Cornerstone GettyImages 1189302552 Scaled

LO is more than Professional Development

Cornerstone is the primary program that Leadership Oakland offers to individuals seeking to expand their leadership skills personally, professionally and publicly. The program begins in September with a 2 1/2 day retreat, and end in June with a memorable graduation. Each month class members participate in 2 virtual half-day sessions with a different regional focus-from education, government and the justice system to health and human services and race and ethnic diversity. Each in-depth session is led by subject experts, and includes a mix of lectures, activities and observation. Class members leave these sessions with an expanded understanding of the interconnected community, and the inspiration and knowledge to make a difference in every aspect of their lives.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who participates in Leadership Oakland?

Talented, committed professionals with a desire to strengthen their leadership, organizations and community make up a Leadership Oakland class. The program is open to people living or working in Oakland County and the surrounding region. Participants come from a wide variety of industries, backgrounds, career levels, and age ranges from those in their 20s to those in their 70s.

How does the program work?

The Leadership Oakland Cornerstone Program is going to be a virtual program for LOXXXII. It is a nine-month program that kicks off with a Leadership Development Retreat consisting of 2 1/2 days in early September. At the retreat, participants get to know one another, gain an overview of the region, examine their leadership potential, and set goals for the year. The Retreat is followed by two half-day sessions each month from October through May. Each session is designed to expose participants to current resources and issues impacting our region as well as prompt them to think more deeply about their individual and group leadership growth and actions. The program concludes with the group Day of Service project and special graduation event.

How can I be part of the next Leadership Oakland class?
Mark your calendar for January 2021. That’s when the application period opens. The class is limited to approximately 50 participants who are selected by the Leadership Oakland Selection Committee. The committee seeks to create a class that reflects a cross section of the community, representing diversity of race, culture, age, and gender, and ability, as well as a diverse group of professional affiliations. In making its selection, the committee also looks for individuals most apt to utilize their leadership for the long-term benefit of the community.
Do I have to be part of a company or large organization to apply?

No. In fact, we’ve seen an increase in the number of entrepreneurs/small business owners and community leaders choosing to participate in recent years.

When is the application deadline?
The early application deadline is April 30, 2021. The standard application deadline is June 30, 2021.
What are the advantages of applying before the early application deadline?
Your application will be considered in the early selection review that happens in May. Applicants accepted during that review phase will lock in their spot for the year, regardless of the number of applications received after April 30, 2021.
How much is the program? Are there scholarships available?
The tuition cost is $3,500 and includes retreat accommodations, class materials and meals during the monthly sessions. We have some limited, partial scholarships available for applicants who are paying the tuition themselves or are from smaller businesses or non-profit organizations. If you are interested in scholarship assistance, please note that with your application, and be assured it will not affect the selection process. We also work with individuals, if needed, in establishing a payment plan.
Do I really have time for this?
We hear from a number of graduates who, initially hesitant about the time commitment, found that the experience and relationships created exceeded their expectations and determined it was a wise investment of time. If you are concerned, please feel free to contact Thomas Sommer, Executive Director, at 516-592-0237. He can guide you in making an informed decision. Some potential applicants wait a year or more before applying. Others jump right in. We are most concerned about the quality of the experience, and getting the timing right, for each participant.
I have more questions. Where can I get them answered?
Our Executive Director, Thomas Sommer, and staff members are happy to answer any questions to help you make an informed decision about applying. Contact them at, or 516-592-0237.

Session Topics

Sept. 12-14, 2021
2 1/2 Days
Sept. 12, 2021
Start: 3:30 PM
Sept. 14, 2021
End: Noon

Leadership Development Retreat

The Leadership Oakland class meets each other for the first time at this 2 1/2 day retreat. Highly interactive, they gain insight into the program experience as well as their leadership/personal strengths and areas of development. Class members complete this retreat energized and motivated for the year ahead.

October 13, 2021
October 27, 2021
8:00 AM – Noon

Economy & Government

This session looks at the economic forces and government structures that shape Oakland County and their impact on the region. Participants hear directly from business and government leaders on the opportunities and challenges they face daily.

November 10, 2021
November 17, 2021
8:00 AM – Noon

Nonprofits & Human Services

In this highly impactful session, participants gain an understanding of how nonprofits and human service agencies contribute to the strength of our region. They see firsthand how these organizations serve a vital need throughout Southeast Michigan.

December 15, 2021
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Often called one of the most impactful sessions of the program by graduates, this is not the stereotypical diversity training. Participants leave with an increased awareness and appreciation of complexities surrounding diversity and inclusion and its impact on their effectiveness as leaders.

January 12, 2022
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM


The changing worlds of healthcare impacts us all. Experts from throughout the region provide insight and understanding to the variety of developments that affect participants personally and professionally.

February 16, 2022
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Justice System

Witness firsthand the criminal justice system in action. In this eye-opening session, participants get a comprehensive look – from the local to the federal level – at the inner workings of justice.

March 9, 2022
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Education & Workforce Development

This session provides an awareness of educational systems as they evolve to meet the needs in developing the workforce and its future leaders. Current issues and innovations from early childhood through adult learning are explored.

April 13, 2022
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Arts & Culture

Participants gain a broad perspective of the arts and cultural sector in Southeast Michigan. They are exposed to the issues facing the future of the arts and their impact on the economic and social climate in our region.

May 11, 2022
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM


Our changing environment is the focus of this session. Experts from throughout the region provide insight and understanding to the variety of developments that affect participants personally and professionally.


Day of Service Project

The Leadership Oakland class finalizes and executes the group’s class project.

June 15, 2022
8:00 AM – 2:00 PM

Shaping the Future & Graduation

This session brings the Leadership Oakland Cornerstone experience full circle. It assimilates the insights and key learnings of the program and challenges participants to identify future action as a group and as individuals. Leadership Oakland participants and their guests are then invited to celebrate the completion of the Cornerstone Program and the participant’s commitment to continued leadership.


Cost: $3,500

Application Deadline

Early Deadline: April 30, 2021

Standard Application Deadline: June 30, 2021

Cornerstone Information Sessions

April 5, 2022 | 11:00 am – Noon

May 3, 2022 | 11:00 am – Noon

Applicant Requirements

The Committee will be seeking participation from a cross-section of the community. Participants should be active in business, and/or professional, educational, governmental, artistic, religious, service or community organizations. Retired individuals are also considered.

The most important factor in selection is identifying those individuals most apt to utilize their leadership for the long-term benefit of the community. In reviewing applications, the Selection Committee looks for candidates who demonstrate the following characteristics:


Genuine concern for the future of Oakland County and the region.


A sincere commitment, motivation and interest to serve Oakland County and the region.


Willingness and ability to make the time commitment required by the program.


The intention of seeking appointments to community boards, commissions or key volunteer leadership positions.


Representative of the diversity of the region.

For additional information, contact Thomas Sommer, Leadership Oakland Executive Director, by phone: 516-592-0237 or email:

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