meet the Team

Dr. Steve Swafford, IOM, Balance Warrior + CEO, has worked more than 30 years for and with non-profit and education-focused organizations in areas of strategy, leadership, volunteer development, communication, and executive management. He brings a practical knowledge of strategy and executive leadership with past organizations such as the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Club Managers Association of America (CMAA), and American Subcontractors Association (ASA) where he most recently served as the executive director. He is active in California Society of Association Executives (CalSAE) and American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) leadership serving on the Board of Directors for three terms; past Membership Committee Chair; past Professional Development Committee Chair (aka Purple Cow Posse); Southern California Regional Council; university leadership advisor; and volunteer staff pastor. Steve is a 15-year faculty member for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute of Management and serves on the Curriculum Committee for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. A native of Kansas, Steve has a B.S. in journalism from Kansas State University; a M.Div. from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC; and an Ed.D. from Pepperdine University's Graduate School of Education and Psychology focusing on Strategic Organizational Change. Steve has received the IOM (Institute for Organization Management) designation from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and current serves as Supporting Faculty for Pepperdine University’s Full-Time and Fully-Employed MBA Programs. Steve is an original co-founder of Leadership Outfitters, LLC.
Jill McCrory, Ringleader, brings a background of interactive training, teambuilding, and leadership development to the Leadership Outfitters team. She has more than 35-years experience working with leaders of associations, chapters, professional societies and other non-profits. This includes 17 years as an association executive at Washington D.C. associations, including her last position as Senior Director of Training at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). In that capacity and as a principal at Leadership Outfitters for over 18 years, she has worked with national association boards and staff, chapter leaders, and a variety of other non- and for-profit groups in the areas of leadership, communication, and strategic conversations. She is known for her creative approach to teambuilding and a philosophy of “leadership at all levels”. She has a passion for facilitating creative group techniques including experiential team initiatives, World Café, and various "unconference" formats. A native Washingtonian, she has a M.Div. from the John Leland Seminary in Clarendon, VA; serves on several local non-profit boards; and is Senior Pastor of Twinbrook Baptist Church in Rockville, MD. She is a Doctoral Candidate in the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary. Jill is a co-founder of Leadership Outfitters.
Molly L. Whalen, Creativity Connector, is a results-driven nonprofit leader and seasoned facilitator with 30 years of experience. As a long-time consultant with Leadership Outfitters, Molly has presented hundreds of leadership development workshops nationwide and led strategic planning, mission clarification and development analysis discussions for numerous nonprofits. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia, and is most proud of her role as the Director of Development & Communications for The Ivymount School & Programs; where she led all development, communications and external relations efforts during a time of incredible growth for the school. She is currently directing all training and partnerships for the federally designated Parent Training and Information Center in Washington DC, as the Director of Parent & Youth Engagement for Advocates for Justice in Education. A life-long volunteer, she has worked as a volunteer and board member for several local and national organizations; including the Bridges Public Charter School, DC Special Education Co-Operative, Fight for Children Quality Schools Initiative, and the Make A Wish Foundation. She is currently serving as a member of the State Advisory Panel (SAP) for Special Education in the District of Columbia, which she was appointed by Mayor Adrian Fenty in 2007, and led as Chair from 2008-2012. She was appointed and served on the DC Mayoral Education Transition Executive Committee in 2011. Molly is a member of the strategic development team who piloted and designed sensory friendly programming for families with children with special needs at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She has a passion for improving the environment of special education for all stakeholders, and creating a positive experience for parents and families of children with special needs within the Washington DC metropolitan area educational community. In 2011 she was honored with the St. John’s Community Service Advocacy Award for her service in supporting individuals with disabilities.
