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Small Nonprofit CEO of the Year: Leadership Delaware CEO Jennifer Cohan

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As leader of the past four cohorts of Leadership Delaware, Inc., CEO Jennifer Cohan admits that the job “sometimes requires a little tough love that some people in the program need in order to grow as leaders. They sometimes laugh and say that I ‘snatch them up’ in a motherly fashion.”

Jennifer Cohen | PHOTO COURTESY OF LEADERSHIP DELAWARE

But her toughest job, she said, “is having to turn away more qualified people each year than the program can accept.” 

The year-long, non-profit program to train the state’s future leaders involves bringing dozens of experienced speakers into the classroom to lecture and interact with the fellows who are competitively selected. Through Cohan’s leadership, she has expanded the organization to host events in all three counties and started a partnership to help foster a more geographically diverse pool of candidates.

“Jen” Cohan, as most people know her, has extensive experience of her own of about 31 years working in state government, culminating with her role as Delaware’s Secretary of Transportation from 2015 to 2000 and Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles from 2007 to 2015. 

In nominating Cohan for CEO of the Year, retired State Senator Nancy Cook lauded Cohan’s performance in her current role as being “nothing short of transformative, changing the leadership trajectory of hundreds of passionate leaders. Her visionary leadership style inspires individuals across the state to strive for excellence.” 

Cook also cites Cohan’s long history of serving on boards of non-profit organizations, as well as business boards.

Cohan earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wilmington University and attended the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania. Since 2008, she has served as an adjunct professor in Wilmington University’s Business College.

Like most leaders, Cohan has had mentors she credits for helping her in her career paths and one in particular – Cook. 

“Former Senator Cook provided me with great advice when I entered the state government. She told me, ‘Don’t get too full of yourself’ and ‘don’t forget where you came from,” Cohan remembers. “So I’ve never wanted to seek a position that would take me out of Delaware,” she said.

As for what’s next: “There may be a political run in my future,” Cohan said, “though I have nothing in mind at the moment.”

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