Leadership Sessions

Over the past four years I have created scores of history-themed leadership development sessions. Formal academic training in history teaches practitioners to see connections between sources and put things into context – two skills that I apply to create highly relevant historical illustrations of crucial leadership topics and models. I am always up for a challenge, and enjoy working on new projects. I develop history-based sessions both as stand-alone leadership lessons and as illustrative follow-ups to more traditional leadership and performance improvement trainings offered by others. Following are a few of my signature programs.

Lincoln and the Art of Communication

Why is it that we still remember Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address over 150 years after it was delivered? And not just in the United States, but around the world. What promoted China in 1912 and France in 1946 to literally base their governments on that speech? What are the secrets that have allowed it to become, in the words of Britain’s Lord George Curzon, “Among the glories and treasures of mankind?”

This case study, alternating between the profound and the hilarious, uses the Gettysburg Address to explore how we can adapt our messages to reach individuals with differing communication styles as well as broad audiences incorporating all types. A range of hands-on, practical and fun activities help illustrate the principles covered in ways you will never forget.

This session is customizable from 1-3 hours and is highly portable.

Farmer Washington

In the late 1750s George Washington faced a major problem at his estate, Mt. Vernon. His main cash crop, tobacco, was ruining both his lands and his bank account. We explore the ways Washington collaborated with those around him, implemented innovative approaches to farm and land management, and invested in the future, and ask how we can use those skills to improve our own business acumen as well as lead change and develop strategic plans for our own organizations. Washington’s saga, from tobacco planter to wheat and corn farmer to the largest distiller of whiskey in North America, is both illustrative and entertaining. This session, based at Mt. Vernon, begins in the seminar room before going mobile to visit Washington’s Pioneer Farm site, gristmill, and distillery.

The full session, at Mt. Vernon, requires four hours. This session can also be done as a stand-alone lecture without site-visit component.

George McClellan and Robert E. Lee as CEOs and HR Directors

The Maryland Campaign of 1862, culminating in the Battle of Antietam, offers a fascinating study in contrasting leadership styles. The divergent ways George McClellan and Robert E. Lee managed the campaign and the battle offers powerful lessons in:
– The interplay between vision and missions
– The role of a leader in any organization
– The pitfalls of overreaching as well as under reaching
– Administering work load and assignments
– Maximizing strengths and minimizing weakness

This session is conducted at Antietam National Battlefield and can run for a half or full day.

Constitutional Collaborations

Based on the incredible saga of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, this session explores what it took for thirty-nine men with divergent interests to agree upon a new governing document, and what we can learn from the three who refused to sign. An interactive opening exercise on the actual changes wrought by the Constitution turns our conceptions of the founders upside down and provides a powerful lens on collaborations and negotiations.

Additionally, this session focuses on:
– Recognizing when conditions are conducive to collaboration
– Strategies for giving everyone a stake in an agreement
– Negotiation tactics that will benefit rather than harm future relationships
The saga of George Mason, one of the three dissidents who would not sign, provides a powerful coda by illustrating the importance of participating in the debate even if the ultimate outcome goes against us.

This session can be delivered on site, or combined with a tour of sites such as Gunston Hall (home to George Mason), Mt. Vernon, Independence Hall, or the National Constitution Center. As a stand-alone session it is 1.5 hours. With a historic site visit the session is 3 hours.

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