Successful executive directors and CEOs are the driving force behind high-performing organizations. They solve complex problems, create opportunity, and consistently deliver on mission — even in unpredictable conditions.
That’s why UJA believes it’s critical for executive leaders to continually upgrade their leadership and management abilities. Staying on the cutting edge of leadership skills, business management acumen, and reflective practice makes it possible to meet today’s leadership challenges.
New York based CEOs, executive directors and c-suite executives in any Jewish nonprofit (including, synagogues, day schools, start ups, etc.) are invited to apply to The Institute for Jewish Executive Leadership.
The Institute for Jewish Executive Leadership (IJEL) is offered in conjunction with the Columbia Business School’s Social Enterprise Program, and is taught primarily by their faculty. It combines the latest research on best practices with proven teaching quality.
Peer learning is core to the program, plus a blend of lectures, small group activities, coaching, role-playing, and simulations. Interactive sessions and small-group work stretch abilities and test assumptions.
Through this program, you will learn the framework and tools you need to meet the challenges you face not only today, but in the future.
Leading the Organization
CEOs/executive directors and c-suite executives are uniquely tasked and responsible for leading their organization, so they need to hone the skills necessary to excel as a strategic leader. Here is a sample of topics that will be covered:
Leading Change: One of the key leadership skills required of chief executives is overcoming the natural inertia of complex organizations when change is necessary. During this session, a roadmap will be presented to ensure that change initiatives are successful.
Operational Excellence: Strategy, at a fundamental level, identifies an effective match between an organization’s distinctive capabilities and the selected market/ service / audience. We’ll explore how an organization’s operations function determines some of its most important capabilities and thus plays a central role in the eventual success of a strategy.
Governance: Boards play a critical role in overseeing their organizations’ missions, finances, and strategic directions. Executive directors must be adept in leveraging their boards in order to successfully lead their organizations. This session focuses on how to balance the role of board member and organizational leader.
Financial Management: A key capacity for an effective nonprofit organization is the ability to manage finances and use financial information strategically. To ensure sustainability under today’s economic strain, nonprofit leaders must be able to understand and effectively communicate their organizations’ “financial story”, as well as establish sound financial management practices. We’ll learn how to define financial goals and objectives, forecast trends based on relevant data, team-build through a financial lens; and establish best practices through the use of effective internal controls, technology, and process efficiencies
In order to be effective, leaders must harness the energy of others to serve their organizations
mission, clients and constituents. Here is a sample of topics that will be covered:
Leading Teams: As a team leader one must know when to step up and take the reins and when to step back and let the team operate by itself. We’ll discuss leadership styles, coaching opportunities, and emotional intelligence to better understand the role of team leaders and engage in an experiential exercise designed to provide a common starting point for understanding misconceptions about what it means to lead.
Negotiation: Effective negotiators get the most out of bargaining situations, not just in terms of the things they carry away from negotiations, but also in the relationships and reputations they leave behind. Participants will leave the session understanding the different types of negotiations and will apply these principles through hands-on exercises and simulations.
Motivation and Decision Making: Leaders are often faced with the challenge of how to best motivate others as well as themselves. We’ll explore the key concepts of motivation and practical steps leaders can take to become effective motivators. The core of this session focuses on how the competing mindsets of “playing to win” or “playing not to lose” guide decision making processes and behaviors.
Inspired Jewish Leadership: Jewish leadership today faces unique challenges and opportunities. We’ll investigate this topic by examining a combination of Jewish sources, professional business literature, reflective questions, and personal anecdotes. Participants will learn what qualities inspirational Jewish leaders must possess in order to effectively lead their staff, volunteers, and boards, as well as serve their constituents.
In order to effectively lead and manage others, leaders must have deep self-awareness to begin to understand why and how they do what they do. By exploring and understanding their authentic self, they are able to fulfill their potential and become all they can be. Here is a sample of topics that will be covered:
Strategic Intuition: We’ll explore what is becoming known as the “intuitive” side of strategy. A self-assessment instrument will provide an opportunity to assess one’s own current (and, according to the theory of intuitive strategy, limited) approach to strategic thinking. Frameworks and other tools will be introduced to develop the capacity to see new solutions to current challenges.
