ELIA Is For leaders Who Care and WHO are up to something

ELIA participants create a small, close-knit community of practice. The people make all the difference. 



Is this for you?

ELIA is for those dedicated to making a positive difference wherever they find themselves. While the benefits can be widely applied, the most relevant applications are management, entrepreneurship, coaching, consulting, and large systems change.

On a subtler level …

  • Participants must share a passion for depth and mastery, and feel drawn to the idea of forming a mutual commitment with other equally dedicated individuals.
  • Participants must be willing to bring their prior experience and capabilities as well as their blind spots and vulnerabilities.
  • Participants must be willing to take significant responsibility for their own individual and mutual development. Although the content and most of the practice opportunities will be offered in equal measure to all participants, each person will ultimately determine which areas to pursue in more depth. With tailored support from the instructors, each leader will develop his/her own game plan for getting the most value from this experience.
  • ELIA is NOT for people with a “command and control” orientation, and would not be appropriate for anyone convinced that humans suffer from a “fallen nature.”
  • ELIA is NOT for people who want perfection at every turn, but rather for those who seek an experience in which we will learn together, learn from our mistakes, and even learn what it takes to recover from finding ourselves “face down on the playing field.”



Mitch Saunders and Maryliz Smith

ELIA was founded by Mitch Saunders and Maryliz Smith, who are also the primary contacts and instructors for each cohort. Mitch and Maryliz both live in Woodside, California, and have been facilitating ELIA-type experiences for 20+ years with local and international leaders. At the core, their ELIA materials draw from several primary sources:

  • Two generations of field-based research led by Mitch that demonstrated the efficacy of employing leadership artistry and collective intelligence to address problems that resist easy answers and to accelerate the process of innovation. Sponsors included the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Foundation and the John F. Fetzer Institute.

  • Maryliz’s pioneering work in the following arenas:

    • Influencing collective field dynamics via the arts—in a manner/language for which “the mind has no defenses.”

    • Helping individuals develop distinctive ways to use their physical-emotional presence to invite, to blend, and to improvise.

    • Helping leaders uncover and refine their signature expression through innovative voice work.

  • The seminal work of Stanley Keleman, whose research into individual emotional anatomy provides a proven way to work with the human body as the basis for knowing ourselves and for making and managing change.

  • Mitch’s collaborations with other prominent innovators, including the late Carl Rogers, Virginia Satir, and Roger Harrison; and more recently with Peter Senge, William Ury, David Whyte, and a host of other world-class practitioners.