A Mid-Career Fellowship for NYC Professionals: The Leadership New York Experience

Aug 19, 2020
Bryan (third from right, wearing a green sweater) with members of his Leadership New York cohort and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez

Coro’s Leadership New York program challenges mid-career New York City professionals from across non-profit, public and private sectors to explore critical issues facing New York City and develop new ways to lead change in their communities and organizations. The fellowship begins with a 3-day retreat and then meets periodically over the course of nine months, amounting to over 175+ hours of training. Fellows are split into teams who independently organize an intensive learning experience for each other. The program cost is $6,000, and scholarships are available.

We talked to Bryan Jablonski Johnson, a recent Leadership New York Fellow, to learn more about the program and get some application tips.  

1. What inspired you to apply for the Leadership New York Fellowship? 

Coro Leadership New York (LNY) is a part-time, mid-career program for proven leaders in the public, private, and non-profit sectors who are poised to take their careers to the next level. LNY uses New York City as a laboratory to show how public policy affects business, government and non-profit sectors. 

I was drawn to the program because I was at an inflection point in my career. I didn’t want to be only a leader in my current field of media and entertainment, but also a leader who sees the “big picture” on how public issues affect my industry. New York City, after all, is the entertainment capital of the world. Every industry is a piece of the puzzle, and I wanted to see the whole puzzle. I also wanted to network, develop my soft skills – i.e. leadership, public speaking, and executive presence, and gain the necessary skills to advance my career. 

My long term goal is to run for public office. I wanted to develop my network in the public and non-profit sectors and participating in LNY gave me that opportunity and a whole lot more! I now have friends and professional connections in professions such as education, law, and philanthropy. LNY participants are diverse in every way imaginable, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

2. What is a typical week like for a Leadership New York Fellow? 

Because of the part-time nature of Leadership New York, there is no typical week. Participants are expected to complete 175 hours of experimental leadership development over a nine-month period. 

Traditionally, the program starts off with a very intensive three-day orientation in Long Island, NY. This is the most critical part of the program because you form bonds with your cohort. People who didn’t take the time to learn and get to know their teammates early on were at a disadvantage because you spend a lot of time with your teammates over the course of nine months.

There are two cohorts of roughly 45 to 50 people each. The cohorts have different schedules, so there isn’t much interaction between the two. Within each cohort, participants place themselves on teams that will tackle an issue facing New York City. LNY calls these days of learning “Issue Days.” Teams are then charged with creating a full day of learning for the cohort, and they spend several months planning them. For example, I was on the “Criminal Justice and Public Safety” team. The topic my team chose was whether a more equitable bail reform law makes New York City less safe. We traveled throughout the boroughs of New York City to interview people and to learn first-hand from experts on the topic we chose. LNY wants participants to choose topics that they have no expertise or experience with. The District Attorney of Brooklyn was the keynote speaker of my team’s “Issue Day.”  The cohort then divided up and met with key stakeholders from organizations like the NYC Criminal Justice Agency, Legal Aid Society, Center for Court Innovation, etc. to interview those representatives and report back to the cohort in an afternoon debrief. 

In addition to the months of research and planning to create an “Issue Day,” participants must identify and address an issue facing them on the job. LNY places a premium on developing your adaptive leadership skills through various exercises. Personal ecology is also stressed. LNY believes that you can’t lead others until you know how to lead yourself. Exploration of topics like power, privilege, and scope of authority during the various leadership retreats throughout the cycle led to some intense moments but also, in my opinion, led to the most growth. As a graduate of the program, I found that attending the networking, career, and social events were very beneficial. 

3. What tips would you give others applying to the Leadership New York Fellowship? 

Emerging leaders who are committed to making New York, the greatest city in the world, in my opinion, a better place should definitely apply. Review the Coro New York Leadership Center’s website and speak to alumni of LNY. Successful applicants are civically minded and have a proven track record of making an impact on the city.  Candidates should be able to discuss what they plan to do after LNY and describe how LNY can increase their civic effectiveness. 

The last leadership retreat requires you to discuss your future plans. People who know what they want after the program are better able to leverage the vast resources and alumni of Coro New York Leadership Center. Coro has sister programs in other cities around the country, so alumni of those programs are also at the disposal of graduates. Alumni are always willing to help participants and other alumni of the program. There are exclusive LinkedIn groups, a listserv, and a job portal for alumni of Coro programs. The Coro name is so prestigious it is almost necessary to have on your resume if you’re serious about being a leader in New York City. 

While I like to believe I was chosen because of my smile and charming ways, I believe I was selected for several reasons. The program is wildly popular in the public and non-profit sectors, but less known in the private sector. My background in Media and Entertainment for a major network was an asset. To compliment my private sector background, I lead the associate board of a non-profit and I mentor in several prominent organizations in the New York City area. 

Applicants should look at their calendars from September through May to make sure they don’t have major work projects that will cause them to miss portions of LNY. The 175 hours of experimental leadership development does not include the many hours of prep work for the required components of the program and optional social and networking events.  My group had the second “Issue Day” of the cycle and we spent a lot of time during the Christmas holidays and after work preparing. LNY mostly meets for a full day workday every other week, but we’ve also had full-day leadership retreats on the weekends, so plan accordingly.  Looking back, what I got out of the program in terms of leadership development, expanding my network, and making new friends was worth the sacrifices I made. 

You will be required to have a recommendation. You should pick someone who knows you really well. It looks very favorable if that recommender is a part of the Coro alumni. My recommender was not a part of the Coro family, but he really spoke to my strengths and what I could bring to the program. 

Unlike other Coro programs, LNY costs money. The current price is $6,000. However, many people I know who participated in the program either had their employer foot the bill or they received some sort of scholarship. Do not let the price stop you from making this worthwhile investment in yourself. The amount of leadership development, small group and individual coaching really makes it worth it. I really leaned on the program director and manager of LNY during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic here in NYC. They are amazing people and care about every participant in the program. Participating in LNY was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. 

Bryan Jablonski Johnson has dedicated his life to public service. He came to New York to pursue his dream of working in network television and has experience in news and compliance. He is currently the Accessible Media Manager for CBS Entertainment Group, a division of ViacomCBS. Bryan is a mentor (Big Brother) with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of New York City and is a 2019 recipient of the “Big Impact” Award. He is co-chair of the associate board for Xavier Mission. Bryan is a graduate of Saint John’s University, New York and New York University. 

Interested in applying? Learn more about Leadership New York.

© Victoria Johnson 2020, all rights reserved.