Gettysburg PA, July 7, 2010 — Starting in the spring of 2011, the Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg will begin offering clients a leadership development program based in Normandy, France, drawing on the historic World War II invasion.
Considered to be the decisive battle of the war, the Normandy invasion provided a physical and psychological blow to the Germans, one from which they could not recover, according to the U.S. Navy.
“We know that this is a great step toward a continuation of using history as a metaphor to foster leadership,” said Steven B. Wiley, LLI president and founder. “But instead of using the battle of Gettysburg, we’re using World War II and Normandy as the historical backdrop. Regardless of the conflict, there are lessons to be learned to help solve modern business issues from these moving historical stories.”
Wiley and his team have offered leadership development to thousands of executives, including those from Apple, the Ford Motor Company, ExxonMobil, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. USA Today describes Wiley’s leadership development as “the most powerful performance training available,” while ABC News called Wiley “the best speaker you’ve never heard of!”
Last year at the request of Swagelok Company, an LLI client that has European and Asian distributors, LLI began exploring the possibility of developing a program based on the Normandy invasion. Then in late June, Wiley and Angela Sontheimer, LLI’s managing director, traveled to Europe with Swagelok executives and some of their top distributors to learn more about the events that took place in June 1944.
The statistics are sobering: With six continents and more than 100 countries involved, World War II resulted in more than 57 million casualties, more than half of those civilian deaths. While LLI is not focused on teaching history, it does use history as an instructional tool to develop business leaders at all levels. “World War II is very rich in both leadership and followership lessons,” explained Wiley.
During the trip, they visited Arromanches Mulberry Harbour, created after D-Day. “The Germans held all of the ports, so [Winston] Churchill had the idea to construct an artificial, man-made harbor,” explained Sontheimer. “They built all of the pieces in England, floated them across the English Channel, and they created a usable harbor. If they hadn’t done that, they couldn’t have gotten any of the tanks or trucks or anything else in.”
In addition, the group visited Omaha Beach, Utah Beach and Pointe du Hoc, landing areas along the Normandy coast; U.S. Normandy Cemetery and La Cambe German Cemetery; and towns Ste. Mere Eglise and Bayeux.
The team collaborated with some of the same historians and tour guides who worked with Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg on their respective World War II projects, Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan, Wiley said. The tour that the group was given is usually a special tours designated only for veterans, he said.
“It was a very moving, touching experience for me,” said Wiley of the trip, “especially visiting the graveyard where over 9,000 soldiers were buried—most of them 17- and 18-year-old kids.”