Executive Leadership Institute

Category: Features

members of the first class of ELI participants

The UT Executive Leadership Institute (ELI) was first inspired by the UT Board of Trustees’ call for succession planning for executive leadership. Robert Smith, special advisor for executive leadership and talent development to the UT president, approached President Emeritus Joe DiPietro about creating a comprehensive executive leadership program. In 2017, Smith conducted a workshop at the President’s Leadership Retreat where key members of the university’s leadership offered advice, revisions and general endorsement of the program. By May 2018, the program was rolled out with the first cohort beginning in August 2018. This year, ELI welcomes its fourth cohort.

ELI develops executive leaders for the needs of the UT System. It targets leadership requirements for those already holding executive positions or individuals who show high potential for succession to an executive position.

Led by Smith, the institute offers attendees special development plans, executive coaching, mentoring and experiential learning. The class meets six times throughout the year for multi-day leadership sessions. During these 12 months, the ELI class members come together to work through current issues that face higher education.

“One of our expected outcomes is collaboration within the units as well as across the system,” states Smith. “We ask after every in-person session for ways the class members plan to execute ideas generated in the session. It is hard to chronicle all the cases of collaboration, but it has been extensive. The key is to bring like-minded people together across the system with a unifying commitment to increase excellence. That drives people to seek each other out for their ideas and to share.”

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Between each cohort, there have been significant changes to the program. Most of these changes were made in the last few months, which varies greatly from when the program was rolled out in 2018. This year’s programming takes an immense step in improving ELI’s approach from both the behavioral and cognitive sciences as well as the leadership research. This is in the hopes of not only changing people but being able to measure those changes. ELI focuses more on change orientation and developing a particular kind of leader. These edits made over the last few months make this a true development program and not a training program.

If any employee in the UT System is interested in participating in ELI, 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 15 and 20 candidates are selected to participate.