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The Art of Transformational Leadership

By Field Experience

Any leader who was brought in to turn around a failing organization remembers the looks on the faces of his/her new team members that first day on the job. Scared of the prospect of layoffs, some poorly concealed their fear; others had thinly veiled anger. A sense of nervous exhaustion permeated the air. For turnaround leaders, those initial team meetings have no margin for error – setting the right tone is critical.

On December 7, 1941, the United States awoke to the news that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. In a matter of minutes, the ships anchored along Battleship Row were smashed and burning; three lay on the harbor floor. Most of the Navy and Army Air Force’s planes were destroyed. Additionally, 2,403 servicemen and civilians were killed, and 1,178 were wounded. The Commander-in-Chief, US Pacific Fleet, Admiral Husband Kimmel, was stunned as he watched the attack unfold from his lawn.

Ten days later, President Franklin Roosevelt selected Rear Admiral Chester Nimitz to replace Kimmel. Nimitz departed for Pearl Harbor immediately. After taking command, his first order of business was summoning his senior staff officers. The men in the conference room were riddled with guilt. Nimitz understood, later remarking, “These were all fine men, but they had just undergone a terrible shock, and it was my first duty to restore morale and salvage these fine officers for future use, and this I proceeded to do.” To them he said, “We’ve taken a whale of a wallop, but I have no doubt of the ultimate outcome.” One of the officers in the meeting later remembered, “In a very few minutes speaking softly, Admiral Nimitz convinced all hands of his ability to lead us out of this.”

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Over time, Nimitz built relationships with his senior leaders. He toured the facilities at Pearl Harbor and spoke with the construction workers laboring feverishly to repair extensive damage from the attack. He personally inspected the Yorktown, which had been mauled during the Battle of the Coral Sea and gave the engineers three days to make it seaworthy. Working around the clock, repair crews and logisticians got the critical work done in time for Yorktown to be available for the upcoming Battle of Midway.

As Nimitz worked to both rebuild and transform the Pacific Fleet, he also had to navigate complicated and thorny relationships with his superior, Admiral Ernest J. King, and his fellow theater commander, General Douglas MacArthur, along with a host of Allied leaders — all of whom had ideas about what the winning strategy looked like. His task was to forge horizontal and vertical alignment around his leader’s intent in a complex organization operating in a rapidly changing environment. His success is a testament to Nimitz’s character. His example is a masterclass in transformational leadership.

There is no better way gain inspiration from Nimitz’s leadership than to walk in his footsteps. At Battlefield Leadership’s Pacific War program, you will travel to Nimitz’s birthplace in Fredericksburg, Texas, to what was his grandfather’s hotel, now a part of the National Museum of the Pacific War. You will examine every aspect of his professional development that set the stage for his command of the Pacific Fleet — or you can journey to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to see the Arizona at rest and experience what Nimitz rebuilt in the harrowing days after the attack. Join us and be transformed.

We will see you on the battlefield.

Through our unique programs, leaders from Fortune 500 companies, government entities and higher education institutions learn how to overcome these challenges and transform their organizations, positioning them for future successes. Find out how Battlefield Leadership can help your team by emailing or by calling 864.386.9637. 

What Happens if There is No Clear Leader’s Intent

By Field Experience

Anyone who has managed remote workers since the pandemic began has likely had nagging questions about what their employees are doing all day. Is my team working or watching Netflix? When was the last time I spoke to all of them? Bosses take comfort in seeing their teams together in one workplace; it’s the instantaneous way of ensuring that employees are, in fact, getting the job done. The reality, however, is that the days of watercooler chat and working lunches in conference rooms are waning.

Distance is a hurdle leaders must overcome if they are to succeed. Any boss who believes they can lead through email is doomed to fail. Leaders must make the effort to gather their teams by whatever means possible – through offsites, periodic meetings in the office, or a Zoom call to communicate their intent. Imparting a vision for the way forward with a clear definition of what winning looks like is the cornerstone of any leader’s job description. If there is no intent, the organization will be rudderless. The lack of clear direction will always be felt; it will be sharper if team members are far flung.

The Battles of Saratoga in the fall of 1777 offer a clear example of how not to lead at the strategic level. The Revolutionary War was well into its second year. In London, King George III and his government were irritated, their patience worn razor thin. The king was ready to listen to anyone who offered what sounded like a viable plan. His commander in chief in North America, General Sir William Howe, pledged to take Philadelphia and capture the Continental Congress to force a surrender. Dismissive of Howe’s abilities and eager to gain fame for himself, General John Burgoyne proposed a different plan. He would lead a separate army south from Canada into upper New York to gain control over the Hudson River, linking with Howe’s army headquartered in New York City. With that accomplished, Burgoyne promised to divide and conquer the colonies and force them into submission. The king was persuaded. Burgoyne got his army.

Burgoyne gleefully sailed for Canada assuming the government would instruct Howe to support him and coordinate their efforts. Orders were dispatched, but they lacked clarity, and the time they took to reach Howe meant that Burgoyne would be on his own. Making matters worse, neither George III nor his government ever defined a vision of what victory looked like. Were his generals obliged to wage total war to bring the Americans to their knees, or were they seeking a negotiated settlement? What restraints were there in the war’s conduct?

