Applying for ELDP

Understanding the Zoo/Aquarium Director Role 

Although the Director's role and responsibilities may vary depending on the size, structure and governance of the institution, the knowledge, skills and behaviors needed to be successful in the role are more similar than different. The Directors are responsible for all aspects of the Institution they are leading.  Areas of focus usually include providing executive oversight for park operations, creating budgets, implementing policies, hiring management staff, sourcing additional funding, and overseeing development of the facility. A Director is the face of the Institution and often acts as the chief spokesperson for the zoo or aquarium in media relations.  

Depending on how the institution is structured, the Director will generally have accountability and report to either a board or society or other governing authority such as a city council or other municipal board. Keeping the board and or other governing authorities involved and engaged with the institution happenings is an important part of the Directors role.   

 The Director manages multiple priorities to secure and allocate the resources required to maintain a viable and sustainable institution that delivers on the mission and advances the conservation movement. This requires a strong business focus and ability to plan for ways to be efficient, to generate revenue, to raise money for capital investments and to effectively position and market the institution within and outside the community.  

When considering your potential interest in advancing to the role of Director it is important to talk with existing Directors and explore the following:

  • What do they like most about being a Director, what do they like least? 
  • What percentage of their time do they spend with board/committee development, fundraising, planning, advancing the conservation movement, attending events and being the face of the Institution, looking for ways to generate new revenue, prioritize resources allocation, people management, etc.? 
  • What are some of the greatest challenges they face? 
  • Do they think you would be a good candidate in the future for this role, why or why not?   

Is the ELDP right for you, right now?

  • Do you demonstrate the ability and interest to move to role of Director within the next five years? 
  • Are you willing to devote a significant amount of personal and professional time to your own executive leadership development? 
  • Do you meet the program requirements described on the ELDP Application Form? 
  • Do you demonstrate the qualities described in the selection criteria on the ELDP Application Form? 
  • Do you have your Director's support to pursue this opportunity? 
  • Will your institution support your attendance at the ELDP work sessions that are scheduled during AZA's Directors' Policy Conferences, Mid-Year Meeting, Congressional Fly-in and Annual Conference?

Application Process

Applications for the Executive Leadership Development Program will be available soon. Please reach out to us at if you have questions or want to be notified once the application materials are live. 


Visit the ELDP FAQs or contact Kari Hart at  

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