LC Class 35

Our mission is to develop and enhance volunteer community leadership by providing a diverse group of emerging and existing leaders with the opportunity to increase their community knowledge, civic network, and service to the community. 

Leadership Charlotte is an independent 501(c)(3) organization, and ...

Where leaders connect and grow

It’s where diverse people, from all walks of life, connect with Charlotte’s key decision makers to gain a deeper understanding of how our community works.

A network of 2000 and growing

We have over 2000 alumni who remain connected and committed to each other and our community. Our alumni continue to connect, develop and grow through alumni programming and their activities in the city.

A backstage pass to Charlotte

Our programs offer an immersion to our city where leaders experience both what makes our community successful and what challenges we face.

A pipeline of leaders for business and our community

A pipeline of leaders for business and our community Leadership Charlotte becomes a vast resource of connections across industries, government and the non-profit landscape. Bottom line – Leadership Charlotte produces leaders who are passionate about making Charlotte a better place in which to live

Our History

Since it was founded in 1978, Leadership Charlotte has cultivated thousands of community leaders. Schley Lyons, then chair of the UNCC Political Science Department, envisioned a leadership program that extended beyond the tight ring of downtown business leaders that formed the core of leadership in most cities. Leaders were redefined as not only business owners and elected officials, but as heads of volunteer organizations, community service agencies and volunteer city-county boards and neighborhood associations.

The first two years of the program were funded under the Title I Higher Education Act of 1965. Class 1 and Class 2 were conducted under the grant which was matched by UNCC. Class 1 meeting space was provided by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce at the invitation of Bill Veeder, the president of the Chamber and former City Manager. Class 2 met at UNCC. Before the second class ended, the members of the first class determined the program should continue when the grant expired.

Class 3, directed by Schley Lyons, accepted corporate sponsors. Each corporate sponsor was entitled to select one participant for the program. A Leadership Charlotte alumni committee selected the remaining participants, continuing the tradition that selected Class 2. When Schley Lyons was promoted to associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Board of Directors contacted Jim Clay, director of The Urban Institute at the University of North Carolina – Charlotte. The program remained there, nurtured by Bill McCoy through 1990.

In 1984, the first Schley Lyons Circle of Excellence Award was established to recognize a graduate who exemplifies both professional and personal involvement in the community and civic events, and support for diversity. The Horizon Award, Lifetime Achievement Award, Newcomer of the Year Award and Community Service Award are also presented at the annual awards event.

In 1987, Leadership Charlotte launched Youth Leadership Charlotte for rising sophomores and juniors in Charlotte high schools. There are 209 alumni of this program. In 1991, Senior Leadership Charlotte was launched in conjunction with United Way. Both programs emphasized volunteerism. These programs were suspended in 1993 until a time when they could be supported without draining financial and administrative resources of Leadership Charlotte.

In 1991, Leadership Charlotte attained total self-sufficiency and autonomy from the state regulations that governed the organization imposed by its association with The Urban Institute. In 1991 community owned PBS station WTVI granted pro bono office space to Leadership Charlotte.

Bill McCoy turned over the position of Executive Director to Kathy Shinkle, who was followed by Fay Grasty, the first full time director. They both worked tirelessly during this key transition period. Fay turned responsibilities over to Sally Billington, who was followed by Heidi Campbell-Robinson. In 2001, Dee Dee Murphy was hired as Executive Director.

In Spring 2002, the Board approved a new venture “An Alliance for Leadership Excellence” with the McColl School of Business at Queens University of Charlotte. Leadership Charlotte relocated to the McColl School in July of that year to take advantage of the synergy and resources of the school’s strategic curriculum where leadership is the core value for all programs.

In 2007, the Board of Directors appointed Elizabeth McKee to the position of Executive Director.