Burgoyne felt he had free reign to pursue his invasion as he saw fit. It was a disaster. Having received a fraction of the troops and supplies he was promised, he plunged deep into northern New York. He issued proclamations promising pardons to all colonists who joined him. When no one flocked to his banner, he threatened the Americans with violence. As his progress bogged down in the dense forests just north of Saratoga, Burgoyne sent a string of pleas for help to his colleagues in New York City. First, they ignored him. Then, they moved at a snail’s pace in a half-hearted attempt that was in no way helpful. By September 1777, as his soldiers stumbled into a clearing at Freeman’s farm, Burgoyne was incensed that he had only silence to support him. Two battles and several weeks later, he was forced to surrender.

The Battles of Saratoga offer lessons that underscore the need for leaders to communicate clear intent from the top down and to provide their teams with a vision of what the end state looks like. Join us for Battlefield Leadership’s Saratoga program to walk in Burgoyne’s footsteps and understand why these battles were the turning point in the American Revolution. You will never take communication for granted again.

We will see you on the battlefield.

Through our unique programs, leaders from Fortune 500 companies, government entities and higher education institutions learn how to overcome these challenges and transform their organizations, positioning them for future successes. Find out how Battlefield Leadership can help your team by emailing or by calling 864.386.9637. 

Managing remote teams amid a complex, rapidly changing environment.

By Field Experience

As the nation enters the endemic stage of COVID-19, one of the biggest points of contention between workers and leadership teams is the question of permanent work-from-home (WFH). Forbes reported results of a survey that revealed 67 percent of Apple’s employees were unhappy with the company’s new policy requiring a return to the office three days weekly. Fifty-six percent stated they were actively seeking new fully remote jobs at other tech companies. JP Morgan Chase’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, recently bowed to pressure from outraged junior bankers and backtracked on his demand that all employees return to the office, telling shareholders, “It’s clear that working from home will become more permanent in American business.”

The most common complaint from leaders opposed to permanent WFH is that distractions inevitably disrupt the workday: Kids need to be picked up from school, dogs need to be walked, the Amazon delivery just arrived, etc. The best solution is to bring everyone back to the office where home-based distractions are eliminated, and employees can be seen. Some employers, like Goldman Sachs’ CEO, who frequently decries work from home as “an aberration,” are uncompromising in this belief. The reality of the “Great Resignation,” however, means that attracting the best candidates to fill fully onsite roles will remain a challenge. 

If you are wrestling with the challenges of staffing and managing a permanently remote team, you can learn valuable lessons from the way General Dwight Eisenhower and his staff approached preparing for the Normandy invasion wherein the combined Allied naval, land, and air forces would land on the French coast and punch a hole through Hitler’s “Atlantic Wall” to establish a foothold and set the stage for the advance on Germany.

To have any hope of succeeding, the operation code-named “OVERLORD” had to be planned in the utmost secrecy; every possible contingency had to be considered to mitigate the enormous risks. It was a daunting task for Eisenhower, his commanders, and staff who, as recent appointees, were mostly unaccustomed to working together.

Planning began in December 1943. The concept came together quickly. The plan was for three airborne divisions, along with glider troops, to land behind the beaches with naval forces. They were to bombard German defenses to set the conditions for seaborne landings on the beaches dubbed, “Utah,” “Omaha,” “Sword,” “Gold,” and “Juno.” It was a massive undertaking. The naval forces consisted of 5,000 landing and assault craft, 289 escort vessels, and 277 minesweepers participating. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops crossed the English Channel.

While OVERLORD’s scale is staggering, so too were the preparations. Eisenhower made training a priority. In the months leading up to D-Day, airborne troops made multiple jumps over drop zones all over England where the geography was like Normandy’s. Seaborne troops practiced loading and disembarking from landing craft. Glider pilots practiced their landings. Each soldier, sailor, and airman trained on the fundamentals of his job until he could perform them in his sleep. Once the operational plan was approved, Eisenhower cascaded it all the way down the ranks. Models depicting the invasion area were provided for soldiers to study and commit to memory. Commanders briefed the plan to their men and had them repeat it. Everyone understood they would have to work together without the benefit of constant contact. 

Once the invasion was underway, problems ensued. Pilots under heavy German fire dropped the airborne troops over the wrong drop zones. Paratroopers lost equipment as they exited their planes that were flying at the wrong speed and found themselves alone on the ground. Strong tides pushed some landing craft farther down the beaches. Still, the invasion was ultimately a success. The lesson from OVERLORD is that careful planning, robust training, and clear communication of the plan can enable team members to overcome the challenges of operating away from one another amid a complex, rapidly changing environment.

Battlefield Leadership’s Normandy program will take you to the beaches and drop zones of June 6, 1944. Walk in the footsteps of the US Army Rangers who climbed Point du Hoc, stand at Pegasus Bridge, and explore Brécourt Manor where Major Dick Winters and the soldiers of Easy Company,101st Airborne Division immortalized in Band of Brothers assaulted a German artillery battery. On that hallowed ground, you will not only get a sense of what D-Day was like, but also gain an appreciation of the Herculean leadership that underpinned it.

We will see you on the battlefield.

Through our unique programs, leaders from Fortune 500 companies, government entities and higher education institutions learn how to overcome these challenges and transform their organizations, positioning them for future successes. Find out how Battlefield Leadership can help your team by emailing or by calling 864.386.9637. 

