The Executive Leadership Institute (ELI) operates on a cohort basis. Candidates must be nominated to apply. Nominations are made by the University President, a campus Chancellor, an institute’s Vice President, the UT Foundation’s President or a System Vice President. From applications, between fifteen and twenty candidates are selected to participate. For the upcoming cohort, we are not accepting nominations prior to July 1, 2021.
Download the Word Document Application


Each session generally begins at 9:00a.m. the first day and ends by 2:00p.m. the second day. The following are the dates and sponsors for this year’s program:

  1. Aug. 26-27, 2021. University of Tennessee at Martin, Martin, TN
  2. Oct. 7-8, 2021. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Chattanooga, TN.
  3. Dec. 13-14, 2021. Institute for Public Service, Government Relations and Advocacy, University of Tennessee Foundation, and University of Tennessee Southern. Nashville and Pulaski, TN.
  4. Feb. 28-March 1, 2022. University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN
  5. April 4-5, 2022. University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, Franklin, TN
  6. June 13-14, 2022. University of Tennessee Knoxville and University of Tennessee System Administration, Knoxville, TN.


Program Requirements

The program requirements are to:


  • Participate in six two-day onsite Academy sessions spaced at roughly six-week intervals, each requiring one or two overnight stays (stays depend on travel distance from your home base). Attendance is mandatory.
  • Participate in three or four one-hour Zoom sessions to supplement between Academy onsite sessions over the year.
  • Enroll in the Executive Leadership Institute’s online course. Here you find the comprehensive source for all the documents and materials associated with the ELI along with assignments for completing an orientation to the program and discovering more in-depth understanding of every element of the program and its emphasis on enterprise leadership.  The online course also provides a venue for discussions, conferencing and collaborating with your colleagues in the program.  This private course is limited only to your ELI class and the program directors.
  • Engage with a confidential personal executive coach who will work with you over 10-12 one-hour sessions within the year (approximately one every four weeks with an occasional two in a month).
  • Read the textbooks assigned for the program that support the theory and practice of enterprise leadership. You will be responsible, as part of a team made up of your fellow participants, for developing two (or more depending on the size of your class) presentations from sections of those books (not the entire book).
  • Complete personal leadership assessments during the program year. These are selected to provide you insights to your current leadership strengths and blind spots. All assessments help you develop your goals for improvement using your IDP. Your executive coach and your consultant will use these data as part of their work with you. These are not optional assignments. However, they are confidential. We collect the data to provide you useful benchmarks and to improve the program, but we do not reveal your individual assessments.
  • Receive articles, research papers, and position papers that support the content presented in the Academy sessions. You will receive these materials in the weeks prior to each Academy session. These resources are intended to create for you a library of ideas, innovations and solutions to call upon when needed in your career. Therefore, we have no expectation you read every item when received but we do expect you peruse the collection and save as your electronic library of enterprise advice.
  • Author an original position paper addressing a significant issue in higher education or higher education enterprise leadership. Your position paper is not expected to be more than four pages. We provide instructions for researching and authoring and even suggested topics, but the final choice is yours to match your interests. Your work will be electronically published in our journal “A Collection of Insights for Addressing Enterprise-Level Challenges in Higher Education,” available to the public online.  Read the most recent publication.


How to be Successful


This program is challenging

The Executive Leadership Institute requires active engagement throughout the year of the program. It takes time, but time devoted to personally enhancing your skills and challenging your mindsets. Given this remarkable focus on your development, you are expected to be fully engaged. After all, the entire focus is on your advancement, so the value is returned to you and worth the effort.

Time requirements

The program is approximately 12 months. Global estimates of the time required for the program are near impossible as each person has his or her own goals and choices of experiences. Onsite sessions require travel and time away from home or office. Mentorships and any alternative experiences will have widely varying time expectations. Given all these caveats, anticipate you might possibly average three to four hours per week but the variance can be between zero and twenty (counting hours onsite for sessions).

