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A Conversation With Antigoni Ladd, co-founder and chief executive officer, Tigrett Corp. – Historic Leadership Training

How did you and your husband come up with the concept for your program, and why did you take that direction? 

I was running a summer school program at the University of Virginia for bank executives, and the people we had as our students came for three summers. I could find any number of finance professors, commercial lenders, investment people, all kinds of really great faculty, (but) couldn’t find anybody to do the human resources, leadership, management, conceptual courses, the soft stuff. I kept finding these guys who were just flaky, the motivational speaker type or the ones who spoke down to the level of kids, and I kept hiring them and firing them.  

One day my husband was looking in the newspaper and he found an article about a college professor in upstate New York teaching leadership using classic literature. He used “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey,” “Death of a Salesman,’ “Moby Dick,” Shakespeare. For example, “King Lear” is really a study in management succession. So I called him up and we ended up putting him on the faculty and the students loved it.  

The class was so successful, my husband and I decided we wanted to do same thing but with historic figures, and do it not as a class, but a seminar to be located at the spot where the historic figure actually lived, so you could absorb the atmosphere. We came up with a Winston Churchill program to be run in London, an Abraham Lincoln program to be run in Gettysburg, and then we wanted to do the Moby Dick program because we could run it at the Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, which is a fabulous location and the last wooden whaling ship is up there. 

Of course, nobody wanted to go to London with a class of 25 people because you can’t take 25 people out of your office and fly them to London for a week, but the Lincoln class caught on and it ended up taking over our lives. We ended up taking so many trips to Gettysburg on our days off from our respective jobs that we ended up moving to Gettysburg and quitting our regular jobs. We thought historic role models are colorful, their lessons are relevant today, if you can draw a line between problem in 1863 and the same problem today then you’ve got people hooked. You show them a role model, a colorful character who has solved the problem and then that leads to opportunities for you to solve your problems.  

What is the most important lesson business leaders should take from the pandemic? 

The whole idea of stretching yourself to do what needs to be done. I started our looking at the pandemic as being terrible until I started to work with a gentleman who’s editing a book on the history of Gettysburg Hospital and found out Gettysburg has a hospital because of the pandemic. There was a military base here during World War I, and the soldiers brought the Spanish Flu here, and one of business people here said, if my family survives I’m going to build a hospital. 

He ended up donating the land and money to build the hospital and the local townspeople came up with money, the auxillary had bake sales and even sewed furnishings, and the local doctors bought a lot of the equipment and this little town of 2500 ended up with a hospital and they did it because of the pandemic. So can you learn something from it that actually stretches you and you come out better for having faced up to it?  

My surprise was in converting our programs to online. I was able to edit (the classes) down and they were just as strong, yes they had to give up the tour of West Point or Eisenhower’s home or visiting a place where Churchill worked, we missed the site visits, but the programs worked anyway. It tells me the historic figures are strong enough in themselves, people can be inspired by a figure that lived over 100 years ago. 

What perspective do you feel you offer your students as a woman in leadership? 

I never thought of myself as a woman leader, I just thought of myself as a leader. I think by being a role model and by being there. Interestingly enough, my husband was the more compassionate, listening, caring person. I’m the pushy one. I would put the programs together and write the marketing material, and he would go out and talk to people and they would love him, and the next thing you know they’re calling up and asking can we do another program? I don’t think the male-female qualities necessarily have to tie to (gender). A man can be kind and a woman can be pushy.  

If you could learn from anyone in history, who would it be? 

I’ve always been very passionate about Aristotle, because I’m Greek and he was. We studied him at the University of Chicago, and he was the ultimate organizer, thoughtful, analytical person, and he had his ideas on leadership. I would love to have spent time just talking to him. Eleanor Roosevelt has grabbed me, too. How she managed to swallow her pride after finding out about her husband’s infidelity and continue working on what she did, to the degree that they built a working relationship. I think he respected her opinions more than just about anybody else. They trusted one another’s judgement so deeply that when things were really tough, they would call on each other. How do you build a relationship like that?  

About Antigoni Ladd 

Antigoni Ladd, 79, co-founded Tigrett Corp. – Historical Leadership Training 22 years ago with her husband, Everett; the company name combines both of theirs. Before that, she was senior vice president of the Consumer Bankers Association, and has more than 25 years of experience in leadership education as a program designer and instructor. 

Ladd earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and has done graduate work at Penn State and Georgetown universities.  

She and her husband, who passed away last year, moved to Gettysburg a few years after establishing their program there and she continues to reside there. 

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