The Importance of Giving Your Team a Renewed Sense of Purpose

By Field Experience

As CEOs and CHROs continue to wrestle with how to entice the right candidates to fill an ever-growing list of vacancies amid the Great Resignation, some startling statistics are circulating. According to the ADP Research Institute, a quarter of American workers quit their jobs in 2021. Recent surveys indicate that only 16 percent of employees feel fully engaged at work, and a mere 15 percent feel resilient at work.

These numbers clearly signal that companies must do something beyond offering beefier salary packages and more perks. Workers want to feel that that they are not just doing a job or climbing a career ladder toward a golden retirement. They require a sense of purpose. This isn’t the first time this has happened.

For three days in July 1863, the American people fixed their eyes on the tiny town of Gettysburg, where the Union Army of the Potomac sought to hurl General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army out of Pennsylvania. The scale of the battle was immense. Tales of heroism from places like Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, and Cemetery Ridge would eventually become part of the collective memory of the Civil War, but as the guns fell silent and the smoke cleared, President Lincoln was faced with a growing problem. Although the battle was a Union victory, it did not end the war. Casualty reports and photographs from the battlefields of both Gettysburg and far away Vicksburg, Mississippi, which fell to the Union at the same time, horrified the American people. They had had enough of war. Just days later, the New York City draft riots broke out on July 11, 1863.

Several months later, the Herculean effort to bury the dead at Gettysburg in a new military cemetery was well underway. The cemetery’s planners thought a dedication ceremony was needed to properly commemorate the sacrifice of the fallen. Renowned orator Edward Everett was invited to give the keynote address. At the last moment, one of the committee leaders, David Wills, extended an invitation to President Lincoln to offer “a few appropriate remarks.”

The president was sensitive to the significance of the event and to the fact that Everett’s remarks would likely be lengthy, but he knew he had to use the opportunity to refocus the public on the war’s purpose. As was his custom, Lincoln drafted several versions of his speech, carefully honing the turns of phrase to hit just the right note. Arriving in Gettysburg the day before the ceremony, he asked to be taken to the spot where his friend General Reynolds had been killed in the battle. Lincoln then retired to his room at the Wills’ home and continued his revisions through the night.

Lincoln had been right in anticipating the crowd’s stamina. As Everett concluded his two-hour speech that had included comparisons of the current war to the ancient Battle of Marathon, the people politely applauded but were clearly reaching the end of their patience. Lincoln rose from his seat and began to speak. When he sat back down just two minutes later, the awestruck crowd didn’t even applaud. The speech was so brief, the photographers couldn’t capture a clear image of him delivering it. In 272 words, Lincoln achieved what he set out to do: rally the people to the war’s purpose to give the nation “a new birth of freedom.”

The one thing Lincoln was wrong about was the durability of the speech. He didn’t expect it to be remembered in the long term; he was simply saying what he thought the people needed to hear in that moment. The Gettysburg Address is now commonly lauded as one of the finest speeches ever given in the English language.

If you are striving to infuse a sense of purpose in your team, Battlefield Leadership can help. Our Lincoln Leadership Experience will walk you through the evolution of Lincoln’s extraordinary communications skills throughout his career culminating with the Gettysburg Address. Our Gettysburg Leadership Experience will transport you to the very spot where he spoke those immortal words. Whichever program you choose, you and your team will be transformed.

We will see you on the battlefield.

Through our unique programs, leaders from Fortune 500 companies, government entities and higher education institutions learn how to overcome these challenges and transform their organizations, positioning them for future successes. Find out how Battlefield Leadership can help your team by emailing or by calling 864.386.9637. 

Abraham Lincoln and a Fatigued American People

By Field Experience

When COVID-19 shut down the world, most Americans thought the pandemic stage would last 10-14 days. College administrators extended spring breaks, K-12 teachers pivoted to remote learning, and office workers packed their laptops. Although stores quickly ran out of toilet paper, cleaning products, and snack foods, many were confident this was a strange yet brief disruption to the normal pattern of life. That was two years ago. Now people are heartily sick of hearing anything about COVID-19.

Two presidents have had their agendas hijacked by this ever-mutating virus. Approval ratings of officials from both parties have taken a beating, and public trust has steadily eroded in the face of a weary electorate that just wants life to go back to the way it was. The media likes to portray these as unprecedented times of deep crises; however, this perspective takes a rather short view of history.

In the summer of 1862, President Abraham Lincoln was inundated by complaints from within his administration and the public. Everyone was frustrated by the string of humiliating defeats the Union armies had suffered. In the East, a series of lackluster commanding generals appointed by Lincoln had made swashbuckling promises of easy victories only to be trounced on the battlefields of Virginia by much smaller Confederate armies. The war that was supposed to be over in less than 90 days had dragged into a second year. Confidence in Lincoln’s leadership was flagging, and in the North, there were growing calls for a negotiated peace with the Confederacy.

The pressure on Lincoln was coming from all sides. Abolitionists were relentlessly pushing for total war to end slavery. Copperheads wanted the Confederacy defeated to reunite the nation. Confederates wanted Lincoln to concede their independence. The only thing everyone could agree on is that they were sick of the war.