Values based Leadership: Faye Wattleton said that the only safe ship in a storm is leadership. In a crisis, leaders need to know what they stand for, and need the guidance that comes from clarity about their own values. There will be a case-based discussion of the challenges associated with leading and acting according to values (e.g., knowing the values, having the courage, finding support); and an exercise designed to surface individual values in the context of a dynamic, often uncertain environment.
Flexible Thinking: “Flexible Thinking” utilizes the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (“HBDI®”) to help build effective leadership and communication skills. The assessment helps leaders better understand ways to build on their current thinking, learning and communication capabilities. HBDI offers insights into the best ways to leverage personal preference to effectively work with colleagues, clients and the numerous constituents that make up a busy professional work-life.
Self-Management: It is often said that leading and managing others begins with leading and managing oneself. We will discuss various strategies that successful executives use to get the most out of themselves and the people that they lead and manage. One of the cardinal prerequisites for effective self-management is self-awareness, and one of the main drivers of self-awareness is feedback.
360 Feedback and 1:1 Coaching: One of the most common leadership problems chief executives face is the discrepancy between how they think of themselves as leaders and how others in the organization think of them. The 360-Degree Survey, which will be administered prior to the program, provides feedback on various aspects of leadership requirements. Certified coaches from Teachers College and Columbia University will provide one-on-one coaching based upon the 360-Degree Survey for all program participants.
Participants are sitting executive directors/CEOs and c-suite executives of UJA’s network of non-profit partners, strategic allies, grantees and community circle organizations including synagogues, day schools start-ups, etc. Registration materials will be reviewed and applicants will be notified of acceptance.
$1,000, which includes the retreat, all sessions, meals, and materials.
This program is nearly fully subsidized. However, if the fee is a barrier for your participation, please contact Lyn Light Geller at or 212.836.1616. as additional subsidies may be available.
Dates and Locations
Opening Retreat: Sunday, January 26 - Monday, January 27, 2020 (location TBD)
Sessions: February 11, February 25, March 11, March 24, March 31, April 22, May 6, May 19, May 21 (snow day), 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at Columbia University or UJA-Federation
Columbia University Program Director:
Professor Joel Brockner is the Phillip Hettleman Professor of Business at Columbia Business School and is well known for his work in management of organizational change, organizational justice, managerial judgment, and decision making.
Professor Brockner will be with the Institute for Jewish Executive Leadership throughout the program. Each time we meet, he will include a brief session that weaves the program together.
“The Institute for Jewish Executive Leadership provided an incredible opportunity for a group of leaders at the top of their organizations to feel that it really is not lonely at the top and that there are many people to reach out to with similar challenges and similar issues. I think, along with learning in many important academic areas, the chance to bond with your colleagues will add to the longevity of our tenures and success of our organizations which is truly important to Jewish community.“
Rick Lewis, Mid-Island Y JCC
“I recently started my position of Executive Director at JOFA. Given our budget, I could not afford a coach. This program very much so exceeded my already high expectations. It has had an impact on my performance, increased my knowledge and skill set, and has empowered me to make important changes in improving my organization in a variety of ways from morale to efficiency to financial stability. I want to convey my thanks and how grateful I am for your supporting this program.”
Sharon Weiss-Greenberg, Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA)
“Learning with 20 other Executive Directors of Jewish organizations and learning from the faculty of Columbia Business School has taken professional development to a new level. I have been challenged by our professors and my peers in profound ways. I have been an Executive Director for 8 years and this has enabled me to take a fresh look at my work.”
Brian Cohen, Columbia/Barnard Hillel, Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life
To apply, submit the Program Application by October 18th. A representative from the Community Lab team will reach out to you regarding next steps in the application process.
For more information, contact Lyn Light Geller at or 212.836.1616.