Leaders Institute - Full Program Description

CEN believes that the most effective way to increase the capacity of the nonprofit sector is to strengthen and sustain the leaders of nonprofit organizations. We have found, through extensive conversations and direct experience, that what nonprofit executives need and value most are access to excellent quality executive and leadership development resources, assistance with governance challenges, and a supportive peer learning community. In early 2004, CEN launched the Leaders Institute program to address these needs. This program has since become a highly sought-after professional development opportunity for Silicon Valley nonprofit executive directors.

Through the CEN Leaders Institute, selected nonprofit executive directors are brought together every four weeks for a full day to participate in high-impact professional development sessions that are comprised of four components: 1) dialogues with leadership experts and community and business leaders; 2) structured peer support, consultation, and shared learning; 3) a renewal retreat and ongoing related content; and, 4) individual executive coaching services.  These components are described below.


Dialogues with Leaders

As noted above, the CEN Leaders Institute is an eight-month long program and participants are brought together monthly for full-day sessions. Generally, these sessions begin with training and in-depth facilitated group discussion in the morning and then an informal presentation or dialogue with a guest expert in the afternoon. The quality of this “guest faculty” has been exceptional and recent presenters include: Rick Williams, former CEO of The Sobrato Family Foundation; Chuck Geschke, Founder and Chairman of Adobe Systems; Ned Barnholt, former CEO of Agilent Technologies; and certified trainers for The Leadership Challenge. The dialogues with these and other speakers have spanned a variety of topics including the state of the nonprofit sector, value-based leadership, balance and renewal, advocacy for nonprofits, governance, executive leadership of boards, change management, and the personal side of leadership.


Peer Support and Shared Learning

The value of networking, shared learning, and the peer support that is engendered by a tight-knit group of highly regarded colleagues cannot be overstated. Indeed, the relationships that are developed and fostered go well beyond the structured regular sessions and contribute significantly to the effectiveness and long-term sustainability of nonprofit leaders in the community. Recent groups of graduates include the following: 

Leaders Institute 12 (click HERE for organization detail and bios)

Leaders Institute 11

Leaders Institute 10

Leaders Institute 9

Leaders Institute 8

Leaders Institute 7


Renewal Retreat

One of the most critical issues facing nonprofit chief executives is personal sustainability.  This is due to a variety of factors, such as working in under-resourced environments, challenges with boards, and the overwhelming needs of the constituents and communities that nonprofit leaders serve. CEN fully believes that the ability to renew oneself personally and professionally is an essential leadership skill. To help our leaders develop these qualities, CEN has partnered with RENEW’s Dr. Linda Hawes Clever to incorporate a 1 ½ - day renewal retreat into the CEN Leaders Institute curriculum. This activity leads to the development of personal renewal plans that identify and help to instill tangible renewal practices and positive behavioral changes in our nonprofit leaders.


Executive Coaching Services

As a component of the CEN Leaders Institute, apart from the regularly scheduled sessions, CEN provides participants the opportunity to work with a personal executive coach on an in-depth basis to address their unique leadership challenges. The coaching process is a relationship between an executive director and a seasoned professional executive coach in which the goal is to enhance the success of the leader and the organization. An executive coach provides support, feedback, accountability, and perspective.  This collaborative partnership leverages the strength and skills of the coach and the knowledge and experience of the executive director. The benefits to the executive director include: assistance with aligning the work of the organization with the mission and strategies; support and relief from the isolation that many executive directors experience; fresh and objective perspectives, and the encouragement to look at old issues in new ways; accountability to remain focused on critical issues; ideas for how to better use the organization’s limited resources; and an environment for identifying new directions and opportunities for future growth for the organization and the leader.


Program Staff

Leaders Institute is staffed and facilitated by CEN's Larissa Robideaux, MPA (Executive Director), Illyasha Peete, MBA (Leadership Development Specialist), Shana Peete, JD (Leadership Development Specialist), and Jennifer Simmons (Sr. Leadership Development Specialist). Click HERE for CEN staff bios. We also partner with consultants Kathy Burke, MBA, CPC (K. Burke & Associates) and Linda Hawes Clever, MD, MACP (President of RENEW). Our consultants' professional qualifications are noted below.

