Program Overview

Creating connections across organizational and cultural barriers.
Fellows leave the NCLI experience with an increased appreciation for the opportunities that come with diversity and inclusion.

Designed to be a world-class comprehensive learning experience, the NCLI serves diverse natural resource related organizations throughout North America, including Federal Agencies, State Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations, and Tribal and Natural Resource-related Industry Organizations. Fellows must be nominated by their organizations Director, CEO, or Tribal Leadership.


The National Conservation Leadership Institute was designed with four major phases:

Prework. Fellows get an initial introduction to leadership concepts through reading of Institute selected material, and outline a significant adaptive leadership challenge facing their organization that they will work on over the entire course of their NCLI experience and sometimes beyond.

A 12-day first residency in the fall at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s prestigious National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. The curriculum begins with a focus on personal leadership then expands to leadership relevant to teams, and to the organization. Learning is optimized by anchoring the curriculum to the principles of Adaptive Leadership™. Harvard University faculty from Cambridge Leadership Associates provide the course “connective tissue” linking exercises, case examples, and learning into a cohesive picture for conservation leadership. A highly interactive mix of learning deliveries provides a strong knowledge and experiential base. Content is enriched through lively discussion, debate of conservation specific case examples, and challenging critical thinking skills.

Individual leadership challenge projects. Between residencies each Fellow will develop and implement a project to apply what they have learned to their adaptive leadership challenge. Each participant will be part of a small team/ peer group that will function as peer consultants by providing input to other team members on their projects.

A 4-day second residency the following spring at the Horace M. Albright Training Center at the Grand Canyon. Fellows reconvene to share their Institute experience and their adaptive leadership challenge project presentations. Final learning and discoveries are shared and lifelong key relationships are cemented.


The nine-month overall leadership development experience includes highly interactive instruction on topics including:

  • Basic Adaptive Leadership Concepts:
    • Technical Problems vs. Adaptive Challenges
    • Distinguishing Leadership and Authority
    • Getting on the Balcony
    • Commitment to Purpose
    • Orchestrating Conflict & Thinking Politically
  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
  • Team Building
  • Courageous Conversations and Authenticity
  • Creating a Holding Environment
  • Risk Taking and Managing the Reptilian Brain
  • Dealing with Change
  • Group Think
  • Leadership Presence and Storytelling
  • Staying Alive and Survival
  • Connectivity
  • Getting to the Why
  • Understanding the Contours of Adaptive Leadership by Examining Historical Events

Additional Information:




Get Prepared

Learn more about the timeline for the NCLI application process and residencies.

Scholarship Opportunities

Learn about Scholarships

The Southern Company offers two challenge tuition scholarships that cover 50% of the tuition.

Application Process

How to Apply

Online application packages are accepted between February 1 and April 15.

“Fellows in NCLI describe their experience as life-changing and I have to agree. Many say it's even hard to describe their experiences to their colleagues. I don't want to give away too much but do know the knowledge and experiences you will gain can make you not only a better employee but a better person. And unlike ALDP or other Service leadership programs, in NCLI you will work with people from tribes, state conservation agencies (including ADF&G), NGOs, NPS and BLM.”