When Joan Royle became executive director of the Westcott Community Center in 2015, the organization did not have a robust database or software system and much of the center itself was in disrepair.

Since then, she has expanded the center’s programming, fast-tracked facility repairs and established comprehensive operating systems. This year, she led the center in publishing its first annual report.

Royle credits her participation in the professional development opportunities available through the Community Foundation for sharpening her leadership and development skills. Two years ago, she joined the very first cohort of the Marsellus Executive Development Program.

The six-month program offers individual coaching and consultant-led peer learning sessions for executive directors of nonprofit organizations within Onondaga and Madison counties. Topics covered include leading in dynamic times and enabling others to act.

Facilitated by The Leading Element, the program is a spin-off of the John F. Marsellus Sabbatical, a 15-year initiative of the Community Foundation that was created in memory of John F. Marsellus to honor his desire to enhance the leadership capacity of local nonprofit organizations.

Royle recalled impactful guest speaker sessions with staff from the Redhouse Arts Center and the Salvation Army.

“We had so many incredible speakers who spoke to topics that were of strong interest to us,” she said. “And when it was a somber topic, it was validating, because you knew some other director or agency was going through the same thing.”

Royle left the development program with lasting friendships and a network of professionals that grows every year with new alumni. She recalls how the experience reshaped her view of her leadership capabilities.

“It made you think about your own strengths and weaknesses and about things you could mold differently to work better for you,” Royle said. “Some of my weaknesses are also my strengths, and I’ve learned to take the best parts and utilize them to do my job.”