Commitment to growth

You may be curious that we single out commitment to growth as important to be successful in this program. This program is very different from other leadership programs in that it follows the research of intentional learning, which requires a commitment to grow your leadership. It is not “leadertainment” where you sit passively to be amused by a string of speakers or engage in short workshop games but are never seriously asked to confront your leadership style. Although we will present speakers, and you, hopefully, will find the experiences enjoyable, there is still a serious expectation that you engage with the content during and after those moments. How you approach this program has everything to do with your success.

We follow the clear research that reliability and self-awareness are two of the essential attributes for successful enterprise leaders. Those attributes will be an important focus for your development, but they must also be evident when entering the program. Reliability is the expectation you follow through with your commitments. If you commit to this program, you commit to all of it. Self-awareness is your ability to receive feedback on your performance and yourself.

Our development opportunities build on your current leadership strengths and blind spots. To analyze those, you will need to complete numerous self-assessments and two 360 degree evaluations of you by others. You will have the benefit of a personal executive coach and a consultant who will help you process those data as part of their work with you. These are not optional assignments. However, they are confidential. We collect the data to provide you useful benchmarks and to improve the program, but we never reveal your individual assessments. If being reliable and open to feedback are problems for you, this is not a program for you.

However, research of enterprise executives demonstrates our approach is worthy of your commitment. Focusing on leadership behaviors as we do increases possibility of success 8.1x. Determining how mindsets and skills need to change increase success by 5.5x. Confronting leadership mindsets increase success by 2.9x. Linking content to projects as we do with our IDP increases success by 4.6x. Encouraging adoption of new behaviors increases success by 6.1x. Focusing on strengths-based leadership increases success by 3.6x. Providing coaching to help interpret data increases success by 3.2x.


The entire cost of your participation is assumed by your sponsor, our Academy hosts, and the University of Tennessee System.  The Academy sessions are hosted by a campus or institute. Those chancellors and vice presidents generously provide for the Academy sessions including all meals, receptions, and breaks. The UT System Administration provides for your textbooks, executive coaching, consultants, speakers, and related materials and administrative costs associated with delivering the program. Your sponsor provides your cost of travel related expenses and incidentals according to your local regulations. Although difficult to assess the full cost of this program given variable of travel and extent of hospitality by the hosts, suffice to say that the University of Tennessee is making a significant investment in your future.

Research, Privacy and Confidentiality

While the Executive Leadership Institute is a cutting-edge executive leadership development program, it is also a systematic research project devoted to refining understanding of higher education enterprise leadership.  Therefore, we collect data on all assessments to provide you relevant comparative benchmarks and to use for program improvement. To the latter purpose, we will request you provide us feedback on your experiences and opinions during and following the program.

You agree to share your data from each of these assessments with the Executive Leadership Institute.  This benefits you by allowing us to provide you personalized summaries of results with comparative data from those who have participated in this program and its related sister programs.  You benefit from the excellent contributions of those who’ve gone before you. The integrity of ELI and the process of individual development is dependent on protecting the privacy of data and feedback you share, and that integrity will not be compromised.

The insights gained from the assessments help develop your capacity to lead complex higher education enterprises. Reports generated by ELI are your reports and, except for the program directors, you alone have the data to use for your benefit.  The Tilt and Clifton Strengths Finder (CS34) assessments are conducted in partnership with your executive coach for the Tilt and our professional advisor for the CS34.  Your coaches use the respective assessments as part of confidentially working with you to develop your plans to strengthen your leadership.  Except for statistical data collected by ELI from these assessments, your discussions and plans made with your coaches are not shared even with the ELI.

Other assessments are provided online by outside sources.  We only choose those that do not require a fee.  Following your participation, those providers may include you in their messaging; however, we’ve found that not to be overly intrusive and often of value.

Questions or clarifications about our research, privacy, and confidentiality expectations can be answered by contacting