Scottsdale Leadership offers unparalleled chance to discover the power within

Member of Scottsdale Leadership Class 31 Antoine Skinner and La Tonya Bibbie during a day where participants where City Council members for a day. (Photo credit: Scottsdale Leadership)

The qualities and traits of those leaders we admire most are oftentimes gleaned from putting the greater good in front of self-interest, understanding current issues and being open to collaborating with diverse perspectives.

For more than 30 years, Scottsdale Leadership, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, has been working to cultivate and define that ability as the entity offers an eight-month program where points of view from diverse backgrounds come together to work toward a common goal.

A view of a Scottsdale Leadership class that created the Supai Garden in south Scottsdale. (Photo credit: Scottsdale leadership)

“Scottsdale Leadership is focused on making a positive impact by producing well-rounded servant leaders who will go out and apply their passion and skillsets to community issues and needs,” said Margaret Leichtfuss, who serves as executive director of the organization.

“We want our alumni to actively engage in solving problems and issues — and bring a passionate voice to the table which is respectful and reasonable. Collaborating and understanding others points of views is imperative to bringing grand ideas, for the greater good of the community, to fruition.”

Scottsdale Leadership is at 10533 E. Lakeview Drive.

Since Scottsdale Leadership’s founding in 1986, a total of 1,100 professionals have graduated from the intensive Core Program where participants learn to work together to complete community service projects.

“Every year, the Core Program engages 45-50 individuals from very diverse backgrounds and experiences,” Ms. Leichtfuss said. “Individuals apply or are referred to the program, and a selection committee interviews and thoughtfully curates a class. The goal is to create an experience for class members to learn from others who might have different points of view.”

The Core Program is an opportunity for local leaders to better understand the ins and outs of the municipality that delivers services they use every day.

“Over the course of the 14 full-day programs, the class learns from the experts, and leaders are developed through immersion into real-life diversity and inclusion exercises; through understanding the impact of economic vitality, healthcare and our education initiatives have on the sustainability of our community,” she explained.

“Class members also take a deep dive in learning about the infrastructure of our city, the region and the state. Mostly, the class members themselves become the teachers learning from each other. Throughout the program, it is continually demonstrated how a group of committed citizens can move the needle toward a solution.”

For Ms. Leichtfuss, the Lead it Forward projects through Scottsdale Leadership is making a difference in the lives of every day residents in need.

“Since 2008, 46 nonprofit or civic organizations and programs have benefited from the work of class project teams who have produced sustainable programs, projects or strategies for important services or causes,” she said.

“Great leaders are servant leaders, who in the purest sense have humility, are vulnerable and are able to let go of egos, right and wrong and focus on a desired outcome. They are innately curious about understanding different points of view. This requires listening to others, having civil dialog, collaborating and reaching across the table or aisle to have an open mind to come to consensus.”

While the behaviors can be taught, Ms. Leichtfuss says, Scottsdale Leadership offers participants a blueprint of how to lead outside of the guise of the Core Program.

“Some of the ‘leadership lessons’ are meant to teach someone what it means to be a great leader throughout the year,” she said, noting leadership is a lifestyle — not a buzz word.

“It’s up to every person to develop and maintain those traits as they move forward through class, work and life. Because our class members are exposed to and interact with other people with vastly different backgrounds, experiences and management styles, they can take these experiences back to the workplace.”

Scottsdale Leadership Class 30 members suit up during a safe communities portion of of the Core Program. (Photo credit: Scottsdale Leadership)

Leadership ingrained in the local landscape

Of the more than 1,000 graduates of Scottsdale Leadership nearly all of the founders of the organization hail from the same group of gentlemen.

The Scottsdale Charros, through The Charro Foundation, offered a $2,500 grant to go toward underwriting the costs of hosting two community-service days during the eight-month leadership training.

“Scottsdale Leadership is made up of more than 1,100 alumni whose leadership has left an indelible impact on the greater Scottsdale area and across the Valley,” Ms. Leichtfuss said. “Three of our four founders — who still remain actively engaged with the organization — are Charros.”

Scottsdale Leadership was founded in 1986 as a community leadership development nonprofit meant to create a pipeline of sorts producing educated and passionate community stewards who grow and sustain the cache of Scottsdale.

The four founders of Scottsdale Leadership are:

  • Dr. Art DeCabooter, former president of Scottsdale Community College;
  • Don Ruff, a valley banker;
  • Gary Shapiro, a Realtor; and
  • The honorable Sam Campana, a former mayor of Scottsdale.

Ms. Leichtfuss says the idea of leadership and what it means to be a Charro are synonymous ideals.

“The Charro Foundation and the Scottsdale Charros have a long, rich history with Scottsdale Leadership. Throughout the years, the Charro Foundation has provided much-needed financial support for our Core Program for Education & Youth Day and our Project Lead it Forward Showcase,” she explained.

“Although our flagship Core Program is tuition-based, which helps with the operations, it does not cover the full cost to deliver our Core Program.”

A view of Scottsdale Charros Executive Director Dennis Robbins, at left, and Todd Peterson, at right, who is serving as patron for the organization. (File photo)

Money that goes toward covering the cost of the youth days and Project Lead it Forward is money well spent, according to Todd Peterson, a Charro, who is serving a term as patron.

“I feel Scottsdale Leadership is necessary in our city to help develop and direct leaders to organizations and causes in Scottsdale that need additional volunteers,” Mr. Peterson said. “Once the class members are introduced to these organizations or causes, they can align their individual passion with the appropriate organization or cause and get involved.”

Leadership, Mr. Peterson says, is something cultivated over time.

“Leadership is one of those traits that is difficult to articulate but you know it when you see it in action,” he said. “To me, leadership is about having a great passion for your organization, cause or country.”

For Dennis Robbins, a graduate of Scottsdale Leadership Class 7, Scottsdale Leadership is the backbone of modern Scottsdale.

“Leaders in the Scottsdale community believed that in order for Scottsdale to maintain a high quality of life we needed train and grow people who would become our future leaders,” he said. “Scottsdale Leadership provides an in-depth view into the organizations, businesses and government that makes up this great community. It provides access to business and community leaders who are leading and making a difference every day in Scottsdale. This program allows you to learn, grow and become more of a passionate advocate for the amazing things happening in Scottsdale.”

Mr. Robbins, a Charro, serves as executive director of the philanthropic outfit.

“Leadership is getting things done,” he said. “A leader is someone who knows what the vision is and goes about realizing that vision. It can happen on a small scale at home, it can happen in a committee or it can happen at the community level.”

For nearly 60 years the Scottsdale Charros have been in constant pursuit of improving the lives of Scottsdale residents while preserving the community’s ties to its western heritage.

“It takes all kinds of passionate people to maintain a high quality of life in our community,” Mr. Robbins said.
“It also requires people to keep stepping up as others have given their full measure. Scottsdale is what it is today because for every challenge we have faced we have produced people who give of themselves for the good of the community so that we move Scottsdale forward.”

For any community the greater good must be at the forefront of thought, Mr. Robbins contends.

“We believe in Scottsdale! If we want to continue the high standards we have set for ourselves we need to invest in people who are willing to give of themselves for a cause larger than themselves,” he said. “Scottsdale Leadership allows people to become educated about our city and how it operates and then to insert themselves in an area they are passionate about. This will continue the cycle of leaders that have made Scottsdale a great place to be.”

Go to

The co-fournders of Scottsdale Leadership: Gary Shapiro, Sam Campana, Don Ruff and Dr. Art Decabooter. (Submitted photo)

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable. Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the arrow in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment