Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Leaders Molded in Battle: Lessons from Gettysburg

Leaders Molded in Battle: Lessons from Gettysburg
by Sean Wilson

This past weekend, students from the MSBA Class of 2015 were given the opportunity to attend a field trip to Gettysburg, PA.  Guided by Col. Doug Doud, professional tour guide and marine, the group enjoyed a full day of history, intense stories of war heroes, and lessons on leadership and strategy.  Col. Doud was a phenomenal guide who was able to build suspense and convey moving accounts of the events that took place over the three-day long fight at Gettysburg.  Further, he related the actions taken by military leaders and their decisions to those that CEOs and business leaders in companies face every day.  

"Given the detailed and in-depth account of the battlefield and a look into the minds of the leaders there, we suspended what we know about the outcome and were able to debate the actions that we felt should have been taken."   

Col. Doud was incredibly knowledgeable and was able to provide enough insight into the atmosphere and various personalities on the battlefield allowing us to make more accurate recommendations concerning what we would have done.  

On many occasions Col. Doud related what happened on the battlefield and took our analysis of the situation and applied it to what we see and will see in businesses in our careers.  One example in particular was the reference to a toxic leader on the battlefield for the Confederates.  He asked us how we handle toxic leaders in business and what the confederate leadership should have done with this toxic leader at such a critical point in the battle. We learned that there are a number of ways to handle toxic leadership and that the solution to every problem won’t always be clear and straightforward.  Col. Doud also challenged us to aspire to be great leaders and to work hard in our careers.  He emphasized the importance of mentorship and always taking opportunities to learn.  Col. Doud elaborated on being able to act, to take risk, even if all the necessary information isn’t readily available.  He contextualized it by quoting Colin Powell who said, “if I wait to have 70% of the information necessary to make a decision, I’ve waited too long.”  Often in our careers we will be faced with decisions that carry significant consequences, if we are hesitant and afraid to take risks we could miss out on an opportunity and hinder our future success.  He concluded with some final words of wisdom, at the place where Abraham Lincoln gave his Gettysburg address, challenging us to not only work hard to be successful, but to aspire to be great leaders and people for those around us.  This experience and his lessons are ones that I will never forget and always look back fondly on, even though my sunburn really hurts…

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