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Kathleen Schafer is at the forefront of leadership development with more than 20 years experience. Grounded in the rough and tumble world of politics, experienced in business, honed in academia and broadened by her own journey to create a balanced life, she brings remarkable insights on how individuals can develop their leadership potential to successfully create productive and fulfilling lives. Kathleen’s personal presence in one-on-one coaching, seminars, and keynote presentations transforms people’s perspective on what they can accomplish and how to walk it in the real world everyday.
Kathleen began working in politics while still a senior in high school in Lansing, Michigan. Encouraged by her history teacher, she went to school only part-time during her senior year to allow her to intern in the Office of then-State Representative Debbie Stabenow, now Michigan’s junior Senator. After spending two years in the office she went on to hold positions with the Michigan Department’s of Commerce, Transportation and finished her state government experience doing press and communications for the State Budget Director—all before she graduated from Michigan State University in three years.
In 1990, with a change in administrations and a growing uneasiness with the way politics actually worked, Kathleen co-founded the Michigan Political Leadership Program (MPLP) at Michigan State University. There she designed the curriculum, raised the funds, and built a bi-partisan board to support emerging leaders throughout Michigan in understanding how to effectively serve in public office. The MPLP is now in its 20th year and its graduates have held numerous public offices, including a Mayor of Detroit and a Speaker of the House of Representatives.
During the early nineties, Kathleen also started a strategic communications company that was eventually sold to Public Sector Consultants (PSC), the state’s largest for-profit think tank that continues to be at the forefront of Michigan’s policy development. During her tenure at PSC she grew the communications practice more than three-fold and all before her 26th birthday.
In 1995, Kathleen left both organizations to form Leadership Connection and devote her full attention to supporting emerging leaders in the political process—particularly women and other underrepresented groups. Within the next three years, she was a consultant to numerous local, congressional and statewide campaigns. She was a featured speaker at many events and trainings focused on educating candidates on how to be effective leaders.
In 1996 she was asked by the Dean of the Graduate School of Political Management at The George Washington University to build its political leadership curriculum, which she did by creating numerous courses for the program and becoming one its most beloved professors—challenging the students to use their talents and skills to improve our political process. The leadership curriculum she developed and taught for 15 years continues to be the cornerstone of leadership education for the next generation of political professionals.
Kathleen also took on the emergence of the male-dominated talk-radio genre in the mid-nineties by creating her own syndicated radio show. For Women Only focused on the need for balanced leadership in our political process and the necessity of the feminine strength in leadership—particularly in our male-dominated arenas of business and politics. All these activities led Campaigns and Elections to name Kathleen one of their Rising Stars of American Politics in 1996.
With the birth of her first son, Kathleen narrowed her focus, leaving behind the 24-hour demands of the campaign trail to work specifically with individuals and organizations wanting to improve their leadership impact. For the next several years, with two young sons, she continued her teaching at GWU and worked with political leaders throughout the country while broadening her own understanding of personal development
Although no longer a strictly for-profit pursuit, Kathleen was involved in numerous political and policy activities including accepting a Gubernatorial appointment to chair the Maryland Women’s Commission, serving on the board of the Women’s Leadership Forum at the Democratic National Committee, and as advisor to numerous campaigns. These activities along with other business pursuits led her to be named one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women in 2004.
In 2007, Kathleen again refined the work and focus of Leadership Connection to broaden its leadership development to assist individuals who want to devote their life to creating meaningful change in the world. Kathleen now coaches, teaches and speaks to thousands of people worldwide supporting people’s understanding of their leadership skills. Her recent accomplishments include being among the first to teach emerging leaders in Iran, Egypt, and Jordan. She was asked to contribute her insights on American political leadership that were featured in the German book: “Political Leadership” whose authors are prominent political thinkers from throughout Europe. And her innovative approach to on-line learning has spurred demand for this material from around the globe.
Leadership Connection currently has offices in Washington, DC, Sedona, AZ and will soon be opening a new location in Southern California.