DEF’s next Executive Director

The time has arrived to select DEF’s next Executive Director! Michael Madrid’s two-year tenure will be coming to a close this fall, and the team will welcome a new leader to the helm. We’re looking for someone who is passionate, like heart on fire passionate, about DEF’s vision to promote a culture of innovation in national security. And we need someone who is ready to lead through a strong sense of servant leadership. Interested yourself, or know a community member who would be a good fit? Read on!

Process Overview

The transition process for selecting a new Executive Director will follow this broad structure:

  • Phase 1: Nominations and Applications. DEF members can self-nominate or nominate others, and those accepting nominations will collect signatures of support from the community as well as submit a written application. These complete nomination packages are due by midnight EST on Sunday, 25 July 2021.
  • Phase 2: Panel Interviews. Those selected to progress to Phase 2 based on their written applications will participate in one or two panel interviews with the current Executive Director as well as members of the national volunteer team and DEF community. These interviews will be conducted virtually throughout the months of August and September. In order to preserve the integrity of the process, only the best qualified candidates who submitted complete nomination packets will be considered for panel interviews.
  • Phase 3: Board of Directors Interview and Confirmation. The top one or two applicants will be forwarded from Phase 2 to the DEF Board of Directors (BOD), for a final interview, selection, and appointment. These interviews will also be conducted virtually, throughout September and early October. The BOD will make a final decision by mid-October and the new Executive Director will be announced at the DEF2021 annual conference (21–24 October 2021 in Washington, D.C.). Barring extenuating circumstances, the selected individual will be expected to attend DEF2021 in person for this announcement!

Role and Responsibilities

The Executive Director leads DEF’s volunteer team with strategic vision and oversees the organization’s day-to-day operations. Here are some examples of the activities and responsibilities associated with this role:

  • Organizes, leads, and manages a distributed National Team organized into functional components including Community, Engagement, Operations, Finance, Giving, and Communications.
  • Provides vision and direction that recognizes DEF’s status as an organization and a movement.
  • Represents DEF to partners, government officials, and the public.
  • Makes practical decisions related to programs, budgets, expenditures, and recruiting Team Leads for the National Team.
  • Reports to the Board of Directors and serves as an ex officio, non-voting member of the BOD, attending quarterly meetings and liaising between the volunteer team and BOD members. Within the first 90 days, presents a vision statement to the BOD that describes the two-year strategic plan to be undertaken during their term of office.
  • Executes administrative and governance functions, such as reviewing and approving annual budgets and significant expenditures, serving as Executing Authority for the 501(c)(3) entity, and signing critical documents on behalf of the organization such as partnership agreements and major contracts.
  • Holds the position for a two-year tenure, bookended by fall annual conferences (this tenure will be from DEF2021 to DEF2023).
  • Spends between 6 and 12 hours a week or more working in the role. This is not for the faint-hearted: it often feels like a full-time job. The volunteer team meets for weekly standups (Monday nights at 8pm EST) and for quarterly workshops (usually over a weekend). The Executive Director regularly meets with various parts of the volunteer team, with community members, with partners and sponsors, and more. Although this is still an unpaid role, DEF truly needs a person who will approach their service with the commitment, dedication, and accountability that they would show to the most important full-time paying job.

Next Steps

Here are the next steps if you are interested in applying or have someone in mind for nomination!

  • Nominate yourself or someone else at this link (also below at the end of the post).
  • If you accept a nomination, collect 25 signatures of support from community members (those signing must be DEF members). Members can submit their signatures of support at this link, where your name will be added after accepting nomination.
  • Once you have collected the required number of signatures, submit a written package to This package will consist of two documents: your resume, and a document with written answers to the following two questions (no more than 250 words per answer, please). These documents will be used to help identify particularly strong candidates and will be shared with the interview panels in Phase 2. This package is due by midnight EST, Sunday 25 July 2021.

1) What is your Vision for DEF over the next two years? What are our greatest strengths that we should be capitalizing upon? What are our biggest weaknesses that may need shoring up?

2) How would you describe your leadership style and philosophy? In what circumstances do you find it either particularly easy or particularly hard to lead a team?

  • You will receive an update on your application and progression to further phases by August 1st, one week after the submission deadline.

Thank you for reading, and reach out with any questions at!

The Defense Entrepreneurs Forum is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that inspires, connects and empowers people by convening events, forging partnerships, and delivering tangible solutions. Our mission is to promote a culture of innovation in the U.S. national security community.

If you are a civil servant, military member, academic, entrepreneur, policymaker, or technologist (or just find the idea of helping solve tough problems enticing), we’d love to have you join the DEF Community!



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