Alumni Testimonial: Aliza Greenberg

Aliza Greenberg is a teaching artist, consultant, and arts administrator throughout New York City. She previously servered as the COBALT manager at the Metropolitan Opera Guild in NYC. Prior to this position, she served as the education program manager for Roundabout Theatre Company, also in New York.

Why did you apply to CAELI?

I had heard about CAELI from alumni who said it was a great experience. But I applied because there were so many people that I was interacting with and felt I had to unify around a common goal—I was working with teachers, teaching artists, students, co-workers. I wanted to learn how to better communicate in a way that would help us all be on the same page and find strategies to mobilize all the different people I was working with. And as a young leader who was moving up in my organization, I wanted to find ways that I could be clearer and more confident and find my own voice. At the time, I was the education program manager at Roundabout.

Was CAELI different than you expected?

Definitely. I expected to learn how to assert myself—I’m a subdued and quiet person. I thought I would learn how to be more assertive and instead I learned how to embrace my personality and draw on my strengths as a listener and a facilitator. I also expected it to be more about me and my role in my organization, but it was really much more about me as a person and developing myself as a whole. It helped me develop how I approach many different situations, not only the situations in my current position.

In what ways did the institute help you draw on your strengths?

There was a really big emphasis in the institute on listening and how to be a good listener. As a quiet person, I was able to embrace that aspect of myself and strengthen it. I am now much more attune to how I am listening and if I’m listening well. Also, there was a big emphasis on asking questions and not feeling like you had to have all the answers as a leader. Being a young leader, I always felt pressured to come up with answers or prove myself by having the answers. The institute helped me learn it was okay to come back with a question and to live with those questions.

What else was particularly beneficial?

During the institute, Phil MacArthur’s workshop on having difficult conversations helped me reflect on how I was communicating with my team, especially when there was conflict. Before we came to the seminar, we each wrote case studies that described a difficult conversation that we may have had with a co-worker, teacher, etc. We wrote out the details of how we did have the conversation and then at the institute we revisited those conversations and looked at what assumptions we were making and whether we were asking enough questions. He coached us on each line of the conversation and shared advice on how we could rephrase it or look at it differently to get a better result or have it be more productive.

Now that I’m in a new job, the work that we did with Ronnie Brooks on core values—developing what our values are and how to communicate them—has been valuable. When you work for a place for a long time, you take it for granted that everyone knows what you value. Moving to a new job, I’ve had to revisit what my values are and how to communicate what I care about to other people. The work on values was crucial and something I took with me to this new context. I am currently the manager of a federal research project at the Metropolitan Opera Guild.

I’m much more confident in myself as a result of CAELI. I’m also much more appreciative of my leadership style and personality. As a result, I’m more authentic. I’m also more diligent about making sure everyone knows the purpose behind what we are doing and my values. I’ve always valued listening but I value it more now and try to do it better. One of the things that stuck with me from CAELI is thinking of leadership as a practice and not a goal. I’m continually practicing and trying to improve as a result. The presence of reflection in my work is much greater.

What would say to a prospective applicant?

CAELI is transformational. You might use your role in your organization as a set of examples but the institute is really about developing who you are as a person.

I've learned that leadership is a practice. The work doesn’t stop after CAELI. It just begins. Go in with an open mind and willingness to change. We all thought we were all on the road to being leaders as an end goal but many of us learned that we were really deepening our continual work in leadership development.

Finally, I would advise people to really take advantage of being with such a smart and thoughtful group of people. I continue to learn so much from my CAELI classmates. Those relationships with my cohort are very strong and a big part of what I’ve taken away from the program.