- Photos Provided by the Greater Missouri Leadership Foundation, Inc.
Greater Missouri Leadership Foundation has been inspiring women leaders for 33 years (and counting).
Consistently strong leadership requires building a solid base of qualified and credible prospects. For more than three decades, the Greater Missouri Leadership Foundation (GMLF) has been doing just that.
GMLF helps educate and inspire women leaders to make a difference. GMLF sponsors the Greater Missouri Leadership Challenge (GMLC), a 12-day traveling symposium of 40 ambitious and driven women. Participants are nominated by employers, themselves, their friends, and the organization’s alumna.
All applicants can apply online at the GMLF’s website and must provide letters of recommendation due to the waiting list. The board of directors review each application before making their selections.
“The 40 women that are selected for the class, we want to make sure they are committed to attending all the sessions and are someone who has the support because you are going to be away from home at sessions and we ask for them to be fully submersed,” GMLF Executive Director Katie Steele Danner said.
Katie was a part of the GMLC’s third class and has been involved with GMLF for 30 years.
The challenge consists of four sessions, each taking place over the course of three days. At the end of the program, the women graduate and join the network and its base of 1,200 alumnae.
The foundation is composed of all volunteers. Twenty-one people sit on the board of directors, there’s a 10-person alumnae council, all of whom are challenge graduates.
Amy Schneider, an alumna from the GLC class of 2015, spoke about her experience with the program.
“I was so surprised of the different people you get to meet, not only throughout the state of Missouri but connections you make within the Boone County area,” Amy said.
Amy is on the board of directors at GMLF. She appreciates all she learned and applies all those insights in her everyday life and work.
“The Kansas City session was impactful because we toured a food shelter and women’s shelter, and I have never really been to one before. To know the people you are passing in the halls, to understand you are there to take a tour and they are there to live made a difference. I am now on the board of directors for a food bank and attribute that to my experience,” Amy said.
The board incorporates an overarching theme that the foundation follows into each of the four sessions. The first session tends to focus on education and branches of government. The second focuses on not-for-profit sectors and individual organizations stepping up. The third highlights Missouri’s rural aspects, and the last session discusses where Missouri fits on a global scale in St. Louis.
Each session teaches the women the same things about the State of Missouri and businesses within, but each attendee comes in with different knowledge about the state.
“I was a member of the Missouri House of Representatives when I went through and had some knowledge about suburban and urban living but didn’t know anything about the rest of the state,” Katie said. “So I used GMLF to further me as a policy maker and broaden my horizons.”
An alumna from the class of 2004, Teresa Maledy fondly remembers her experience in the program and serving on its board for several years.
“One of the things I valued so much [was] as a banker, I primarily interacted with CEOs, CFOs, and company treasurers, and it was thrilling to get to know an engineer at Boeing, for example, and see their leadership style and approaches to things that I haven’t thought about before,” Teresa said.
Due to the pandemic, the alumnae reunion has been on hiatus to keep everyone safe. In July, however, the GMLF alumnae reunion will take place in-person in COMO.
“It is to bring everyone from the different classes, experiences, and industries to connect and re-energize,” Katie said.
This reunion will also partner with the organization’s annual fundraising event to help raise scholarship money for those who might not have the available resources to go through the program without a scholarship. A fundraising luncheon will occur on July 20, and four individuals will be recognized by the board of directors as Women of the Year.
“One thing about being a participant, I realized that each woman that goes through the program steps away with a little different experience and perception, that it’s a growing opportunity for a woman, and it’s meaningful to women in different ways and that makes it really special,” Teresa said.
With being a part of a big organization of women and going through the GMLC program, there are many things that a woman can take away from the experience.
“The spectrum of careers and passions that you meet from these women throughout the state is inspiring and one takeaway from being a part of it is that you are part of a sisterhood, part of a organization of women who will hold you up as you figure out how you want to lead and where,” Amy said.
GMLF really wants to encourage women to step forward and see what they can make a change for and to take their passions and skills and lean into them as they go through the program.
“The networking is just incredible and has made me who I am. I have met women that without GMLF, I never would have had the chance to meet,” Katie said.
Greater Missouri Leadership Foundation, Inc.
5231 NE Antioch Road #342, Kansas City, Missouri