Lincoln’s dilemmas were how to end the war and what the post-war country would look like. He had determined it would be impossible without ending slavery. In July 1862, he previewed his draft of the Emancipation Proclamation with Secretary of State William H. Seward and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles. The proclamation emancipated slaves in the states that were in rebellion as a wartime measure and established the legal framework for all four million slaves as Union armies advanced deeper into the Confederacy. Recognizing that Lincoln’s critics would interpret the proclamation as the Union’s “last shriek of retreat,” Seward convinced him to hold off issuing it until it could be coupled with a Union victory.

The Union’s Army of the Potomac won a narrow victory at the Battle of Antietam that September. It was a disappointing performance by General George McClellan, but he had managed to push Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia out of Maryland. For Lincoln, this was the moment. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and although it was politically divisive, it was an important step in refocusing a war-weary public. In the face of mounting casualties, people were rapidly losing sight of what the war was about. In the midterm elections that followed, Democrats made some gains in their historic strongholds, but results indicated Northern voters endorsed Lincoln’s policies.

Battlefield Leadership offers two opportunities to explore the political and military events surrounding Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Our Antietam Leadership Experience will take you through the decisions made by McClellan, Lee, and their respective teams at the Battle of Antietam. You’ll walk the Corn Field and Bloody Lane and cross Burnside’s Bridge, gaining insight into Lincoln’s timing. Our Lincoln Leadership Experience will take you through the political philosophy and career of the man who came from the humblest of origins and redefined the office of President of the United States. Each of these programs will change the way you think about leadership through crisis and offer you context you’ve likely never considered.

We’ll see you on the battlefield.

Through our unique programs, leaders from Fortune 500 companies, government entities and higher education institutions learn how to overcome these challenges and transform their organizations, positioning them for future successes. Find out how Battlefield Leadership can help your team by emailing or by calling 864.386.9637. 

Discovering the Value of Teams During the “Great Resignation.”

By Field Experience

In the last post in our blog series on the “Great Resignation,” we looked at how General George Washington retained his demoralized soldiers by snapping his losing streak with an improbable surprise attack on the Hessians in Trenton on Christmas Day, 1776. Washington risked everything to deliver a big win that would re-instill his soldiers’ confidence in both themselves and his leadership. In this post, we will explore how another inspirational leader, Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, dealt with a group of soldiers who attempted their own “great resignation” from the Union Army in 1863.

By May 1863, the Civil War had dragged on for over two years—far longer than anyone expected. War weariness had set in, and for the men of the 2nd Maine Regiment, this was compounded by combat experience gained over the course of multiple battles against determined Confederate armies. Now, two years after marching away from their homes near Bangor, Maine, the survivors of the 2nd Maine believed their enlistments were up; however, there was a problem. While some had joined the regiment by signing two-year contracts, the others, amid a muddle of confusion, had signed three-year contracts and were told they had to remain in the Army. Angry and determined to go home, 40 of the men mutinied.

Four days later, the mutineers were marched into the encampment of the unsuspecting Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s 20th Maine Regiment. The guard handed a shocked Chamberlain orders from General George Meade telling him to either make the men serve, or—if they refused—shoot them. Horrified, Chamberlain decided to take a different approach.

After dismissing the guards, Chamberlain learned the men had been poorly treated and had not been fed in three days. He ordered food for them and asked if they had a spokesman who could explain their story. Listening to the man recount the confusion, broken promises, and frustration that framed their experience in the Army, Chamberlain sympathized.

Having grown up in the same part of Maine as the men, Chamberlain knew these weren’t disobedient criminals but good soldiers who felt they were not valued by the Army. Calling them together, Chamberlain looked them in the eyes and told them he was putting them on duty, but he would treat them with the respect they earned as soldiers. Assuring them of their rights, he pledged to do all he could for their claim. Chamberlain then assigned them to vacancies in his existing companies rather than keeping them together. Separating the group had the twin effect of diffusing their collective anger and making each man feel like a valued member of a new team.

Just a few weeks later at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, Chamberlain and the 20th Maine held Little Round Top against fierce Confederate attacks at a pivotal moment. Nearly all the one-time mutineers fought hard. Some distinguished themselves among the best in the regiment.

Chamberlain’s personal approach resonates through the ages, making him one of the most inspirational and relatable leaders of the Civil War. Join us for our Lessons from the Battle of Gettysburg program, and we will take you to Little Round Top. You will walk in the footsteps of the men of the 20th Maine, see the battlefield as they did, and apply Chamberlain’s timeless leadership lessons to your life.

We will see you on the battlefield.

Through our unique programs, leaders from Fortune 500 companies, government entities and higher education institutions learn how to overcome these challenges and transform their organizations, positioning them for future successes. Find out how Battlefield Leadership can help your team by emailing or by calling 864.386.9637. 

What 1776 can teach us about the Great Resignation.

By Field Experience

The “big quit.” The “Great Resignation.” The “take this job and shove it measure.” Americans are leaving their jobs in droves. More than 20 million people quit in the second half of 2021. To mitigate the effect, hiring managers are using sign-on bonuses, flexible schedules, and a variety of perks to attract candidates. Still, the “help wanted” signs are everywhere.

Why are workers leaving? The data is clear. Exit surveys consistently show that people leave their bosses, not their jobs. Employees want to work for leaders who provide clear direction, recognition, and above all, a reason to stay on the team.

