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Become the Leader the World Needs Now
Spring & Summer 2019
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10 or 16 Weeks Online + Two 5-Day Seminars

Located in Beautiful Boulder, CO

  • Imagine if your work aligned with your purpose
  • If you could meet stress gracefully and address challenges with humor and creativity
  • Imagine if you could inspire others to do likewise
  • Wouldn’t NOW be a great time to become the leader the world desperately needs?
  • Join the mindful leadership revolution

    School Districts | Hospitals | Technology Companies | Graduate Business Schools | Nonprofits | Sports Teams

    These are just some of the organizations incorporating mindfulness into their leadership development programs. Market pressures, passionless workplaces, and relentless “busy-ness” are reasons leaders and organizational visionaries are seeking to transform themselves—and in turn transform their workplaces.

    Naropa University’s Authentic Leadership Program is an in-depth 16-week experiential course in mindfulness, authentic communication, and leading change, designed to help you acquire the equanimity, skills, and vision to lead from your courageous self.

    Dare to become the kind of leader you know you can be. Become part of Naropa’s Authentic Leadership community.

    The Program

    Naropa’s online learning environment allows you to download readings, share ideas, and participate at your own pace from wherever you are living or traveling.

    Plus you will have the opportunity to network, share ideas, and learn with like-minded leaders during two onsite sessions during which you will engage with faculty, practice meditation, and apply leadership skills.

    Naropa University’s Authentic Leadership Program consists of:

    • Sixteen weeks of internet-based instruction
    • Two five-day onsite seminars in Boulder, Colorado
    • Five individual sessions with professional leadership coaches
    • Online interaction with instructors and colleagues
    • Action-learning projects in the workplace
    • Teleconferences with coaches and colleagues

    Who Attends


    More than six hundred people have graduated from the program since it began in 2001. Most courses have had thirty to forty-five attendees. The program has consistently received high ratings on participant evaluations (average of 4.5 out of 5)


    Participants have been leaders or aspiring leaders from small businesses, large corporations, nonprofits, government agencies, as well as some coaches and consultants and university staff and faculty.

    Age Range

    The age range of former participants has been 21–70.

    “We can be the solution. We have the ability to create a whole new paradigm in our world, through business. We can reclaim the values in our work environments and begin to shift mindsets.”

    Jeff Tkach

    Chief Growth Officer, Rodale Institute

    What Are The Benefits?

    What Do The Participants Report As Benefits?

    Former participants report that by the end of the program they are more energized and clear about their values, purpose, and future direction, as well as the personal and collaborative skills to engage others in meaningful change. They also say that they are more effective in dealing with organizational issues, have more satisfaction with their work and their relationships, are better able to empower themselves and others, and to balance work and life commitments.

    Topics We Explore Include

    • Authenticity, self-reflection and personal mastery
    • Skillful conversation and conflict resolution
    • Collaboration, Decision-making and Teamwork
    • Power, Influence and Empowerment
    • Leading Organizational Change
    Susan Skjei
    Lead Faculty
    Susan Skjei
    Lead Faculty
    January 14 – May 10, 2019

    What Students Are Saying

    “I came to the AL program looking for answers to big questions of life and work. I left without answers. Somewhere through the process, I learned to listen, to really LISTEN with my whole body and then the questions disappeared.”

    Kabir Sanjay Bavikatte

    PhD, UNU-JSPS Fellow

    Lead Faculty

    Susan Skjei

    Susan Skjei

    Lead Faculty

    Susan Skjei, PhD, PCC, has been an international educator, coach, and consultant specializing in leadership and transformative change for over 25 years. Formerly a Vice-President and Chief Learning Officer in the technology industry, she is currently the Director of the Authentic Leadership Center at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.

    Joining Head, Heart & Hands: The Power of Authentic Leadership

    Authentic leadership is not based on a role, position or title. This powerful approach to leadership is accessible to anyone who has the courage to show up, tell the truth and take action. In her talk, Susan will explore leadership practices that foster self-awareness, compassion and confidence in challenging times and how authentic leadership can contribute directly to organizational results.

    Continue Reading


    Good Afternoon and Welcome. I am very pleased to be with you today and would like to thank Naropa University and the Wanderlust Festival for sponsoring this talk.