Nekisha Killings, MPH, IBCLC, Aha! Moment Maven + Facilitator, has led in equity education across a variety of fields over the past 20 years. From consumer goods to the non-profit and religion sectors, she utilized her writing and facilitation chops to impact the way that employees and volunteers approached their work and communities. Through motherhood, Nekisha made a natural transition to focus her work in maternal and child health equity; becoming internationally board certified in lactation and launching Lioness Lactation - a comprehensive lactation support entity focused on marginalized communities. Nekisha earned an MPH from Walden University and penned the chapter titled Cultural Humility in the latest Core Curriculum for Interdisciplinary Lactation Care. She is Director of Equity, Inclusion and Belonging at Lactation Education Resources, and consults numerous other organizations on creating and implementing inclusive strategies. She is co-founder of Nikki & Nikki: Lactation Career Consultants, which equips aspirants of color to become lactation professionals. At the heart of Nekisha’s work is volunteerism. She has donated her time and strategic vision to numerous Boards of Directors, including her current term with the United States Breastfeeding Committee. In La Leche League, Nekisha was a founding member of the US Equity and Diversity Committee. She was awarded the United States Air Force 2015 Spouse of the Year honor for her groundbreaking volunteerism.
Jo Linder-Crow, PhD brings more than 30 years of higher education and association executive experience as she works with individuals, boards, and organizations to achieve peak performance. She is the Chief Executive Officer of the California Psychological Association and Foundation and is also the CEO of JLC Consulting. Prior to joining CPA in 2005 Jo served as Associate Executive Director of Education at the American Psychological Association where she directed APA’s Continuing Professional Development program. She is a member of the Board of Professional Affairs at the American Psychological Association, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Council of Executives of State and Provincial Psychological Associations. She is also a former member of the Board of Directors of the California Society of Association Executives (CalSAE) and was the recipient of the 2015-2016 CalSAE Executive of the Year award.
Leslie Fritz, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Leslie joins Leadership Outfitters as an experienced project manager with a demonstrated history of working with nonprofit organizations, associations, and continuing education. She is skilled in experience design, volunteer management, and engaging stakeholders in developing innovative and sustainable programs for their organization. She is action-oriented, and successful at managing content-driven education programs serving staff, board members, and association leaders. Exercising the latest techniques in project management, diversity and leadership, she has a long history in creating successful, achievement-oriented programs that capture an organization’s goals. Leslie has enjoyed 30+ years and on‑going highly successful professional and personal experiences with non-profits as an active committee member, staff support, independent worker, catalyst, facilitator, organizer, and chairperson. Leslie has a passion for improving the learning and meeting environment to include experiential activities that allow adults to problem-solve together. In 2011 she was honored with the California Society of Association Executives Staff Achievement Award.
Dr. Kent Rhodes, Senior Strategy Advisor, serves as core faculty with Pepperdine University’s Master of Science in Organization Development (MSOD) and the Doctoral Program in Organization Leadership. He is also a consultant with the Chicago-based Family Business Consulting Group. He has served as an Ombudsman for Pepperdine’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology (GSEP) and is a guest lecturer for Pepperdine’s Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution and the Institute for Conflict Management with Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee. Kent founded and served as Chief Executive Officer of OnCourse Network, Inc., an Internet Education Company. He negotiated the sale of the company to a Silicon Valley publicly traded corporation and subsequently, served as Managing Director with that company in San Jose, California until successfully completing its acquisition and integration growth strategies in 2001. Shortly after that, he accepted an appointment with Pepperdine University. Raised in Lubbock, Texas, Kent currently makes his home in Orange County, California. He is a member of the International Ombudsman Association, the Family Firm Institute, the Academy of Management and the AOM Conflict Management group. He is lead author of "Managing Conflict in the Family Business: Understanding Challenges at the Intersection of Family and Business", published by Palgrave-Macmillon.
