We all have seen the difference between the performance and achievement levels of talented groups with ineffective leaders and that of those with effective leaders. And if that point of reference is valid, the natural abilities we are given to provide leadership are, most often, not enough on their own to make the kind of difference that matters in a time of crisis, or in the most competitive of situations we face. While we do not believe that leadership can be taught as subject matter or technical skills can be taught, we know it can be learned through experience and with a deliberate structure to the process of learning through experience.
Our approach to executive education is focused in the meaning of that word, education. Its Latin root words, ex and duco, literally mean in combination "to draw out of", and our methods are strongly interactive and iterative. We use the past experience of participants as an ancillary source for learning content, drawing out of them what they have already discovered and learned about leading, in addition to using the present experience of the leadership content offered by the events and stories of leaders in battle (or of political figures in times of national crisis or turmoil).
When we are asked the question, "Are leaders born or made?" our answer is "Yes." Our experience has taught us, and our research has borne out, that the best leaders are born with certain innate capabilities and instincts decidedly more pronounced than those of the average person, and that they also are more dedicated to the continuous improvement of those capabilities than leaders who are merely competent. We also believe that the best leaders build their capacity for leading through increasing their awareness, both of self – through explicitly understanding their beliefs and values, and of their surroundings – through taking the time to understand the capabilities and needs of their resources and the limitations of their environment; and, we have invariably seen that the best leaders are those willing to be vulnerable by learning from others or through experimentation and, if necessary, trial and error.
Our instinctive acknowledgement of great leadership is an indication that "we know it when we see it" or when "we experience it", and our understanding of what it takes to be a great leader increases through the volume of our experience of it. Learning through the experience of others, which is an indirect form of experiential learning and which is what we offer through the experience of historic figures in battle and in other situations from history, powers an osmosis-like development process in which the greatness of others as leaders tends to "rub off" on us as students.
We also believe that traditional leadership development courses or programs, offering only case studies, or theory, or even simulation, can only scratch the surface in enhancing the understanding of effective leadership. What they miss is the vital element of visceral engagement, which is only possible when intellectual capacities are galvanized by the power of emotion ... and it is through the raw experience of the drama of battle that emotion is kindled and this learning engagement is made binding.