WDM Leadership Academy

This nine-month course provides context-specific feedback and strategies for improving leadership effectiveness.

2019 New WDMLA Logo

WDMLA Presenting Sponsor

What is WDMLA?

West Des Moines Leadership Academy brand has achieved stature based on the results it is creating with supporting evidence seen in career achievement, business growth and servant leadership.

Unlike other metro leadership programs, where focus is on community governance and education, the West Des Moines Leadership Academy (WDMLA) places substantial emphasis on honing skills so participants will better lead self, others and community.

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The course begins in September with graduation in late May or early June. In between are nine days jam-packed with experiential learning; workshops designed to enhance the understanding of one’s own leadership style and how it impacts others. Upon graduation, participants share a keen appreciation for the insights they’ve gained and an excitement for the future application of skills learned. With diploma in hand, they better influence others, impact decisions more effectively and lead with confidence. 


The West Des Moines Leadership Academy offers a three-tiered approach of leadership skills training focused on Leading Self, Leading Others, and Leading Community, specifically towards:


The West Des Moines Leadership Academy exists to positively influence the future of West Des Moines and the Greater Des Moines community through strategic leadership development and workforce retention.

Class size and representation

Class size is limited to provide the best environment for interaction, real-life applications and outstanding learning. Each class will be comprised of participants representing a cross-section of the community. The class ranges from 35-40 leaders.

How to Apply

Each candidate must provide two letters of recommendation addressing demonstrated leadership ability, character, credibility, and community interest and involvement. Applications for the 2024-2025 WDMLA Class are currently being accepted.

Important Dates:

  • January 30: Applications Open
  • April 30: Early Bird Deadline (see details below)
  • May 31: Applications Close – update, see extension below!
  • June 8: FINAL application deadline!

If you’re interested in hearing from alumni and learning more about the program, sign up for the free Information Session on April 3. Once that date has passed, we invite you to reach out with any questions to Kara Matheson or contact the Advisory Council at WDMLA@wdmchamber.org.


While nominations definitely help a person with the process of applying, they are not required.

The West Des Moines Leadership Academy is for anyone who lives, works or plays in West Des Moines. Anyone who is interested in the success of West Des Moines is encouraged to apply.

The tuition for the West Des Moines Leadership Academy includes course binder, hand-out materials, presenter fees, group transportation, meals and class certificate.  The cost is as follows:

West Des Moines Chamber members: $2,000

Non-Chamber members: $2,500

*See Early Bird Discount details below

If you submit your application before April 30 at 5 PM, we will receive your submission before the Early Bird Deadline. If you get selected to be in the upcoming class, you will receive a $200 discount for your tuition. 

You will receive:

  • Over 30 hours of leadership training over the course of 9 classes
  • An enhanced understanding and appreciation of community strengths, needs, and prospects
  • The opportunity to build long-lasting relationships with approximately 35-40 other leaders, 13 advisory committee members, 4 sub-committees, and 430+ alumni
  • The opportunity to engage with numerous community leaders from West Des Moines schools, government, non-profits, health care entities, and more
  • The chance to make a real difference in the West Des Moines community through an organized class project 

Scholarship opportunities are limited to the following:

  • Scholarship funds are available for a leader in a nonprofit organization who is a member of the Chamber and who otherwise would not be able to send a leader through WDMLA (see checkbox on application)
  • The West YP Leadership Committee will select one active young professional to receive a scholarship (there is no limit to the number of West YP members who can be accepted into the class) 
  • One active member of the Latino Trade Network will be selected to receive a WDMLA scholarship (active members must select the applicable checkbox on the WDMLA application)
  • The award recipient of the Emerging Leader category for the DEI Workplace Excellence Awards will receive one scholarship 

The program was developed with the intention of building leaders in the WDM area. Each of the classes has an educational session that adds to the participant’s knowledge about a specific topic or area of community activity PLUS a leadership skill development component. Situational leadership, conflict management, poverty simulations, team building, coaching, personal branding and speaking for success are just a few of the leadership skills you will learn or improve upon.

The WDMLA Advisory Council works to coordinate all session dates for the following year in the spring. The dates will be shared by early summer with the leaders who are offered a seat in the class to ensure their schedule aligns before they accept their seat. All classes are in person; there are no virtual opportunities to participate in this program. 

Who makes WDMLA possible?

WDMLA Presenting Sponsor

Time to Shine is brought to you by

Individual Session Sponsors

2018-2019 Class Project

The 2018-2019 West Des Moines Leadership Academy, sponsored by the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce, presented Dueling for Humanity – an event of music, food and fun, to benefit West Des Moines Human Services (WDMHS) in celebration of their upcoming 40th anniversary.

class project

Dueling for Humanity was held May 2, 2019, from 5:00–8:00 p.m. at Blue Moon Piano Bar. At the event, food, beverage and live entertainment were provided, including dueling pianos headlined by Tony Bohnenkamp from the national recording group The Nadas

West Des Moines Human Services has been assisting low-income, the elderly, and disabled residents since 1979. WDMHS currently provides assistance to more than 1,600 households in West Des Moines and surrounding western suburbs. WDMHS offers emergency assistance for rent and utilities, transportation, handyman services, youth recreational assistance, clothing, and food assistance in addition to many other programs for those struggling with poverty. Their staff strives to create an environment where those seeking assistance experience compassion, acceptance, and commitment.

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