Shiloh Leadership Experience

The Battle of Shiloh was the nation’s first bloodletting on a scale that later became representative of major Civil War battles.  More Americans perished in the two-day battle than all our previous wars combined.  Shiloh also was the Confederacy’s first great counteroffensive in the western theater, the first attempt to regain all that was lost in the opening debacles at Forts Henry and Donelson, and the battle also served as the South’s best hope to reverse the tide of battle in the West and save the Southern heartland for the Rebellion.

In a sense, the battle that became Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing to the North) began two months earlier when joint forces under an obscure Union general named U.S. Grant captured Confederate Fort Henry on the Tennessee River (February 6) and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River (February 16), thus opening western Tennessee to Union invasion.  Rivers provided inroads into the heart of the Confederacy and the strategic value of the river network was apparent to both sides at the beginning of the conflict.

Bloody Shiloh, as it became known, happened as the Union Army under General Ulysses Grant was making an overland approach toward the Confederate stronghold and strategic railhead in Corinth, Mississippi.  Reeling from losses in the preceding months, Jefferson Davis had sent General P.G.T. Beauregard west to join Johnston’s forces.  Knowing of Beauregard’s arrival, Johnston planned an attack on the forming Federal forces as they were landing up the Tennessee River from Corinth.  As Confederate patrols increased along the river, Union reports of their number and presence were severely discounted by the commanding Union general on the ground, William T. Sherman and on the early morning of April 6, 1862, due to the initiative of a Federal company commander who spoiled the Rebels’ planned surprise attack, “a battle broke out”.

The story of how Confederate commanders such as Johnston, Beauregard and Bedford Forrest, and Union leaders like Grant, Sherman, Prentiss and Peabody dealt with the rapidly evolving conflict in a highly complex and ambiguous tactical environment and how their ability to either adapt quickly and maintain adequate communications through the fluidity of the moments and movements, or not, shaped the outcome of this costly clash.  Though it was, in many ways, an inconclusive battle, both sides claimed victory on the strategic level; but it very definitively changed the Federal perspective on the way the War needed to be waged in the coming months and years.


  • In this key battle, such leadership lessons as the following are prominent:
  • Adapting quickly and decisively to changes and conditioning organizations to respond with agility
  • Monitoring organizational capability and instilling/sustaining a desired culture of performance and organizational climate
  • Supporting the quality of command decision making with effective communications and intelligence
  • Effectively delegating and empowering subordinates
  • Leveraging available intelligence to gain a competitive advantage
  • Creating and maintaining strong mission focus and awareness of alignment with other parts of the organization
  • Making sound decisions with unclear and incomplete information
  • Forging alignment across internal boundaries and harnessing diverse capabilities in an aligned direction
  • Collaborating effectively and coordinating activity across interdependent units



Through our exploration of the battle, participants of the Shiloh Leadership Experience will take away a number of benefits.  Rich in character-based leadership, this leadership lesson from history provides participants further insights into:

  • The role of the leaders in shaping the future
  • Building and sustaining teams
  • Managing processes
  • Nurturing learning
  • Maintaining order through chaos
  • Effectively communicating and understanding intent, setting clear direction and expectations, and achieving organizational alignment

Additional benefits include:

Greater Team Cohesion -- In addition to gaining these benefits and experiencing new perspectives on leadership, group participants will also derive a greater esprit de corps.  When intact teams participate together and share a common experience, the result is highly impactful and can contribute greatly to achieving organizational alignment.

Tailored Customization -- An important benefit to participants and organizations alike is when we customize the content of a program and/or place emphasis on a leadership aspect that has been deemed critical to the participating organization.  By gathering information from pre-session interviews or teleconferences with program sponsors and/or HR leaders, we can focus in on specific events, characters and dynamics of the battle and its leaders to make the program highly relevant and situational to all participants and the needs of that organization.  Additionally, our battlefield programs can be modified to use and integrate a company’s respective core competencies and leadership models. Further, program agendas can be adjusted to meet specific time constraints and desires of the participant companies.