High turnover is one of a leader’s harshest realities. How can you inspire frustrated, overworked employees to stay with you? If you have led an organization hard hit by departures, you know the intense pressure all too well. The work still needs to get done even as your team is dwindling. It feels isolating, particularly during the Covid pandemic; however, you are in good company.

In December 1776, General George Washington, commander in chief of the Continental Army, had racked up a humiliating string of defeats at the hands of the British Army. He lost every battle he fought. He lost New York and New Jersey. He lost the confidence of the Continental Congress and several senior members of his team. Some even said he lost his mind.

Washington and his army had retreated to safety on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River. Each day, he paced up and down the riverbank, debating what he should do. His soldiers’ enlistments were due to expire on December 31. Unless something dramatic were to happen, on January 1, 1777, the Continental Army would cease to exist, and the Revolution would be snuffed out. Washington’s soldiers were tired, sick, dejected, and unpaid. He knew he needed to give them a reason to stay. He also knew he had almost nothing to offer.

Washington was aware that the British and their Hessian troops had settled into winter quarters and were not expecting to fight any battles until spring. His spies informed him that Trenton, New Jersey, was the end of the British line. Trenton held a small contingent of Hessian troops who were isolated from the nearest British post in New Brunswick. The more Washington thought about it, Trenton looked like an opportunity.

Reflecting on his recent losses, Washington realized his strategy had been misguided. To survive, he needed to play to his team’s strengths. His soldiers knew the area, a major advantage over the Hessians marooned in Trenton. The Hessian presence in Trenton was a smaller and much more realistic target than the 25,000-man British army that had thrashed the Continental Army at the Battle of Brooklyn Heights. Washington knew his soldiers lacked the training necessary to fight big battles; they did, however, excel at surprise attacks.

As Christmas neared, Washington hatched a plan. If he could cross the Delaware, lead a surprise attack on Trenton, and defeat the Hessians, he would stand a chance at convincing his soldiers to reenlist. With an achievable goal, he believed he could boost their confidence and regain their trust.

Washington’s choices were stark. If he did nothing, his frustrated soldiers would quit. If the attack failed, the army would be destroyed. The only hope for success rested on risking everything. It was the biggest gamble of his life.

At Battlefield Leadership, our Washington’s Crossing program takes participants through what historians have dubbed the “ten crucial days” that saved the American Revolution. Join us at the McConkey’s Ferry house where Washington met with his staff and walk the battlefield at Princeton as we discuss how Washington averted what was nearly the “great resignation” of 1776. You will learn how he pivoted his strategy, managed executive disagreements, achieved buy-in from his team, mitigated risks, and clearly communicated his “leader’s intent.” This program will teach you to think like Washington, equipping you to meet your company’s challenges head-on.

We will see you on the battlefield.

Through our unique programs, leaders from Fortune 500 companies, government entities and higher education institutions learn how to overcome these challenges and transform their organizations, positioning them for future successes. Find out how Battlefield Leadership can help your team by emailing or by calling 864.386.9637. 

What does a “normal” work environment look like?

By Field Experience

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said, “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” Never has that been truer than during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the virus rampaged across the world, economies shuttered, travel ceased, work was done from home, and “social distancing” became a perennial practice. Now, two years into the pandemic, much of the world is learning to live with COVID, and people are eagerly anticipating the “return to normal.” But what does “normal” mean?

In 2021, many corporate leaders started talking about what “normal” would be for their companies, and three topics emerged across business magazines and professional forums:

  • The “Great Resignation”
  • COVID Fatigue
  • WFH (work from home) forever?

It’s no wonder that demand for professional development coaching soared over the past two years. In 2019, the International Coaching Federation estimated the market size of the coaching industry at $15 billion. In 2022, it’s projected to hit $20 billion.

If you are searching for a professional development solution, the options are bewildering. Cliché exercises, catchy acronyms spelling out formulas for success, seminars, webinars, executive bootcamps, and a dizzying array of books abound. Thousands of coaches and consultants promise game-changing experiences that will drive better results.

The Battlefield Leadership approach is different. We use history’s lessons to prepare today’s leaders for tomorrow’s challenges. Our programs bring corporate leaders together at historic locations to walk in the footsteps of those who came before us. By leveraging the power of place and taking contemporary leaders through the sequence of historic events, what becomes clear is that leadership attributes don’t change; only time and circumstances do.

If you are struggling with employee retention amid the “Great Resignation,” think about General George Washington having to convince every soldier in the Continental Army to reenlist every six weeks following a string of humiliating losses against the British in 1776. Despite the centuries that separate Washington’s day from ours, his challenge is strikingly familiar—retaining talent during the toughest of times.

If “COVID fatigue” has taken a toll on your team, think about President Abraham Lincoln rallying a war-weary people. By the time Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address in November 1863, the Civil War had dragged on for nearly three years. The public had had enough of war and death, and there was no end in sight. Lincoln’s challenge resonates today—motivating exhausted people to achieve important goals.

If your company shed office space in favor of remote work and you fear the “WFH” movement is impacting team synergy, consider General Dwight Eisenhower and the Allied commanders’ preparation for D-Day. They faced the same challenge you’ve been dealing with over the past two years—how to train, equip, and trust team members to execute a plan.

