President and Chief Executive Officer

President and Chief Executive Officer
Organization Openlands
Location Chicago, Illinois, United States
Job Type Full Time
Application Deadline Jun 17, 2023


With a regional focus yet national reach, for almost sixty years Openlands has zealously served as a trusted facilitator, dedicated land conserver, and programmatic leader in the conservation and environmental space in Northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region.  Openlands protects natural and open spaces to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and help balance and enrich the lives of residents in the region.  Openlands has forged a national reputation for identifying, confronting and deploying nature-based solutions to complex regional conservation and environmental challenges.

Founded in 1963 as a program of the Welfare Council of Metropolitan Chicago, Openlands is one of the oldest metropolitan conservation organizations in the Nation and the only group of its kind with a regional scope.

Openlands’ vision is a landscape that includes a vast network of land and water trails, tree-lined streets, and intimate public gardens within easy reach of and easily accessible to every city dweller. It also includes parks and preserves big enough to provide natural habitat and to give visitors a sense of the vast prairies, woodlands, and wetlands that formed the Great Midwest before the arrival of settlors and the development of our cities. In sum, Openlands believes that protected open space, no matter how big or small, is critical for a rich and fulfilling quality of life in our region.

In its role as trusted facilitator, Openlands, under the leadership of its long-serving President and CEO Gerald W. Adelmann, has served as an expert, indispensable and credible bridge between the public and private sectors, bringing people, organizations, and policymakers together to protect the natural spaces of Northeastern Illinois and surrounding region.  As a dedicated land conserver, Openlands has helped protect more than 70,000 acres of land for public parks and forest preserves, wildlife refuges, land and water greenway corridors, urban farms, and community gardens, all with a focus on providing access to nature for all.   Lastly, Openlands has served as a programmatic leader with a demonstrated ability to deliver an array of on-the-ground, hands-on educational and vocational programs that build advocates for nature, educate the next generation of environmental leaders and address systematic inequalities in the conservation and environmental sectors.

More information about Openlands can be found at

The Opportunity

Openlands seeks a dynamic, visionary, and collaborative leader to serve as its President and CEO who can build upon the organization’s strong legacy while recognizing that continued evolution is critical for impact.

The President and CEO has responsibility and is accountable for the strategic, programmatic, financial, and operational management of the organization.

The President and CEO will provide strategic leadership and work collaboratively with Openlands’ staff and the Board to develop and execute a compelling, powerful vision for the organization and the integral role Openlands plays defending and supporting nature in a complex region. The President and CEO will act as Openlands’ outward-facing ambassador among the individuals and communities that it serves.

The President and CEO will support and encourage staff to scale existing activities, develop new approaches, and manage a portfolio of activities to maximize impact. The President and CEO will foster a culture that values inclusivity and equity, vigilance and vision, accessibility and action, and collaboration and innovation. The President and CEO will lead with respect and appreciation of the work and perspective of every individual that Openlands employs, partners with, and reaches through Openlands’ programs and conservation work. The President and CEO will be an inspirational and motivational leader for a highly dedicated and accomplished staff and will engage as a thought leader in the broader conservation and advocacy communities.

Above all, the President and CEO will be inspired by and dedicated to Openlands’ mission and oriented toward action and impact.

The President and CEO will report to, and work closely with, the Openlands Board of Directors

Specific responsibilities of the Openlands President and CEO include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Report to the Board, with the responsibility of leading the management and staffing of all operating, financial, programmatic, fundraising, policy, marketing and policy components of the organization.
  • Nurture an organizational culture focused on impact and accountability across all departments and programs, with strategic goals being prioritized, accomplished and celebrated.
  • Drive short and long-term strategic planning in partnership with the Board and senior leadership; ensure that strategic and programmatic objectives are fully articulated
  • Shape Openlands goal setting and priorities, internal organizational structure, management systems; drive innovation around technology and digital transformation.
  • Advocate for Openlands with stakeholders and policymakers.
  • Serve as a visible ambassador of Openlands, amplifying Openlands’ story and championing Openlands to a wide range of local and national audiences and stakeholders to inspire and motivate.
  • Continue to grow the organization’s public profile nationally; build awareness of Openlands’ work across the full breadth of communities in the region.
  • Foster and maintain an environment that supports innovation, excellence in implementation, community partnerships, regional visibility and inclusivity, and internal collaboration and competency-building.
  • Support a culture of diversity, belonging, inclusion, and equity at all internal and external levels, from programming, to staff training, Board development, vendor selection and community relationships; work actively to attract diverse talent to staff, Board, and region, to create an equitable and inclusive culture, to include diverse perspectives in strategy and decision-making, and to be a champion for equity and access in all aspects of Openlands’ work.
  • Recruit, motivate, supervise, evaluate, and provide leadership to a high caliber staff who bring diverse expertise; value teamwork, is committed to transparency, welcome new ideas, and encourage personal and team development; promote an open environment of transparency and open communications among staff; actively work to advance cohesion and collaboration within the organization, supporting staff to function highly as a team.
  • Serve as Openlands’ chief fundraiser; establish and maintain productive relationships with individuals, foundations, corporate sponsors, and local civic funders to ensure that Openlands achieves or exceeds its contributed income goals from all sources.

