Grasping a concept is one thing. Remembering and using it is quite another.
That's part of why historic locations have a starring role in The Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg, which has also offered programs at locations including Pearl Harbor and The Alamo.
"By the time someone has risen to the position of senior or mid-level management, they've been through countless numbers of trainings," says Jared Peatman, LLI's director of curriculum. "After a while, how do you sort them out? It's one more conference room, one more presenter in front of you. The tie-in to the Battle of Gettysburg is part of the draw and one of the major reasons that people will remember the content long after they leave us."
For that reason, Peatman says, LLI tries to create an emotional impact.
"When we talk about Pickett's Charge, we talk about it as a broken negotiation, a mismanaged professional disagreement between Lee and Longstreet," Peatman says. "The participants will never forget walking Pickett's Charge, and because they never forget that, they remember why they were here."
The programs focus on leadership, using a variety of historical case studies but one consistent four-step approach. LLI starts by introducing a concept in the classroom, takes participants out on the historical location to drive the point home, brings them back inside to discuss what they learned and then, most importantly, focuses on how participants can apply the concepts in their own lives.
To help with that latter point, Peatman says, LLI follows up with participants for at least a year.
The lessons themselves vary depending on what emphasis the client requests; so does the program format, which can range from several hours to two weeks. However, Peatman says, a typical program is for attendees from one company or government agency and lasts three days.
Group sizes don't go below about 15 people and occasionally have gotten up to 300 participants. They come from across the nation and, sometimes, the world. LLI's website boasts endorsements from leaders at Pfizer, Black & Decker, ExxonMobil and Novartis.
"It really was an integral part of our coming together as a team and keeping people motivated," says Larry Sabino, Pfizer district business manager in Columbus, Ohio. Pfizer put 105 people through LLI — managers for leadership and the sales team for relationship building — and what most impressed him was how applicable and memorable the concepts were.
The Gettysburg programs are the mainstay of LLI's lineup, Peatman says. The ones in other locales have been developed just in the last several years, largely in recognition of the fact that some clients have been sending groups every year for a decade. As much as they evidently appreciate the program, he says, it can be nice for them to have something new to look forward to.
The programs take place year-round, regardless of the weather, unless it includes lightning. Bad weather can actually make for really good results, Peatman says, because the participants form a group bond in battling the elements.
That LLI's programs are not limited by season is a boon for the area, says Carl Whitehill, spokesman for the Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau.
"Leisure travel tends to be seasonal," Whitehill says. "The fact that these leadership programs bring in professionals year-round, it does help to sustain tourism throughout the slower seasons."
Whitehill says there are three leadership training companies in Adams County, giving Gettysburg a niche in the meetings industry.
"While Gettysburg and Adams County cannot draw large-scale conventions, it has found a way to become attractive to meeting planners, and that's through leadership training. Bringing professionals out of their offices and onto the battlefield or into the town has been tremendously popular and productive for them," Whitehill says. And that affords Gettysburg "a unique opportunity to be a small town, but on the radar of national companies and meeting organizers."
Meet the president
No discussion of The Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg is complete without mention of its president, Steven B. Wiley. An entrepreneur and author, he’s best known as a speaker, and LLI’s website illustrates why.
“ExxonMobile has had 3 worldwide meetings in their history,” it says. “The keynote speakers have been Ronald Reagan, Norman Schwarzkopf and Steven B. Wiley. ... Steven B. Wiley received the highest rating.”