We at Battlefield Leadership use lessons from history because of the power of hindsight. Examining events from decades, or even centuries ago, allows us to evaluate the full effects of leaders’ decisions over the long term. By contrast, the case studies featured in countless management books and business reviews are often isolated snapshots in time, devoid of the context necessary for a comprehensive assessment.

In the 1990s, Enron was lauded as the example of a company that got it right. Once a darling of Wall Street, Enron collapsed almost overnight in a cloud of scandal. Business analysts fawned over Elizabeth Holmes as she built Theranos up to astonishing heights with big promises to revolutionize healthcare. Convicted of fraud, Holmes now faces the prospect of prison.

At Battlefield Leadership, we teach our clients to view current situations through the lens of history-making, character-based leadership. Join us for our weekly blog series showcasing the most powerful leadership themes from our programs, beginning with leaders who inspire. We believe effective leaders should always be learners, and we invite you to embark on a study of the past that can transform your company’s future.

We will see you on the battlefield.

Through our unique programs, leaders from Fortune 500 companies, government entities and higher education institutions learn how to overcome these challenges and transform their organizations, positioning them for future successes. Find out how Battlefield Leadership can help yours by emailing or by calling 864.386.9637. 

A conversation with Battlefield Leadership’s new COO Adrienne Harrison

By Interviews

The beginning of a new year often ushers in renewed focus and strategic change for many organizations. Battlefield Leadership is no different. The company recently hired one its highly lauded senior facilitators, Adrienne Harrison, Ph.D. as its new Chief Operating Officer. Her credentials and achievements are nothing short of remarkable.

For more than twenty years, the West Point graduate and decorated Army veteran has led organizations both in and out of uniform. While in the Army, she served as a multifunctional logistics officer in a variety of leadership positions across three combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She played an integral role in the Army’s change management process, transforming the way logistics and life support operations are conducted on the battlefield. She subsequently served as an assistant professor of American history at West Point. After concluding her Army service, she entered the corporate world and held several executive roles before coming to Battlefield Leadership full time as its COO.

 What are you most looking forward to in your new role?

Working alongside our CEO, Kevin Farrell, helping him set the strategy for the company’s operations and growth, ensuring peak performance, and driving results while fostering a culture of continuous improvement across all facets of the organization.

Now that most industries are coming out of COVID, my goal is to expand our client base and focus on how Battlefield Leadership will continue to grow. While I am transitioning from a senior facilitator to COO, I am excited that I still get to use my diverse career in the military and teaching history at West Point to take on content development for our programs.

What do you have your sights set on?

We are putting COVID in the rear-view mirror and 2022 is our year of emergence from it. We are looking at how we can better position Battlefield Leadership than we were before, how many more programs we will facilitate, keeping an eye on year-over-year growth and setting 5–10-year goals.

A lot of your customers can relate to that.

Everyone did what they had to do to get through year two of the pandemic. We at Battlefield Leadership recognize that many organizations aren’t bringing every employee back to the office like it was pre-Covid; this puts more emphasis on making those times when teams do come together really count. Battlefield Leadership is ideally positioned to help leadership teams make the most of those gatherings.

The proliferation of the remote or hybrid workforce creates new leadership challenges in a more dispersed environment. How do you manage a team and hit productivity goals? Virtual meetings enable us to see each other, but it is still a struggle for some. However, when you reflect on history, most leaders did not see their direct reports every day. The lessons of history underscore the need for solid corporate leadership and leadership training to help organizations be stronger in the end, despite the impacts of distance in a more remote work environment.

How has onboarding new Battlefield Leadership team members changed? What recommendations do you have for other organizations?

My plan is to take a more personal approach. One thing we’ve learned in our work with clients is how important it is to ensure that remote workers truly feel like a part of the team. When employees have left, one of the reasons they give is that they felt cut off from everyone and missed that interaction. You must guard against that, and if not, you are going to lose them.

What remains consistent is making sure to clearly communicate what is expected of them and periodically asking them if I have set them up for success. You must build trust between you and your team to let them do their jobs. History is so useful in this regard because it wasn’t too long ago that you trained people and let them do their jobs without hovering because we did not have the same means of communication as we do today.

Why should organizations look at Battlefield Leadership now?

Every business coming out of the pandemic is facing some sort of new normal, whether that means changes to consumer buying patterns, how people communicate, people’s willingness to travel, or some other factor. Whole new industries have been born from being forced to look at and do things differently because of the constraints the pandemic placed on us all.

The common factor is going into the unknown, in a direction you perhaps didn’t anticipate. Where history gives leaders a good measure of comfort is when you play the tape to the end, you can assess the second and third order consequences on decisions. Leadership lessons don’t change, circumstances do. They realize that they are not alone – they see the same types of challenges, emotions and conflicting arguments have all been played out. Being able to understand that and play in context builds strength.

For those who may be leading in ambiguity and are uncertain of what lies ahead, it is the perfect time to reach out to Battlefield Leadership. We are excited to get back to work to help organizations successfully navigate challenging times ahead.

Through our unique programs, leaders from Fortune 500 companies, government entities and higher education institutions learn how to overcome these challenges and transform their organizations, positioning them for future successes. Find out how Battlefield Leadership can help yours by emailing or by calling 864.386.9637.  

Three ways your leadership team can fail (and what to do about it).

