Midwest Leadership Institute

Helping local government managers navigate
a complex world in a time of disruptive change


Successful professional local government leadership requires knowledge and a skill set centered on the ability to understand individual and organizational behavior. The Midwest Leadership Institute was developed to equip participants with the leadership skills needed to drive for results in the increasingly complex world of local government.

The Institute is an intensive 4.5 day program with an internal self focus and one with external organizational focus.  The Institute provides the fundamental requirements for leading people in a world with many personalities, competing personal interests, endless news cycles, social media, "gotcha" blogs and few things that are black and white. The Institute customizes learning to individual needs. Participants will leave the Institute having developed essential leadership skills and will have a greater understanding of when and how to use those skills. Participants will learn how to apply psychiatric concepts to real world problems. 

Who Should Attend

Local government professionals including chief administrative officers, assistants, and department heads interested in advancing their career who would like to:
• Thrive in an increasingly complex world with multiple personalities, competing self-interests, questionable ethics and the prominence of the information age.
• Function in a complex world with challenges facing local government professionals that can make leaders feel like the healthiest person in the emergency room.
• Implement sound judgment, an important concept of the Institute, which will help guard against blind pathology and acting without the proper analysis.

The Institute customizes learning to the needs of the participants. Learning in teams focusing on real world local government scenarios is a critical component of the Institute.

Visit our Frequently Asked Questions page

Spring Class of 2018

The Midwest Leadership Institute Class of 2018 had 37 attendees March 19-23. Dawn Peters, CGS Assistant Director, said the MLI was a great success again this year. While most attendees were from Illinois, there was representation from California, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan, Washington and Iowa. Next year’s dates are April 29-May 3.

See what a past class had to say about the Midwest Leadership Institute


Getting wins, big and small, in the public sector requires a deep understanding of interpersonal leadership. The Chinese proverb and curse, "May you live in interesting times", has never been more true. We have entered what Nicolo Machiavelli called "A New Order of Things" which requires leaders to know: 

How to manage others by: 

  • Strengthening one’s ability to manage uncivil discourse
  • Resolving conflict
  • Building a working alliance
  • Leading with character and be a source of inspiration
  • Mastering the judgment triangle
  • Understanding power and influence

How to manage yourself by:

  • Understanding emotions and build exceptional emotional and psychological stability
  • Developing brain speed and flexibility of mind, the ability to think faster and more efficiently and thus act more decisively at the proper time
  • Self reflecting
  • Managing challenges to balancing work, family, and self 


The program is presented by a cross-disciplinary team of leading local government practitioners and experts in executive coaching and leadership development.

David MorrisonDavid E. Morrison,
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David Limardi David M. Limardi,
Midwest Regional Director, ICMA, MPA, ICMA-CM
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Daven MorrisonDaven Morrison,
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Robert KeilyRobert R. Kiely, Jr.,
City Manager, Lake Forest, MPA,
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Testimonials to the Benefits of Attending MLI

Spring 2015 Participant Testimonials

"The Midwest Leadership Institute "Helping local government navigate a complex world in a time of disruptive change" will enhance your depth of knowledge about yourself and how you can impact a situation by knowing how to use the various tools provided within this program. I have already shared the 2016 training flyer with a regional leadership team and am encouraging staff within our organization to attend the training next year. " Maureen Holte, Interim County Administrator, Winona County, MN

"The Midwest Leadership Institute is unlike any other training I have attended. The information conveyed by our presenters and the sharing of experiences from attendees provided an opportunity to focus on me as a person and on the people around me both at work and at home. Every leader, whether they are a new supervisor or a seasoned manager, will learn something critical about themselves and their team and how we can all be better connected." Ellen Baer, Assistant Village Manager, Orland Park, IL

"The concepts give a nice framework for interpreting and living in the complex reality of local government." David Clark, Finance Director, Glencoe, IL

"One of the most interesting seminars I have attended in years. All that was taught will be used through out my career and life. AAAAAAAAAAA++++++++++++" Frank Stec, Director of Parks & Building Maintenance, Orland Park, IL

"The MLI group are exceptional in what they do and I found this training to be an extremely valuable resource personally and professionally." Sandie Elliott, Executive Assistant, Glenview,

Spring 2014 Participant Testimonials 

"I never would have believed at the beginning of the week that I would be sad that it was over on Friday. Over the years, I have found it difficult to find and dedicate the time needed to truly advance my professional development. I have rarely attended sessions that really offered the opportunity to improve who I am as a leader in fundamental ways. This Institute offers that kind of opportunity and addresses many of the issues that we, as technical experts, often find most difficult to tackle." Lori Curtis Luther, Peoria County Administrator

"Every young manager should take the opportunity to participate in the Midwest Leadership Institute. There are number of life lessons that one can take from the program." Kimberly Richardson, Assistant to the Village Manager, Village of Flossmoor 

"This was the best training session I have been to. The experience was far beyond my expectations and I would recommend that frontline supervisors to top level staff attend." Joseph Rizzo, Public Works Superintendent, Village of Glenview

"I would highly recommend this seminar to all levels of management. Being able to be in a group setting with so many diverse individuals allowed me to see myself and my own issues in a different light. I will take away so many aspects of this course and use them for not only the rest of my career, but the rest of my life." Cathy Sostak, Police Sergeant, Village of Glenview