    A friend asked me what I was doing this weekend and I said I was coming to Wanderlust . . . she said, “What is that?” and I said “I’m not sure, but I think it is a kind of summer camp for grownups, except that instead of calisthenics we do yoga and instead of s’mores we eat low carb, high protein, tofu snacks.

    Summer camp conjures up wonderful memories for me . . . When I was ten I went away to a camp in Southern California at a place called Canyon Oaks. At home I was the middle child, peacemaker, book reader, sandwich maker. At camp I got to hike and swim and sing songs with other campers around the fire. I discovered that I had a body, that I was passionate about nature and that I could challenge myself in new and exciting ways. I also learned how to use a compass and the importance of knowing where I was, in order to set my direction. This later became a metaphor for my life as I learned how to access my internal compass by joining my head, heart and hands.

    How I recognized that there was a problem

    Fast forward to 1998. Here I am in Louisville, Colorado, I’ve just been promoted to Vice President and Chief Learning Officer at a fortune 1000 company. I am responsible for training and development for 8,500 employees world-wide during a time when the company is in serious trouble. Amazingly despite falling profits, it is business as usual. Our managers are spending most of their time learning about leadership while sitting in classrooms. It is as if their bodies are fancy robots designed to carry their heads around from one place to another. And as for the heart, forget it. Profit is king and if you don’t have a heart for that, you’re in the wrong place. As for the mind, we are so busy measuring the bottom line that there is little room for insight, creativity or innovation. The more challenging our business situation, the more we tried to perfect the usual solutions.


    I knew something was missing but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I had been a meditator for many years, and I decided to do two week meditation retreat in the Huerfano Valley in Southern Colorado. I remember going for a walk in the woods at dusk, listening to the birds, smelling the pine needles, seeing the wild irises on the side of the hill. My senses were alive, my heart was open and my mind was clear. Suddenly I knew that this experience of being fully present and joining my body, my heart and my mind was the key to my own authenticity and quite possibly the missing element in developing resilient, innovative leaders.

    I decided to turn my attention to creating powerful learning environments for leaders that would bring out the best of who they were and allow them to access this experience and make it their own. I had some success doing this in my corporate job, but eventually I left in search of a more supportive environment which I found at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. I created a program called Authentic Leadership that later became a semester long certificate program. Over 600 leaders have graduated from the program so far.


    What is authentic leadership? Some people think authenticity has to do with just being yourself and “letting it all hang out” but authentic leadership goes far beyond this definition. It has to do with accessing the best of who you are in the service of others. So it is not enough just to be “real,” you need to also be connected with others in order to be effective.

    According to a recent study by the Center for Creative Leadership, leaders who are trustworthy are internally and externally coherent. They know themselves, show empathy for others and take action when needed. They are able to join head, heart and hands in service to the whole. In other words, they are authentic.

    Why is this important now? As Google, Apple, Unilever and other companies are discovering, leaders who are disconnected from who they are do not foster trust. In today’s fast-paced, digital environment, employees are starved for authentic engagement. Leaders who can authentically connect with employees bring meaning and relevance to their lives and this translates to the bottom line as commitment and performance.


    If authentic leadership is so important, where do we get off track? The head the heart and the hands are all important ways that we experience the world. Each of us has a preference for one of these ways of knowing. However, when we focus on one or two of them to the exclusion of the others, we limit our experience of reality. And, if we become overly identified with one, we also have difficulty communicating with other people who see the world differently. Our own preferences create a separation between ourselves and our world. We need to find a pause or gap in our usual approach in order to allow the possibility for freshness and authenticity to occur.

    Head people like theories, facts and figures and want to answer the question “why?” I can be one of those people. The more I know the better it gets. Facts are like brain candy for me. However, I can also get lost in them and begin to believe my thoughts are real and wonder why other people don’t share my brilliant conclusions.

    Heart people are all about emotions; their own, other people’s, even their pets. They can walk into a business meeting — or a family gathering — and immediately sense the overall mood. Who’s happy? Who’s falling part? They can’t be happy until they know everyone else is. As a result, they forget to listen to their own needs while taking care of everyone else’s.

    Hands people mostly want to get things done–to get their bodies moving, and everybody else’s too. They are less concerned with facts and feelings. They just want to know what’s going to get done next. They can cut through a lot of red tape, but they can also make a mess if the need to “do things” gets out of control. They can sometimes ignore facts and run over other people in their hot pursuit to get something done.

