On a surprisingly mild, beautiful August day, the MCA of Maryland and MCA of Metropolitan Washington teams joined forces to explore and learn from the past and embrace the future. The Emerging Leaders, a group of young, rising star professionals in our industry, traveled to Pennsylvania to learn about one of the most important moments in U.S. history- the Battle of Gettysburg- to expand their knowledge of strategy and tactics in order to become more effective leaders.
The group traveled to Gettysburg by bus early on August 23rd and met the instructor for the day, Lt. Colonel Gregory Hillebrand, USAF Retired. Colonel Hillebrand has been a professor at the U.S. Army War College for a dozen years, and currently serves in the college’s Center for Strategic Leadership.
Colonel Hillebrand condensed his War College semester-long Gettysburg course he teaches twice a year to military officers for the Emerging Leaders. Hillebrand’s day-long presentation was compelling, enlightening, informative, and, at times, funny. The colonel challenged the members of the group to set aside their long-held assumptions of the great battle for the day and think critically. And chiefly to apply what they learned that day to their chosen professions.
The Emerging Leaders walked the sacred Battlefield and viewed the conflict from both the junior enlisted soldiers’ perspective as well as the most senior flag officers. They considered the contributions and great maneuver at Cemetery Ridge by the Second Vermont Brigade, who until that time had never seen battle and were primarily garrisoned peacefully in a defensive posture around Washington, D.C. They were challenged to think about how untested people in our own profession can rise to do great things under pressure despite a lack of experience.
They contemplated the contributions of the “Cowards of Harpers Ferry”, the New York Infantry unit that overcame mockery and prejudice to help win the great battle and ultimately achieve redemption. The young leaders in attendance were encouraged to apply this lesson in their work by not allowing prejudice or past failure to define their future.
The group reviewed the importance of effective strategic communication in battle, and how poor communication ultimately contributed to the defeat of General Lee’s Confederate Army. They were admonished to always avoid a similar breakdown in communication in order to have greater success in project management, and more effectively lead their respective organizations.
They studied the corrupt, compromised Major General Sickles and the battlefield flaws and incompetence he exhibited at Gettysburg that nearly cost the Union the battle. Colonel Hillebrand stressed avoiding the use of nepotism or any other unsavory factors in hiring and promoting personnel. And Hillebrand strongly advised the group to always hire and promote the best candidates at every opportunity.
Emerging Leaders lastly reflected on President Lincoln as he held a crumbling nation together, and ultimately not only restored the “Old Republic”, but established a foundation for what would inevitably become an even greater nation. The grit and determination that Lincoln exhibited under daunting conditions is a life lesson that we should all embrace.
As busy professionals it’s never easy to take step away from work for a day given the demands we all have. But based on the feedback provided by attendees, the personal and professional development gained at Gettysburg was significant and will make the Emerging Leaders better strategic thinkers today, and as they assume higher profile leadership positions within their organizations. MCA- Maryland looks forward to offering additional growth and learning opportunities to our Emerging Leaders in the near future. And we encourage our members to embrace these opportunities despite the many obligations you all have in leading your respective organizations.
Executive Vice President