From the Battlefield to the Boardroom

By on July 31, 2012

Leadership Development Strategies from Gettysburg Build Better Leaders


You have marched your army of men hundreds of miles through unfamiliar territory. You know the enemy is near, but without your scouting force, you have no idea where they really are. You’re leading a group of men that are hungry and exhausted from marching. Some have been wounded and some are barely hanging on to life – and they’re all looking to you for direction and leadership. Talk about a stressful situation.

Such was the scene close to 150 years ago when Confederate forces began marching their way through the heart of northern Maryland in bold invasions of the North that would culminate in the battles of Antietam, Gettysburg and Monocacy. These battles were a test of endurance and skill, but they were also poignant examples of the power of leadership.

For more than two decades, Steven B. Wiley and the staff of The Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg have brought scores of individuals from the majority of Fortune 100 companies, such as Apple, Pfizer, Kellogg, ExxonMobil, Chase and Wells Fargo, and scores of federal government agencies, including the Departments of Homeland Security, Interior and Defense on a journey – a transformational journey – toward developing great leaders at all levels. And they do this by using Civil War history as a metaphor and the battlefield of Gettysburg as a classroom.

A proven entrepreneur, author, and highly acclaimed speaker who has influenced and entertained tens of thousands of top executives from around the world, Wiley is dedicated to the task of motivating and empowering leaders. His dedication has attracted the attention of major media outlets, including ABC NEWS,who called Wiley “the best speaker you’ve never heard of.”

The term leadership has been bandied about in corporate circles for decades, but Wiley cites an alarming statistic from a recent Gallup poll. “Did you know that 70 percent of U.S. employees say that they are ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ at work with the number one reason being the quality of leadership?” Wiley asks.

Indeed, leadership is more than just occupying a title or moving into the corner office. It’s a mindset, a vision for the future that defines leadership, and Wiley and The Lincoln Leadership Institute have dedicated time and attention to working with individuals to develop their full leadership potential.

As president and founder of The Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg, Wiley says that learning how to be more productive in a rapidly changing, stressful environment is the key to success, whether that’s in your family, community, business, church or synagogue.

One of the signature elements of The Lincoln Leadership Institute’s leadership development experience is a three-day interactive immersion experience – A Transformational Journey from Gettysburg. Participants join Wiley and a cadre of esteemed historians, scholars and leadership experts to examine leadership case studies, walk the Gettysburg battlefield as Licensed Battlefield Guides recount stories of leadership decisions that impacted the course of battle in July 1863, and discuss methods to develop one’s leadership potential.

“We’ve found that these programs stay alive in the minds of participants and in the organizational culture. Through the unique and creative use of historical metaphor and an examination of the lives of historic characters, they become ‘bookmarks’ in the minds of participants,” Wiley says.

Practical applications of these leadership development experiences cover various subjects such as negotiation skills training, communication, listening and wellness – skills that Wiley believes are critical to leadership success in one’s home, family and workplace. And they are ones he and his team endeavor to cultivate in each interaction they have with participants of the institute’s programs.

Here is just one example of a leadership lesson from Gettysburg. Forces under the command of Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, 20th Maine regiment, were pitted against the Confederate forces of the 15th Alabama Infantry on July 2, 1863. Despite overwhelming odds, Chamberlain protected the vulnerable Union left flank at Little Round Top.

Wiley uses this battlefield scenario to demonstrate the idea that effective leaders recognize challenges in fast-paced, rapidly changing environments — their vulnerable “left flanks.” They swiftly move to meet those challenges head on with the human and material resources available to them. In crisis situations, effective leaders quickly move from thought into action.

The response to The Lincoln Leadership Institute’s leadership development programs has been overwhelmingly positive. Here is what a former vice president for training and recruiting of Stanley Black & Decker had to say: “We have sent our representative to virtually every corporate retreat out there. Steve Wiley’s Journey from Gettysburg is the best and most comprehensive performance training that we’ve ever invested in. We have already reaped benefits from this investment many times over.”

The Battle of Gettysburg lasted only three days, but the impact of this monumental event in our nation’s history has continued long after the guns have been silenced.

“When we bring individuals from the Department of Homeland Security or members from the Inspector Generals to Gettysburg and stand them at places where history’s leaders had to face monumental decisions that shaped the course of battle, leadership development lessons take on new meaning,” Wiley says. “History at Gettysburg provides an experiential learning opportunity that can transform the way we motivate, educate and develop our greatest assets—our people.”

The Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg
8 Lincoln Square, Gettysburg

About Frederick Gorilla

Frederick Gorilla Magazine is Frederick’s leading source for in-depth conversations about business, life and politics. Through our website, social media outlets and print magazine, we tell the stories of the people and organizations who call Frederick County home, and we investigate the real issues that affect our readers’ lives.

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