Kathy Burke, MBA, CPC (Founder/Principal, K. Burke Associates)

As a leadership consultant and certified professional coach, Kathy works with leaders and groups at all levels to facilitate their professional and personal development, well-being, and effectiveness.  She brings to her consulting and coaching practice over twenty years of management experience in high-tech and financial services corporations and a proven track record of successfully coaching leaders, directors, high-level professionals, boards, and other teams in both commercial and nonprofit organizations. A manager with Hewlett-Packard for over 18 years, Kathy led teams in Finance, Global Marketing, Information Technology, and Human Resources.  She has an undergraduate degree in Psychology from San Jose State University and earned an MBA with an emphasis in Finance from Santa Clara University. She is certified as an Integral CoachSM through New Ventures West and serves on coach certification panels for New Ventures West and JFK University. Kathy is a lifelong learner who continues to study business, leadership, and human development but most of all is a humble student of what it means to be human. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother and has a passion for helping people develop their individual and collective capacities for living and working well together.  Kathy is a past board member of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte and currently serves on the board of Family Supportive Housing in San Jose.

Linda Hawes Clever, MD, MACP (President of RENEW)

Dr. Linda Hawes Clever is President of RENEW, a not-for-profit aimed at helping busy, devoted people, including leaders, manage their competing commitments and sustain (or regain) their enthusiasm, effectiveness, and purpose. She is founding Chair of the Department of Occupational Health at California Pacific Medical Center, a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCSF, and a former editor of the Western Journal of Medicine. Dr. Clever received undergraduate and medical degrees from Stanford University. She has written numerous papers, chapters, articles, and editorials. Her areas of special interest include personal and organizational renewal; the interactions of life, work and health; and leadership. Dr. Clever served on the Stanford University Board of Trustees, chaired the Board of KQED, and is past president of the Western Association of Physicians.



In summary, the CEN Leaders Institute - through dialogues with experts and leaders, peer support and shared learning, practices to ensure renewal and leadership vitality, and executive coaching services - provides nonprofit leaders with unparalleled access to “best in class” resources and the support necessary to strengthen and sustain themselves, thereby enhancing the capacities of their organizations to more effectively serve their communities.

The value of the CEN Leaders Institute is perhaps best expressed by the participants themselves:

“Participating in the CEN Leaders Institute has helped me grow tremendously as a leader in the nonprofit profession.  Meeting with my fellow colleagues to discuss the broader issues of leadership, governance with both staff and boards, and maintaining a sense of purpose and humor is vital for my personal well-being and that of my organization.”

“The group has made me feel that I am not alone in my position.  It has allowed me to face any challenges with new tools for moving ahead as well as renewed energy and perspective.  The guest speakers, too, have both validated and inspired me and my work.  Their personal stories were motivating and educational and it’s been wonderful to meet business figures that embody sincere character and true leadership.”

“The CEN Leaders Institute speakers focus on the most important issues facing nonprofit leaders.  The programs are well worth the time and keep you thinking long afterwards.”

“CEN has provided a forum that allows Executive Directors the opportunity to share their experiences, expertise, joy, frustration, and perspectives.  As a result, I have become a better Executive Director.”

“The CEN Leaders Institute was one of the most professional and helpful leadership support programs I have participated in.  I have been able to use what I have learned with my board and staff, and our team has become more strategic and more focused.”

“I have found the CEN Leaders Institute to be a touchstone of best practices and great support!”

“The CEN Leaders Institute has been wonderful.  I have realized the need to interact with my nonprofit colleagues more in order to break the sense of isolation that comes with the territory.  And, of course, everyone is so thoughtful, engaging and dedicated.  It’s been a great energy to be around.”


Sample Curriculum

Specific topics may change according to the needs of the current LI class

Retreat (1 ½ Days) - Sustaining Yourself in Leadership & Life

First Day Session - The Personal Side of Leadership

Second Day Session – Leadership Practices Inventory

Third Day Session – Leading Others 

Forth Day Session – Leading Your Organization

Fifth Day Session - Leading Your Organization 

Sixth Day Session – Leading Your Board

Seventh Day Session– Immunity to Change 

Location:  Meeting locations change, but all sessions take place in the Los Altos area.