    Each of us tends to spend most of our time in one of those areas. You may probably also have a secondary area that you favor some of the time; and a third area where they tend to be least comfortable. For me, it’s the body, which is why being at Wanderlust has been so rewarding.

    People in one group tend to have misperceptions of those in another. Head people think heart people wear their hearts on their sleeve, and hands people just aren’t listening…to the facts. Heart people see head people as cold fishes. Hands people see everyone else as just wasting time.


    Clearly, there is a need to bring them together. As St Francis of Assisi said:

    He who works with his hands is a laborer.
    He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
    He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.

    So integrating all three areas – head, heart and hand – is a necessary for artistry and innovation as a leader. This is really a metaphor for whatever we create in our lives and in our workplaces that is genuine and that is authentic. And this is especially important in leadership since good leaders need to create a share a vision, build a team, and remove obstacles to getting things done. Your body, heart and mind, and your team’s body, heart and mind, contain enormous amounts of information and wisdom that are needed in order to solve whatever problem you are facing, if you can access them.


    Little did I know just how innovative this approach to learning was at the time or how it would become even more relevant in the fast-paced, inter-connected, global environment that we are living in now where organizations are flatter, good relationships are critical and authenticity is gold.

    As it turns out, I was not alone in my question about how to create powerful learning environments. Many companies and nonprofits are now incorporating mindfulness and emotional intelligence into their leadership development programs although few bring together all three elements. Let’s take a look at one approach to doing this and what some of the results have been

    In the Authentic Leadership program at Naropa we focus on three primary competencies. The first is authentic presence which is cultivated through a variety of contemplative practices including meditation, yoga, aikido and dance. This helps a leader access their own authenticity and incorporate the dissociated parts of their identity.

    The second is authentic relationship which is cultivated through dialogue, conflict resolution and working with differences. This helps a leader integrate the heart by cultivating compassion for others.

    The third competency is about authentic and effective action which has to do with leading change–a critical skill in our constantly changing world.

    A recent graduate from the program, I’ll call her Nancy, was the division manager for an oncology unit in a large hospital. While she was very efficient and ran a tight ship, her employees did not seem very engaged. Errors were frequent and morale was low. During the program she realized that her lock- step orientation toward efficiency was keeping her from feeling the grief she felt when one of her patients died. She was experiencing headaches, heartburn and join pain. Once she was able to acknowledge her thoughts and feelings and physical sensations, she was able to have more empathy for herself and to support her employees more fully in their own emotional journeys. The team came together, errors went down, productivity and morale went up and they developed some innovative approaches to patient care that they were able to spread to the rest of the hospital where they worked. Similar stories can be told about leaders from education and business.

    Developing authentic leaders is easier said than done because authenticity (if it is genuine) cannot be manufactured or designed. It can only come about by creating the conditions under which it can manifest

    However the key to success with all of these competencies, as demonstrated by Nancy’s story, is that it is the interrelationship of these elements that creates coherence. A synchronicity or union takes place when the three come together.

    Here is a practice that will help you join head heart and mind together. Let’s begin with the body and notice what is going on (do guided body scan), then tune into your heart and ask “What are your feeling”, and now the mind, What are you thinking?” etc. Look for the one who is noticing all of it. This is your compass and your source of power as an authentic leader.


    Today I’ve been talking about developing the internal compass. Practices like this help us get grounded and connected so we can discover our true north. And you can do it in an instant in the middle of your work day when you feel disoriented or stressed or lacking in confidence. You don’t need to go on a 2- week retreat to get a breath of fresh air.

    Imagine a world in which leaders know themselves, are compassionate to others and act from a deep sense of internal alignment. What might our world be like? Authentic Leadership has the potential to bring people together in new and innovative ways if we are willing to show up and step into this powerful space of coherence. May you all become authentic leaders in your lives and at work and bring the wisdom of the head, heart and hands into all that you do. Thank you.

