Non-profit

Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute (CELI)

Location:

Washington, DC

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

President:

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld

Financials (2018):

Revenue: $2,005,111

Expenses: $2,288,637

Total Assets: $3,650,454

The Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute is a nonprofit organization affiliated with Yale University that acts as a training and professional development organization for business leaders in America. The organization provides training programs to CEOs of many of the largest corporations in America such as American Airlines, JPMorgan Chase, Starbucks, and General Electric. The organization has held business leader roundtable discussions and helped collect signatures on letters supporting left-leaning causes and provided a stream of events that have led to a media narrative that much of the business community did not support President Donald Trump. The organization was instrumental in orchestrating a letter signed by 100 CEOs opposing a 2021 election integrity law in Georgia. [1]

The organization is directed by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, often described as a “CEO Whisperer,” who is a professor of management at Yale’s business school. Sonnenfeld has consulted businesses through the Institute and in a personal capacity since the 1970s, urging business executives to take left-leaning political positions. [2]

Background

The Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute was formed in 2001 by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, the senior associate dean for leadership programs at Yale University’s School of Management and the Lester Crown professor in the practice of management at Yale. The organization has billed itself as the world’s first school for CEOs and conducts research around executive leadership with most of the focus of the organization being on programming offered to CEOs and other c-suite executives at some of the largest businesses worldwide. [3]

Jeffrey Sonnenberg is the founder of the organization and is at the center of most of the organization’s programming and research. Sonnenfeld is a tenured professor at Yale and formerly taught at Harvard business school. [4] Sonnenfeld’s personal consulting clients have included American Airlines, JPMorgan Chase, General Electric, and Marriott. He also is a paid speaker with speaking fees reportedly ranging from $50,000 to $75,000. [5]

Activity

The Yale Chief Executive Leadership has several flagship programs centered around professional development including a CEO College where CEOs take professional development courses, a CEO Summit where CEOs share notes on their leadership experiences, and a program for heads of colleges and universities. The organization also hosts a CEO caucus in Washington, D.C., that brings CEOs together with politicians and government officials, as well as a development program for mayors. [6]

The events hosted by the organization provided several news stories that underlined an alleged distaste for former President Donald Trump during his presidency. One report based on the organization’s data alleged that three-quarters of American business executives had apologized to international business partners about Trump’s rhetoric. The organization frequently released polls and surveys of several CEOs that led to headlines claiming that CEOs overwhelmingly took positions disapproving of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus and that CEOs backed Trump’s second impeachment. [7]

The organization also was a key driver of private sector opposition to an election integrity law passed in Georgia in 2021 along with left-leaning organizations including the Center for Inclusive Capitalism and the Leadership Now Project. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld used the institute to gather 90 CEOs to plan an opposition campaign to the legislation and the group helped organize a letter opposing the law signed by 100 CEOs. Since leading the opposition to Republican-backed election laws, Sonnenfeld defended the term “Woke CEOs,” [8] stating “[m]aybe it’s a good idea to awaken to social justice.” [9]

References

  1.  Cawood, Jeffrey. “How the Pope, Yale, Foundations, and ‘Plutocrats’ Got Corporations Involved in Politics.” The Daily Wire. April 15, 2021. Accessed April 22, 2021. https://www.dailywire.com/news/how-the-pope-yale-billionaires-got-corporations-involved-in-politics ^
  2. Harden, Brandon. “CEO whisperer Jeffrey Sonnenfeld has the US’s top business leaders on speed dial. Here’s how the Yale professor gathers dozens of CEOs whenever there’s a national crisis.” Business Insider. April 20, 2021. Accessed April 22, 2021. https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/jeffrey-sonnenfeld-ceo-whisperer-georgia-voting-laws-2021-4-1030324264 ^
  3. “About CELI.” Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute. Accessed April 22, 2021. https://som.yale.edu/faculty-research-centers/centers-initiatives/chief-executive-leadership-institute/about-celi ^
  4. “Jeffery Sonnenfeld.” Yale School of Management. Accessed April 22, 2021. https://som.yale.edu/faculty/jeffrey-sonnenfeld ^
  5. Cawood, Jeffrey. “How the Pope, Yale, Foundations, and ‘Plutocrats’ Got Corporations Involved in Politics.” The Daily Wire. April 15, 2021. Accessed April 22, 2021. https://www.dailywire.com/news/how-the-pope-yale-billionaires-got-corporations-involved-in-politics ^
  6. “Programs.” Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute. Accessed April 22, 2021. https://som.yale.edu/faculty-research-centers/centers-initiatives/chief-executive-leadership-institute/programs ^
  7. Cawood, Jeffrey. “How the Pope, Yale, Foundations, and ‘Plutocrats’ Got Corporations Involved in Politics.” The Daily Wire. April 15, 2021. Accessed April 22, 2021. https://www.dailywire.com/news/how-the-pope-yale-billionaires-got-corporations-involved-in-politics ^
  8. Harden, Brandon. “CEO whisperer Jeffrey Sonnenfeld has the US’s top business leaders on speed dial. Here’s how the Yale professor gathers dozens of CEOs whenever there’s a national crisis.” Business Insider. April 20, 2021. Accessed April 22, 2021. https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/jeffrey-sonnenfeld-ceo-whisperer-georgia-voting-laws-2021-4-1030324264 ^
  9. Harden, Brandon. “CEO whisperer Jeffrey Sonnenfeld has the US’s top business leaders on speed dial. Here’s how the Yale professor gathers dozens of CEOs whenever there’s a national crisis.” Business Insider. April 20, 2021. Accessed April 22, 2021. https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/jeffrey-sonnenfeld-ceo-whisperer-georgia-voting-laws-2021-4-1030324264 ^
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Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute (CELI)


Washington, DC