"Great leadership training that is relevant to the current local government environment." David Hare, Police Lieutenant, Village of Round Lake Beach

Past Participant Testimonials

“I recently accepted an invitation to be a speaker at the Midwest Leadership Institute sponsored by NIU's Center for Governmental Studies. After reviewing the program and listening in on a portion of one of the sessions, I came away most impressed. The program dealt with a subject which most public administration professors are ill suited to cover: interpersonal relations and related behavioral strategies for maximizing success under conditions of leadership stress. The course helps the participants develop and apply interpersonal behavior skills in ways that should enhance any manager's ability to manage more successfully the interpersonal dynamics that so often mean the difference between success and blunder. I only wish I had had such a course during my time as a public administrator!" -  James M. Banovetz Professor & Director Emeritus, NIU MPA Program and Past Institute Speaker

“The Institute helps you tap into new ways of thinking and addressing the changing environment of local government and the stressful situations that can arise. The course helps you understand the underlying causes of those stresses and how to better deal with them. The concepts help empower leaders and strengthen their interpersonal relations with Village Boards, peers, staff, family and their view of themselves. The Institute delves into leadership development, change management, team building, useful strategies and emotional conflicts. You come away with an introspective thinking and a better ability to look from the balcony instead of from the ground level interspersed in the crowd. You learn that sometimes you need to lean into conflict and it can strengthen your leadership. There were also situations given to help develop critical thinking and problem solving on your own and with a team to gain confidence in your new skills. Overall, the program gives you a toolbox to think and deal with situations in management in a new way with a new understanding." -  Deborah Freischlag, Finance Director, Alsip, IL and Past Institute Participant

“Managers must be collaborative with their Board members, staff, and the citizens and businesses in their communities. Not that we haven't been collaborative in the past, but in order to stay employed and perform our jobs well, we increasingly must understand underlying reasons and emotional causes for people's behavior whether as individuals or in groups. This seems like a no brainer. I assure you, after taking this course, gaining and practicing these skills is no easy task.

Success doesn't come from having an easy smile, a quick handshake and an engaging personality, nor is it good enough to just have the technical skills to run a city. We work as leaders in, 'The People's Business' and need to be adept at navigating a difficult and ever changing course. The people we work with and for are under increasing pressure to navigate their own lives and those around them. Volatile economic conditions, social networking and its requisite need to be "on", the increasing breakdown and reshaping of family and cultural norms all contribute to stress. Understanding why people are reacting as they are and, in turn, why and how you react to others is essential. The class does not teach you to be a therapist. That would be wrong on many levels. Instead you come away with knowledge, perspective, and a sense of measure to better manage relationships. We managers already understand the core technical skills such as building budgets, and planning and financing our capital improvement projects. At the end of the day however, there remains a need to provide more cost effective and adaptive public services as our local worlds become more global. Innovation in the People's Business is made possible through a meaningful understanding of how to align individuals and groups to be successful. In other words, our success begins and ends with our understanding of people. This program sheds an important light to keep us from stumbling through the dark." -  Rich Nahrstadt, Village Manager, Northbrook,  IL and Past Institute Participant

“The Institute helped me by expanding my skill set as a leader and a manager, so I could have essentially more tools on my belt.  As a result, I can better address the challenges that are becoming more frequent or severe as the years go by — especially working with elected officials."

"The concepts of leadership, judgment, power and power of the leader, organizational alignment, resistance to change, and self-awareness are especially relevant in today’s fractured political environment.  Developing an understanding of and applying these concepts are necessary to effectively manage and work with people in our organizations."

"Now I’m managing internally and I’m managing externally — or managing up or down.  With the Village Council, it’s applying the concepts of alignment presented in the Academy. Helping the Council to understand alignment with the community, each other and staff is the first step towards improving community trust and organizational effectiveness."

"With respect to applying the concepts of judgment, I actually used the judgment triangle in my council orientation last spring; explained how it not only applies to individuals, but how it also applies to the council as an organization."

I found the Academy extremely beneficial as I was able to take some of the concepts and apply them directly to my council, directly to my staff, and importantly, apply them to myself." - Rob Bahan, Village Manager, Winnetka, IL and Past Institute Participant


Midwest Leadership Institute


2019 Registration Form

2019 Dates:
April 29-May 3

Logistics and Cost

Each program is limited to 40 participants to ensure time for one-on-one individualized coaching as well as small group and all-participant events. Tuition  includes course materials, continental breakfast, two breaks, lunch every day, and dinner Thursday evening.  Friday sessions end at noon. REGISTER NOW!

Contact Dawn Peters at dpeters@niu.edu 
or 815-753-0923 for special group rates!

The Institute is held at 
Northern Illinois University
Naperville campus
1120 East Diehl Road

Contact Dawn Peters at dpeters@niu.edu 
or 815-753-0923 with questions.


Convenient lodging is available near the NIU Naperville campus. 

Hampton Inn
630-505-3353 or 800-830-5222

Courtyard by Marriott

630-505-0550 or 800-321-2211

Hampton Inn

630-505-1400 or 800-426-7866