Battlefield Leadership Seminar

Leadership Concepts in a Combat Setting
written by Mike Haskew for CityScope magazine

Perhaps more than any other individual, the military commander, in the midst of swirling combat, faces the requirements of strong leadership in an immediate sense. Confronting danger, making critical decisions, and inspiring others to follow may indeed spell the difference between victory and defeat. “The results of effective leadership are compressed in time by the immediacy of war,” related Dr. Mark Mendenhall of the UTC College of Business. “We can see the results more quickly during a battle than we can in the corporate setting most of the time.”

Dr. Mendenhall has worked recently with Steve McCloud of the Overlord School of Leadership in Washington, D.C., to develop a seminar which draws leadership lessons from the Battle of Chickamauga, fought during the Civil War on fields in nearby North Georgia. The Overlord School focuses on linking military history to teaching leadership, and Mendenhall contracts with the school to present the seminar to corporate groups. To date, managers from the General Motors plant in Doraville, Georgia, the Dixie Group, BlueCross BlueShield, Chattanooga Police Department, Shared Health, and Leadership Chattanooga have attended the seminar. Dr. Mendenhall also takes his students from his leadership class to the battlefield as part of his MBA course.

“We go to very specific locations on the battlefield and help people understand what took place there,” Mendenhall said. “For example, in the case of General George Thomas, he was able to calm the men because of the high level of trust they had in him and to motivate the officers to stand at all costs, take courage, and go forward. Not just any officer could have done that. At the battlefield, we discuss why General Thomas was able to do that, and draw leadership lessons from his behavior.”

Jerome Hunter, a manager with General Motors, has drawn powerful conclusions from the seminar experience. “Any participant in the seminar, regardless of their previous historical knowledge or appreciation for Civil War or military history, could easily relate to the universal human struggles played out in that three-day crucible known as the Battle of Chickamauga. The impact of interpersonal dynamics upon the success of an organization cannot be understated. A leader must stay clearly focused on the objective, conveying confidence and vision.”

For more information on the Chickamauga Battlefield leadership seminar, contact Steve McCloud, CEO of Trident Leadership at (423) 364-7367.