Dr. Bridget Cooper is a cage rattler. Change strategist. Thought shifter. Dr. Cooper sculpts the leader in all of us by making us better people first. She does this through corporate consulting, coaching, and leading workshops that guide and inspire people to live more authentic, powerful, and peaceful lives. Her mission is to change the world, one life at a time. Bestselling author of “Feed The Need” (2013), “Feed The Need: Teen Edition” (2014), “Stuck U” (2015), and “Power Play” (2016), she brings her groundbreaking ideas and down-to-earth insights and action plans for effective communication, conflict, and mastering change to clients and audiences, facilitating powerful change and transformations in life and work satisfaction. Dr. Cooper has conducted seminars and retreats and delivered keynotes for numerous associations and organizations including: United Technologies Research Center (UTRC), Girl Scouts of Connecticut, Vietnam Veterans of America, CCPIO, Gateway Financial Partners, The Phoenix, Junior League of Washington, Department of Defense, Allied World Assurance Company, Connecticut Society of Association Executives, Glastonbury Chamber of Commerce, WirelessZone, Connecticut Boards of Education, American Massage Therapists Association (and their CT chapter), CT Apartments Association, Metacon Gun Club, Connecticut Associated Builders & Contractors, Hartford Dental Society, Bethany College, Draeger Medical Systems, The George Washington University, USA Weekend, TANGO, L-3 Communications, American Case Management Association, Greater Hartford Women’s Conference, Business Women’s Forum, Women in Business Summit, and the UConn Foundation. She is also a contributor to “Generating Winners,” an online resource for parents who want to inform, influence, and inspire their teens. Raised in New England, she earned her B.S. with a concentration in human resource management from the University of Massachusetts, her M.A. in marriage and family therapy at the University of Connecticut, and her Ed.D. through the educational leadership program at the George Washington University. Experienced as a volunteer-leader, she served as PTO President for four years, Girl Scout Leader for six years, and is currently a coordinator for her town’s recreation soccer league.
Jim Rizzo, CAE has more than 30 years of experience working with and for volunteer-based organizations and small businesses. He has a wealth of content development and facilitation expertise in the areas of leadership, strategy, membership development and principled negotiations. He is an experienced facilitator of organizational strategic thinking, focus group moderator and certified as a Myers Briggs Typology Indicator® instructor for the Leadership Outfitters team. Most recently, Jim was the Vice President of Membership and Chapter Relations for the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP). Prior to NAIOP, Jim worked with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Club Managers Association of America (CMAA) and the Washington Workshops Foundation. Jim is also co-owner of an intimate Inn & retreat property in Provincetown, MA (www.christophersbythebay.com) that is ideal for staff and volunteer events. Jim has been an active leader in the Provincetown Business Guild, Greater Washington Society of Association Executives (formerly GWSAE), American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and earned his CAE (Certified Association Executive) designation in 2002.
Maria Nazario, CAE, Impact Agent, has more than 35 years of management experience working with nonprofits and associations. Her expertise lies in strategic planning, entity creation and branding, governance, leadership cultivation and training, and finance and operations. She has a keen ability for bringing together multi-cultural teams. Most recently, Maria was the Chief Executive Officer of Integra International Limited and led the worldwide operations of the accounting association. Prior to that she was the Strategic Relations Director for the California Society of CPAS. Also, she worked for the American Red Cross managing the Pasadena Area, developing disaster plans and providing disaster relief management on multiple national and international assignments. A believer in the power of nonprofits and volunteerism, she has served on the board of directors for the American Red Cross, the California Society of Association Executives, The Eagle Rock Association and was elected to the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council for the City of Los Angeles. She currently serves on the Advisory Board for Beneficent Financial. She received the Manager’s Award for Exceptional Leadership and the Golden Bear Award for Exceptional Service in Inclusiveness from the American Red Cross. She also has received multiple commendations from the City of Los Angeles for her community work. She is a member of the California Society of Association Executives (CalSAE), American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), and earned her Certified Association Executive designation (CAE) in 2003.