By Field Experience

At Battlefield Leadership, we believe that three core tenets of strong leadership are character, courage and competence. In our executive leadership programs, we use history to help today’s leaders experience the weight, impact and consequences of the decisions historical figures made in shaping our country’s past to help strengthen their leadership skills for their future. The best leaders who fully embrace and master these tenets were, and continue to be, put to the test with the disruptive impact to work and our lives that the pandemic caused.

What leadership challenges do our Battlefield Leadership facilitators consistently see, especially considering unforeseen issues and opportunities brought forth by the pandemic? How can history teach today’s executives leadership lessons to help overcome them?

Here are three:

1. Communication from the Top

When everyone suddenly began working through virtual platforms full time, many organizations struggled to adapt to being scattered and physically detached from their teams and customers. In a virtual or even hybrid setting, it is even more important to ensure that your team maintains focus on their organization’s goals. Having clear communication from the top is imperative for success. Did the leader’s intent and vision cascade throughout the organization or is there confusion? Was the message sent the message that was received?

2. Organizational Culture

Leaders create their organization’s culture which produces behaviors within their teams that create results. When organizations are upended, whether by events out of their control or ones that bubble up internally, the cracks in the armor are amplified. Are leaders living up to the organizational values and are they taking ownership to drive desired behaviors?

3. Leadership and Organizational Agility

The pandemic put a spotlight on leadership deficiencies. Being able to align your team and pivot quickly when opportunities arise is a differentiating factor between those who thrive versus those who just survive or even damage their brand. Just because an opportunity lands on your doorstep doesn’t mean leaders and organizations are able to capitalize on them.

Through our unique programs, leaders from Fortune 500 companies, government entities and higher education institutions learn how to overcome these challenges and transform their organizations, positioning them for future successes. Find out how Battlefield Leadership can help yours by emailing or by calling 864.386.9637.

Sal Sama

“The Gettysburg Leadership Experience provides an environment for business professionals to examine one of the greatest battles of American history through the perspective of its leaders and their subordinates. Clarity of communication, organizational focus, alignment, succession readiness, and many other present day business challenges are discussed through a historical perspective where certain decisions and actions turned the tide of war and history, and which metaphorically apply as factors for success or failure in your business. Participants in the Battlefield Leadership training benefit both personally and professionally from the experience.”

Business Manager | WinField Solutions
Sal Sama

Peter A. Darbee

“My focus over the last thirteen years has been, above all else, on leadership. During these years of inquiry, no one has defined leadership quite as succinctly or effectively as you did at our session; character and competency says it all.”

Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer | PG&E Corporation
Peter A. Darbee

Ken Gills

“Your leadership insights were no less than outstanding. I learned more these past two days of leadership training than in any other course I have ever attended.”

Bayer HealthCare
Ken Gills

Jeff Lane

“We have taken both experienced and potential leaders through the Cowpens Leadership Experience. Feedback from the participants has been overwhelmingly positive. The battlefield provides a natural and engaging platform for leadership development.”

Director of Corporate R&D | Milliken & Company
Jeff Lane, PhD

Carol Candino

“I just wanted to reach out after the Leadership Experience to say thank you for all of your guidance and experience in teaching this life course. I learned much about our history’s leaders and how their decisions and thought processes unfolded, as well as how it related to corporate leaders today. What I found most surprising were the leadership lessons and how they related to me in more ways than I could have expected. I saw qualities in myself that I had forgotten I possessed. I want to thank you for reminding me that they were there. Thank you again for being an inspiring leader to us and for helping us to discover the leader within.”

Bayer Healthcare
Carol Candino

Kevin Wirkus

“As a business leader and veteran, I can think of no better platform to train today’s executives than Battlefield Leadership. Much more than a history lesson, Battlefield Leadership offers profound and detailed insight into the leaders and decisions that shaped the very fabric of America, as well as the application to today’s competitive business environment.”

Vice President | 21st Century Healthcare, Inc.
Kevin C. Wirkus

Patrick F. Bassett

“Experiential education and team-building at its best, the Gettysburg Experience is a transformational undertaking for leaders at any level in any organization, and especially for leadership teams. By walking the historic battles of Gettysburg and deconstructing the decisions made under fire, the relationships between leaders and subordinates, and the examples of inspired vs. confused communication, the Battlefield Leadership facilitators bring historic moments to life and make it extraordinarily relevant to the ‘battles’ modern leaders fight every day.”

President | National Association of Independent Schools
Patrick F. Bassett

Michael Hobbs

“We are determined not to let the lessons we learned at Gettysburg go to waste. So I have dedicated two hours every month for leadership training. I’ve assigned each of my managers a month to run a session. The focus of each session is to make us better leaders individually and as a team by learning from each other.”

Vice President Custom Services & Development | Novation
Michael Hobbs

Robert F. Amen

“The appeal of the Gettysburg Leadership Program is truly universal. Our global senior management team, which comprises more than a dozen nationalities, rated this the best and most relevant leadership course they have experienced.”

CEO, International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. | International Flavors & Fragrances Inc
Robert M. Amen

David Tallman

“Our entire team of senior leaders was impacted by the Battlefield Experience—Leadership Lessons at Gettysburg. The examples used, coupled with the chance to actually walk the fields of engagement and learn how the decisions of a few leaders impacted many, were outstanding. The corollaries to our business leaders’ intentions and ensuring that all our team members understand those, left a lasting mark. The battle at Gettysburg determined the outcome of our nation’s greatest challenge…so too the lessons learned will impact the outcomes of our businesses. Thank you for making this a great investment in our team’s development.”

