On the final day of the trip, the students completed a case study focusing on Lincoln’s communication style over the course of the entire war, including the historic Gettysburg Address he delivered four and a half months after the battle.

“Most of us realize that people have different strengths and abilities,” Alge says. “But we also process communication in different ways, making it critical that we understand the preferences of others and adapt our messages, either verbal or written, to reach a broad range of individuals. Lincoln knew that almost intuitively and gave one of the greatest speeches in American history.”


A group of Krannert students follows the path of Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg National Military Park. (Photo by Brad Alge)

The students also examined Lincoln’s personal style using the concept of “Level 5 Leadership” from the book Good to Great by Jim Collins, or what the author calls “the triumph of humility and fierce resolve.”

“Remaining accessible as a leader and using humility as a strength are lessons that hit home with me,” Schanno says. “Making time to visit his cabinet members’ homes and offices, to circulate among his troops, or to have open visits with local citizens were critical to Lincoln remaining in touch with what was going on around him. Those are examples I can follow for the remainder of my Coast Guard career and beyond.”

And you don’t have to be a military officer or historian to appreciate such lessons, says classmate Jenny Goodyear, vice president of operations at Senior Health Insurance Co. of Pennsylvania in Carmel, Ind.

“Although I am not a Civil War buff, it was fascinating to see how the leadership skills applied on the battlefield are also practical in a modern-day business environment,” says Goodyear, a student in Krannert’s Weekend MBA program.

“The faculty did an excellent job connecting these historical experiences to skills that are relevant to all great leaders — courageous communication, building strong relationships, creating common purpose, making good decisions, and demonstrating energy and passion. It provided an opportunity to reflect on my own skills and develop a plan to become a more transformational leader.”

Those are just the type of outcomes that Alge envisioned for the course, which he hopes to offer two or three times a year not only to Krannert students but also to ROTC students and those from other Purdue colleges and partner universities, as well as executives, alumni and military veterans.

“The vision is to use this course as a seed for similar destination-based, experiential learning opportunities, whether they are focused on leadership or other core management skills,” he says. “We don’t always need to bring the student here to Purdue. We can go to where the learning is most effective, where the lessons can’t be replicated in a classroom.”

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