expenses. 
  • Once the program format was determined, Leadership Springfield contracted with Bob Barefield, Drury University, to be the facilitator for the Leadership Springfield annual class.  Bob facilitated the program through the first nine classes.  Debbie Snellen facilitated the retreats from 1994-2012. From 2012 to present the Leadership Springfield curriculum committee has provided content and facilitation for the retreats for all programs offered by the organization.

Leadership Springfield currently operates three distinct programs: Signature Class, Leadership Academy, and Principals of Leadership. The Signature Class is Leadership Springfield’s flagship program. For over 30 years, the program has identified leaders and familiarized them with the community’s opportunities, needs, problems and resources. Established in 1990 as way of expanding Leadership Springfield’s reach to a younger generation, the Academy is open to juniors from nine Springfield public and private high schools as well as homeschool students who reside within the Springfield Public Schools district. Rotary clubs in Springfield provided the initial seed money for start-up.  Thirty-two students are selected each year for this program that is modeled after the Signature Class. Principals of Leadership began in 2014 as a way to bring Leadership Springfield’s unique brand of professional development to a highly targeted and very important group: school principals. The program is a partnership between Leadership Springfield and Springfield Public Schools. Modeled after the Signature Class, the program allows principals to get outside of their buildings, learning more about their community and build meaningful partnerships that can benefit both their students and Springfield as a whole.

Leadership Springfield remained an affiliate program of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce 1984 to 2018.  During that time, Leadership Springfield graduated more than 1,000 alumni into the community.  Since its inception, volunteerism has increased significantly, and Leadership Springfield continues to demonstrate excellence in leadership, supporting the mission to inspire, develop and connect leaders in the community.

In 2015, Leadership Springfield conducted strategic planning with over 60 participants, including representatives from Leadership Springfield’s founding partners, the Chamber, Junior League of Springfield, and the United Way of the Ozarks. This session determined that continued leadership growth in the community was essential. Over the next few years, the Leadership Springfield Board of Directors and alumni conducted a review of other leadership organization throughout the country, identifying several potential new programs that would greatly benefit the Springfield community.  In 2017, the Leadership Springfield Board updated the strategic plan and determined that the board led / staff supported structure of Leadership Springfield was preventing the creation and growth of new programs.  

A committee was launched to explore options for structuring Leadership Springfield to better support the needs of the community and scale programs and services.  The committee recommended the implementation of a staff led / board supported structure that would start with 3 staff members.  The committee also recommended that the staff be employed directly by Leadership Springfield.   

Leadership Springfield became a fully independent organization on July 1, 2018, after three decades as a proud affiliate program of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. Leadership Springfield hired the first Executive Director, Carrie Richardson, a graduate of Class 25. Leadership is now working to expand programs and services to meet the leadership needs of the Springfield area community. Leadership Springfield is part of the Association of Leadership Programs—a national organization created to advance and connect leaders in communities across the country.