Candidate Profile

Openlands is seeking a demonstrated leader with unquestioned passion for nature and a bias towards action and impact.  The President and CEO will bring to the role a recognized degree of operational excellence, fundraising ability, intellectual breadth, convening power, and practical experience with the nonprofit, government, and business sectors. The President and CEO must be able to shape and successfully implement innovative and visionary strategies, managing change as necessary to meet the demands of a continuously evolving environment. The President and CEO will have experience working closely with a board, staff, and partners to achieve ambitious goals in a fiscally responsible manner.

The successful candidate must exhibit a commitment to the mission and values of Openlands and a passion for making a significant and lasting impact through protecting the natural and open spaces of Northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region. The successful candidate will listen to, and learn from, constituents inside and outside Openlands and lead in a manner that fosters innovation and strategic rigor. The President and CEO will have the capacity to build constructive dialogue and collaboration among team members and across organizational structures, while honoring the history of – and respecting and promoting the culture and values of – Openlands. Further, the President and CEO will effectively engage a community of constituents that share common goals across diverse locations, strategies, and constituencies.

Strong candidates for this President and CEO opportunity will possess the following professional and personal qualities, skills and characteristics:

Passion for the Mission

  • Passion for Openlands’ mission and impact; the ability to represent the organization authentically in formal as well as informal settings.
  • Passionate about all that Openlands can accomplish in the region and beyond.

Leadership and Management

  • Highly developed management skills to inspire, empower and grow a strong and diverse executive team and the confidence to delegate important management responsibilities to that team.
  • Excellent interpersonal skills, and the capacity to build strong relationships with staff, board members, volunteers, partners, donors, and all other constituents of Openlands.
  • The ability to attract and recruit top talent, motivate the team, empower, and develop others, delegate effectively, celebrate diversity within the team, ensure staff feel valued, and manage performance.
  • The ability to persevere in the face of challenges, and exhibit a steadfast resolve and relentless commitment to higher standards, which commands respect from followers.
  • A leader who is self-reflective and aware of his or her own limitations; leads by example and drives the organization’s performance with an attitude of continuous improvement by being open to feedback and self-improvement.
  • Brings deep personal commitment to diversity, equity, access, and inclusion in all aspects of the Openlands’ work; seeks to build an organization that is substantively diverse and reflective of the communities it serves.

Relationships and Fundraising

  • An enthusiastic fundraiser, who proactively builds philanthropic relationships and enjoys making the case for support and is dedicated to expanding the organization’s fundraising base and collaborating with others to raise significant operating and endowment funds
  • A compelling ambassador who can build partnerships with a wide range of constituents and communicate authentically with a variety of audiences and individuals.
  • A natural connector who builds strong relationships with others, demonstrating strong emotional intelligence and an ability to communicate clearly and persuasively.
  • The ability to inspire trust and followership in others through compelling influence, humility, charisma, passion in his/her beliefs, and active drive.
  • Encourages others to share the spotlight and visibly celebrates and supports the success of the team.
  • Creates a sense of purpose/meaning that generates followership beyond his or her own personality and engages others in the greater purpose for the organization as a whole.

Setting Strategy

  • Forward thinking; the ability to create and articulate an inspiring and inclusive vision for the next chapter of the organization.
  • An entrepreneurial and creative approach to developing new, innovative ideas that will stretch the organization and push boundaries as the landscape changes; nimble, flexible, and forward thinking- seizes opportunities with potential for increased impact in the region and as an example more broadly.
  • The inclination to seek and analyze data from a variety of sources to support decisions and to align others with the organization’s overall strategy.
  • The ability to effectively balance the desire/need for change with an understanding of how much change the organization is capable of handling, to create realistic goals and implementation plans that are achievable and successful.

Executing for Results

  • The ability to set clear and actionable goals while driving organizational impact; tenacious and accountable in driving results.
  • Comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty; the ability to adapt nimbly and lead others through complex situations.
  • A do-er and prudent risk-taker who seeks data and input from others to foresee possible threats or unintended circumstances from decisions; someone who takes smart risks.
  • A leader who is viewed by others as having a high degree of integrity and forethought in his or her approach to making decisions; the ability to act in a transparent and consistent manner while always taking into account what is best for the organization.


Compensation for this opportunity has been designed to attract a leader of significant accomplishment.

To apply:

Interested candidates should submit a resume and letter of interest to: [email protected]

Application Link