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About Us

What We Do

We motivate participants to a higher level of community awareness and involvement to ensure that Central Iowa has a strong flow of leadership well into the future.


Lead DSM develops, connects, inspires, and challenges community champions through life-changing leadership experiences.


A thriving community for all, served by an endless source of civic stewards.

We Value Equity & Inclusion

Diversity: All aspects of human difference are respected and valued.

Inclusion: Individuals and groups authentically belong and participate in our organization and programs, which is supported by our policies and practices.

Equity: People receive what they need to fully and fairly engage with our organization and programs, which is supported by our policies and practices.

Our Story


Chamber President A. Arthur Davis appointed a committee of Chamber members (all under the age of 40) to examine the Des Moines Metropolitan area, its future, and its quality of life until the year 2000.

The Metro 2000 Committee was formed and met in excess of 60 times to discuss various issues with over 90 national, state, and community leaders.


From the efforts of the Metro 2000 Committee, the Leadership Institute was founded and the first Institute class (later renamed Community Leadership Program) was selected.

Fun Fact: The first two classes of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute lasted for two years each!


Transformational Leadership Program

TLP prepared leaders to lead significant change. Participants formed a compelling leadership agenda around the specific change they wanted to produce.


Formation of YLI

The Youth Leadership Initiative (YLI) began as a class project of the Community Leadership Program Class of 2002. Modeled after existing youth leadership programs in other cities and the Community Leadership Program itself, YLI releases the untapped potential of youth.


First Executive Director Hired

With an ambitious vision for the Leadership Institute, the board of governors recruited the first-ever executive director also the first-ever full-time staff person in the organization's history.


Community Connect Joins the Leadership Institute

Started in 2012 at the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines as an initiative of the Capital Crossroads Vision Plan, Community Connect found its permanent home with the Leadership Institute. The program continues the original intent of connecting participants with community leaders, while helping them to leverage their personal purpose and passions for community betterment.


More Staff Hired

In response to rapid organizational expansion, the Leadership Institute hired a second staff person. We grew from one to two in three short years!

Equity and Inclusion Committee Formed

Demonstrating a desire, which quickly became a commitment, to modeling and practicing equity and inclusion, the Equity and Inclusion Committee was formed to guide and inform this critical aspect of community leadership for our organization and for Greater Des Moines.


Greater Des Moines Hosts ALP Conference

The Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute, along with other local leadership programs, hosted more than 70 leadership professionals from across the country for the Association of Leadership Programs Midwest Regional Conference.


Amy Jennings Receives Preceptor Award

The Association of Leadership Programs honored Leadership Institute executive director, Amy Jennings, with the prestigious Preceptor Award. This award recognizes a leadership program staff member who has gone above and beyond, who has achieved a new standard of excellence, and who demonstrates civic and community engagement.


Leadership Institute Receives Inclusion Award

The Greater Des Moines Partnership's Inclusion Award honors employers that have championed diversity and inclusion at their organizations and in the community. In three short years, equity and inclusion became a prominent value of the Leadership Institute and we were honored to have been recognized for our efforts. Watch the video.


YLI Returns to Leadership Institute

The Youth Leadership Initiative returned home, after being cared for by the Greater Des Moines Partnership for eight years. The Leadership Institute was thrilled to welcome back this exceptional program that helps high school students grow as leaders for our community.


Rapid Response to Pandemic

All programs swiftly shifted to online or a partial outdoor/virtual format. Our programs are better than ever!


Then. Now. When. Educational Experience Offered

A group of passionate volunteers created a 7-week racial equity series to facilitate learning about and action on racial equity in Greater Des Moines.


We turned 40 years old!

Throughout the month of September, the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute celebrated its 40th anniversary with a month of Best of The Institute showcase events, leading up to the Cheers to 40 Years! celebration event.

New, Umbrella Organization Launched

The Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute returned to its originally intended place as a program and a new, umbrella organization called Lead DSM was launched with a fresh look and bigger, better, and bolder aspirations.

More staff hired

As the organization continues to grow, Lead DSM hired a third staff person.

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