Tobias Leadership Center builds Indianapolis leaders


It's been more than a decade since the Randall L. Tobias Center for Leadership Excellence opened its doors to the Indianapolis community.

Professionals who engage with the Tobias Leadership Center are molded and fine-tuned, developing leadership skills they will carry with them throughout their personal and professional lives. Founded by Randall L. Tobias, the former president and CEO of Eli Lilly and Company, the Tobias Leadership Center partners with four schools on both the IUPUI and Bloomington campuses, including Kelley School of Business, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, School of Education and School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

One of the Tobias Center’s most notable successes: the Hoosier Fellows Program. Each year the center selects senior executives to engage as Hoosier Fellows. Although the fellows arrive with high-level skills and broad experience, they seek additional dimensions to their leadership journey.

The 2017 cohort of Hoosier Fellows consists of executives from the non-profit, for-profit, public and academic sectors.. Julie Manning Magid, director of the Tobias Leadership Center, notes that this is the only research institution-based leadership program to promote critical multi-sector perspective and to train deliberately on the systemic and long term results of addressing problems through multiple lenses.

The Hoosier Fellows Program is designed to be very intensive and experiential, rather than theoretical.

Larry Smith, managing director for the Tobias Center for Leadership Excellence

Staying true to those beliefs, the Hoosier Fellows Program is designed to instill and enhance leadership skills of a small group of high-potential leaders through a 10-month study of leadership.

Throughout the year, fellows meet for two days each month – with the exception of July and August – becoming exposed to team building activities and mentors. Some of the leadership topics throughout the 10-month program include: the sport of leadership, ethics in leadership, charismatic leadership and storytelling for leaders.

When asked, Smith pointed to two experiences that offer discrete, but related, lessons: military leadership and Benedictine leadership.

“Every year, we take the fellows to Camp Atterbury near Edinburgh, IN. We teach fellows the latest methods the military uses to train leaders,” Smith explained.

“The military has made a significant investment in particular types of simulations that are extremely realistic. There are some pretty intense simulations that really give someone the feel for what it’s like to have to make decisions in highly-stressful situations,” Smith said.

Ultimately, the mental exercise takes fellows out of their comfort zone, and it instills attributes that may be needed in chaotic situations in their personal or professional lives.