Senior Vice President and General Manager | Eaton Corporation
David Tallman

Marc A. Chini

“As I look back on the experience personally, there is a unique effect that takes place when you connect such an emotional and historic event with leadership education. It makes the learning come to life in a way that is much different than anything that can take place in a classroom.”

EVP & Chief Human Resource Officer | Synchrony Financial
Marc A. Chini

Kevin D. Wilde

“There is no better feeling for a champion of corporate learning than when a creative leadership development program makes an important difference for the organization AND wins over the skeptics. Battlefield Leadership is such a success story for General Mills. While some leaders were excited to use history and battles as a learning tool, others here weren’t so sure. But history came alive for all members of the team that week and it made a powerful impact on individuals and the working team. Since then numerous teams have sought out the Battlefield experience and we have an ongoing demand for this offering. I can highly recommend this program and also greatly value the partnership with the principal consultants.”

VP, Organization Effectiveness and Chief Learning Officer | General Mills, Inc
Kevin D. Wilde

Justin Greis

“Battlefield Leadership was one of the most profound and meaningful leadership development programs of my professional career. It perfectly blended history with real leadership business leadership challenges to create a powerfully immersive experience that will resonate from the most junior analyst to the executive office. So often we refer to leadership as some unattainable goal; a lofty title reserved for presidents, celebrities and TV personalities. Battlefield Leadership emphasizes the key behaviors and traits of leadership that can make the difference between a successful outcome and a resounding failure. The impressive team of military historians, officers, and leadership experts focuses on real behaviors that can be put into practice immediately and gives you the tools to cut through the fog and ambiguity that hinders many from reaching their full leadership potential. I will carry with me this experience always and I highly recommend the Battlefield Leadership program to anyone looking for a leadership experience that will feed the mind, enrich the soul, and touch the heart.”

Partner, Professor of Information Systems | Kelley School of Business, Indiana University and Ernst & Young Advisory Services
Justin Greis

John T. Dillon

“On behalf of International Paper, please accept my thanks for a great job in taking us through the Gettysburg Experience. Your enthusiasm and deep knowledge about the subject made for a rich experience, and your energy kept everyone going through a very busy day. As leaders, our challenge is to take these new learnings and use them to motivate our people to help us take our company to the next level. Thanks again, and well done!”

Chairman | International Paper
John T. Dillon

August W. Schaefer

“In the past three years I’ve had the opportunity to participate in both the Gettysburg and Normandy: D-Day Leadership Programs, and I could not be more impressed. While history is the backdrop, these are not history programs. Rather, history serves as the chalkboard for lessons in leadership and lessons in teamwork that are readily applicable to the workplace. The instructors don’t take you to the battlefield, they take you back in time and into it. I would strongly recommend these programs, and the instructors, to anyone looking to solidify their team or improve its performance.”

Senior Vice President & Public Safety Officer | Underwriters Laboratories Inc
August W. Schaefer

Steve Snyder

“The program format is very compelling. Our team was engaged at a level that brought energy to the event—I felt it touched each and every one of our senior management in a way that left them more engaged and focused.”

President | 21st Century Healthcare, Inc.
Steve Snyder

Paul Merrild

“It’s impossible to visit the battlefield of Gettysburg without being deeply moved. When I recently spent three days wandering these hallowed grounds, I realized that my industry, health care—and others going through turbulent times—have much to learn from the hard-won lessons of Gettysburg.”

Senior Vice President, Enterprise Solutions | athenahealth, Inc.
Paul Merrild

Kamie Eckert

“This was the second time that our team has partnered with the Battlefield Leadership group for a team engagement trip. After having an amazing experience the first time in Normandy, it was hard to imagine that we would be able to recreate that same type of magic and connection. I am happy to share that while the Malta experience was very different, it certainly built on what we had learned previously and filled the current needs of our team perfectly. Kevin is great at reading the group, using our language to prompt conversation and making the space for the business discussions to take the lead. This has allowed us to grow through the connection and experience of the trip, but it has also to enabled us to have important business discussions leading to decisions that will help us accelerate our strategy. I am a huge fan and believer that the Battlefield Leadership experiences are key to our team’s success!”

President, General Manager USA | Royal Canin
Kamie Eckert

Luis Merizalde

“Your Normandy program was a great experience and the entire team came home energized and eager to apply the focused insights we picked up in Normandy to the business and their own lives. We definitely came back as better leaders! I was impressed with how well the program appealed to and affected all the different nationalities in a team as diverse as mine. I genuinely believe the Normandy Experience has provided important areas for improvement in effectiveness and a strong motivation boost for my team.”

President | General Mills, Australasia
Luis Merizalde

Dr. Steve P Nichols

“The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from all my team members. In short, I can summarize it by saying every one of them stated this is the best leadership experience they have ever participated in…by far. The enthusiasm you portrayed as you led us and the genuine interest you took in the team and each member of it largely accounts for the huge success.”

U.S. Agronomic Manager | Bayer CropScience
Dr. Steve P Nichols