    Susan Skjei, Ph.D
    July 1, 2014

    Faculty & Coaches

    Many guest faculty have taught over the years including

    Barbara Bash (Calligraphy & Creative Process), Jean-Jacques Joris (Wise Action, Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy), Zoe Avstreih (Authentic Movement), Juana Bordas (Salsa, Soul and Spirit), Steve Demos (Right Livlihood), Barbara Dilley (Contemplative Movement), Mark Gerzon (Conflict Resolution), Arawana Hayashi (Embodiment Practice), Fred Kofman (Conscious Business), Barb Lawton (Leading Change), Julio Olalla (Authenticity and Emotional Intelligence), Jim Marsden (Theory U), Mikki McMillan (Commitment Conversations), Dan Montgomery (Balanced Scorecard), Laura Simms (Storytelling), Tami Simon (Contemplative Entrepreneurship), Mark Wilding (Transforming Systems), and Bob Wing (Leadership Aikido).

    Pricing & Registration


    Authentic Leadership Center at Naropa University is recognized by SHRM to offer SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP professional development credits (PDCs). This program is valid for 45 PDCs. For more information about certification or recertification, please visit

    The $500 deposit for the Authentic Leadership Program holds your place in the program and is non-refundable. However, if you choose not to attend the program, we can apply the deposit to a different Authentic Leadership Center program with the addition of a $250 course transfer fee.

    Tuition is $5,300 for the noncredit professional (save $500 when you apply before April 26)—which includes a nonrefundable $530 materials, technology and coaching fee. Some partial scholarships are available. If you’re interested in a scholorship, please submit a scholarship application in addition to the program application.

    Your deposit guarantees your spot in the program but in order to receive the early bird discount, you must pay in full or split pay, prior to April 26th, 2019.

    If you have an undergraduate degree, you can receive 6 accredited graduate credits for this program—the tuition is $6,500, plus $530 materials, technology and coaching fee. When taking the program for academic credit, two additional papers are required as well as regular attendance onsite and participation online. If you are interested in academic credit, please indicate this on your application.

    Travel, lodging, and food are not included.
    Multiple discounts do not apply.

    Group discounts available.

    Special pricing for members, partners and sponsors.

    Partial scholarships are available for those who qualify. Donate to the scholarship fund.

    “My key learning was to trust myself as a leader in life and in my work. Authenticity to me is very grounded in self trust and self love. I love the program onsites!”

    Amy Green

    President, Dynamic Potential Executive Coaching, LLC

    Meet the Faculty

    Next Preview Call:

    April 3rd, 2019, 12-1pm PT (2pm-3 CT)

    Zoom Video Conference
    Join in from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android.

    Please click here to access the conference call page with connection information and phone numbers to dial into the Webinar.


    Call 1 – April 27th, 2018

    Call 2 – November 7th, 2018

    Call 3 – December 4th, 2018

    * Replays will be available within 1-2 business days. Audio transcripts are available upon request.

    During the live event, you can interact with other participants and faculty within the video webinar or by dialing into the call.

    Upcoming Course:

    Susan Skjei
    Lead Faculty
    January 14 – May 10, 2019

    Accommodations & Travel

    Travel By Air

    • Boulder has many lovely hotels.
    • We recommend the following because they are conveniently located to the public bus that runs to the Nalanda campus

    Other lodging options:


    Contact Us

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    (720) 608-1238 | [email protected]

    Program History

    The Authentic Leadership Program was developed in 2000 by Susan Skjei, PhD, PCC, former Training Manager at Hewlett Packard and Vice President of Human Resource Development at StorageTek. As a long-term practitioner of both meditation and leadership development, Susan brought together the best of western approaches to leadership with the practices of eastern contemplative traditions. The original faculty included Fred Kofman, PhD; Barb Lawton, PhD; Micki McMillan, MA; and Mark Wilding, MA. The program has been offered at Naropa University during the spring semester each year in Boulder since 2001.

    The program, which is updated every year, incorporates theory and methods from exemplars in business, human development and leadership, including: Juanita Brown, Pema Chödrön, Jim Collins, Glenda Eyong, Bill George, Mark Gerzon, Daniel Goleman, Joe Jaworski, Adam Kahane, Robert Kegan, Fred Kofman, John Kotter, Lisa Laskow Lahey, Sakyong Mipham, Julio Olalla, Parker Palmer, Otto Scharmer, Peter Senge, Chögyam Trungpa, Ken Wilber, Meg Wheatley, and Brenda Zimmerman.

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