Members of Natural Leaders Initiative at a picnic in 2012

Members of Natural Leaders Initiative at a picnic in 2012.

NLI Group Sessions

NLI currently offers two Natural Leaders series each year, from  February - June and September -January.  

Each group has 15-20 natural leaders from throughout Tompkins County.

Who is NLI for?

    NLI is open to everyone. But we prioritize those from backgrounds under-represented in organizational and community leadership and decision-making, and those who haven't had as much support for their leadership. We are looking for:

    • People with good ideas, passion and commitment – especially those who have that “spark,” but who may not have formal “leadership responsibilities”
    • Those who may not yet see themselves as “leaders,” but want to expand their impact and engage others.
    • Those who are inspired to join a diverse group of people – from across Tompkins County -- working to build stronger organizations and communities.

    Who participates in NLI?

    NLI groups are diverse. Participants' ages range from 20s to 60s. About half are people of color; half are white. Many participants have gained their skills and knowledge mostly through life experiences and overcoming challenges. Some have more formal education or college degrees. Some live in the city and others in rural towns.  They are interested in many different issues, but they all share an interest in building stronger communities that are good places for everyone.

    What will I do in NLI?

    • Participate in 8 group classes.
    • Build your confidence and networks
    • Connect with community projects on issues you care about
    • Meet and learn from emerging and experienced community leaders

    A meal, child care and (if needed) help with transportation are provided for each group session.

    What do NLI participants learn?

    NLI sessions are designed around participants’ needs and interests, so each cycle is a little different. But groups generally talk about: :

    • Connecting with and building on our own power, strengths and passions
    • Recognizing and building on our communities' strengths
    • "Getting things done" -- moving from dream to plan to action
    • Who is a “leader”? What is "leadership"?
    • Finding and using community resources
    • Building effective relationships; expanding your networks
    • Engaging and empowering others
    • Dealing with frustration, anger and hopelessness
    • Taking care of ourselves

    How can I benefit from NLI?

    NLI can help you:

    • Connect with others who care about the same issues you do
    • Get training adn support for things you want to accomplish
    • Build on strengths and skills you already have, and develop new ones
    • Increase your confidence
    • Get to know other community leaders and build your networks

    After NLI, participants are welcome to join the NLI Grad Network for ongoing support.

    What do NLI Grads do afterwards?

    NLI Graduates report greater self-confidence and self-esteem. They share their ideas more widely and more effectively advocate for others. Many contribute to community projects or start new projects, serve on formal committees and boards,  serve as a “bridge” between communities, help people connect to resources, apply for promotions, continue their education and more.

    What does NLI cost?

    Absolutely nothing for the participants! 

    Some participants are sent by their employers as a staff development opportunity. In those cases, the employer pays the $850 registration fee. Other participants receive scholarships supported by small community grants and donations.


    Margo Hittleman
    Natural Leaders Initiative Coordinator
    (607) 272-2292 ext.167

    Last updated July 26, 2019