Approach and Capability

Leadership Outfitters prides itself in providing a balanced mix of theory, interaction, and practical application in all our content design and facilitation.  Our interactive approach to strategic thinking and organizational development provides participants with an opportunity to consider a variety of aspects and perspectives impacting the organization’s future. 

Our intentional approach allows volunteer and staff leadership to share knowledge and ideas as they sort through new approaches.  We urge participants to engage in provocative thinking and exploration of "what if?"  We accomplish this through a variety of strengths-based facilitation techniques and interactive activities. Our programs are known for being highly interactive and dynamic producing purposeful ideas for immediate implementation. 

Leadership Outfitters is a consortium of six (6) primary content catalysts lead by Dr. Steve Swafford, IOM and Jill McCrory who combined have over 60 years of experience working for and with non-profits, small businesses, volunteer-based organizations, corporations, universities, and public agencies.  Leadership Outfitters facilitators specialize in various areas of leadership development, strategic planning, communication, group facilitation, and staff training. Detailed background on our team is www.leadershipoutfitters.com/the_team.php. Our core team is located in Los Angeles; Boston; Washington, DC; Eugene, OR; Ft. Lauderdale; and Hartford, CT. 

Road Trip!

Road trip up the west coast of California by Jill McCrory and Steve Swafford. Spring 1996. A week of association executives training association executives. A flat of vine-ripe strawberries on the backseat. Convertible top down. Assorted vineyard visits. It was a “Thelma and Louise” adventure about to happen. 

During that life-changing trip, we asked several entrepreneurial “what if?” questions revolving around our future career paths and launching a fresh approach to leadership development. In our association executive positions, we both were very passionate about providing practical tools that could be implemented immediately. 

Jill remembers the impetus for starting the discussion around the new company: "Steve and I had been to a workshop where the speaker talked all around and about leadership, yet never gave us anything that we could take back and use. I remember walking back to the office lamenting that we had spent three hours on the theory of leadership, not on the practice. So, the seed had been planted before we ended up on the infamous California Road Trip."

While trade associations and professional societies continue to be our core client base, we have strategically collaborated with higher-education, government agencies, and faith-based communities. Our early relationships built with trade associations and professional societies are still strong today, developing into leadership development programs that have continued with some clients for more than 15 continuous years. 

We still remember putting our new venture to flip chart paper over 20 years ago. We sketched an "L" for leadership which we drew to look like a fir tree. That never quite got past the flip chart stage.  But we kept the tree theme for the first printed logo.  

Three trees, with one tree standing in front of the others, was supposed to convey the thought that an effective leader stood out from the rest. Unfortunately because our name included "outfitters" everyone thought the trees meant that we were an outdoor clothing or survival company.  We decided to let professionals get involved and had a PR company design the next logo.  When we celebrated our 10th anniversary we added an "X" for 10 to that design. This element from our 10th Anniversary remains in our logo today. 

From the very beginning, others who were dynamic facilitators, experienced in particular areas, and talented in a variety of ways joined the Leadership Outfitters team.  Many are still active with the team. Some started their own spin off companies after joining Leadership Outfitters. 

In 2017, Leadership Outfitters' will celebrate its 20th anniversary.  Certainly that is a milestone for any company.  Celebrating is in order!  But most important are the relationships that have been forged, the memories that have been built, and the leaders who have been influenced as a result of these 20 years. Special thanks to Molly, Jim, Alyson, Dan, Greg, Bridget, Elizabeth, Marshall, Jeff, and Kent who have journeyed with us on the Leadership Outfitters team’s two decade (so far) journey. 

We’ve had so many incredible personal and professional experiences all throughout the United States and Abroad. Steve even notched his 50th State visited in 2013 with a two-day stop in Fargo, North Dakota. Although our style and content evolves as organizations change, what stays the same is our pure joy and passion in what we do. We remain committed to living our “why” statement which is our commitment to sparking “Provocative Ideas for Practical Implementation.”


Participants may ask for these when they want to exhibit the behavior, or they may be given to a participant when the behavior is apparent. 

About the Meeting Kit

  • For good ideas, fresh thinking, new perspective.

  • For things said or done that build up the team, recognize effort, or encourage others.

  • The “negafish” – for negativity and comments like “we can’t do that” or “it won’t work”.

  • The sacred cow – to identify processes, programs, rules, things we do because “we have always done it that way”.

  • Identifies whining – a little cheese with your “whine”.


  • Academy of Management
  • American Society of Association Executives & Center for Association Leadership
  • Association for Talent Development
  • Association of Career Professionals
  • California Society of Association Executives
  • International Coach Federation
  • National Association of Professional Organizers
  • New England Society of Association Executives
  • Oregon Society of Association Management
  • Glastonbury Chamber of Commerce

Logo History