Joining Forces—Businesses Building Leaders “The West Point Way”

West Point is the nation’s oldest and most respected leadership institution. For more than 200 years, it has been a high-pressure, high-performance, developmental laboratory that produces leaders for the Army and our nation. Its graduates are found at the highest levels in nearly every field: military, business, education, medicine, law, and government. They include: US Presidents, international heads of state, military generals, astronauts, university presidents, engineers, industrialists, financiers, public servants, educators, builders, scholars, artists, authors, and Olympians.

West Point’s model of leader development has evolved over the years but with a constant focus on the central tenets of character, integrity and teamwork. It emphasizes an individual’s total commitment and engagement in and to group and organizational goals. While the stakes of military leadership differ significantly from corporate responsibilities in that lives, not ledgers are involved, the tenets are nonetheless applicable to those operating in business, non-profit and government worlds as well. Who you are is every bit as important as what you can do. And discovering who you are is something that West Point is very good at determining—it’s the root of strong leadership.

What can others learn from the way West Point teaches leadership?

One does not have to graduate from West Point to embrace its ideals or profit from its leadership lessons. West Point’s enduring principles of duty, honor, country, integrity, courage, ethics, compassion, communication, flexibility, agility, and responsibility are within the grasp of most who reach for them. They can be internalized and applied in multiple environments.

Last week, more than 60 Proctor & Gamble executives and business leaders in its Global Marketing and Planning Group met on the banks of the Hudson River in New York to engage with the Thayer Leader Development Group (TLDG) to “build leaders the West Point Way.”

Grounded in History

Founded in 1837, 35 years after West Point, Proctor & Gamble is a leading Fortune 500 American multinational corporation that manufactures a wide range of consumer goods and products that touch more than 4.2 billion people worldwide. Across a spectrum of business metrics, P&G ranks near the top.

• 22 on the Fortune 500 list,
• $79 billion in revenue,
• $12.75 in net income,
• 23 of P&G’s brands have more than a billion dollars in net annual sales, and another 18 have sales between $500 million and $1 billion.
• Diverse workforce—145 nationalities
• 18th on the list of diverse companies
• Constantly ranked as one of the best companies in the world at which to work

Despite nearly ubiquitous leading positions in industry, the Proctor & Gamble team came to West Point to learn and reflect on current leadership styles and behaviors and assess their readiness to operate in a volatile, uncertain, changing and ambiguous world. No institution understands preparing for such an environment better than West Point.

Created in 2010, the Thayer Leader Development Group helps executives build leaders of character grounded in more than 200 years of West Point leadership development and philosophy. TLDG program brings together leading business executives, field practitioners, academic scholars, researchers and educators, time and field tested leader development practices, team building and strengthening development activities, creativity and discipline. No other institution matches West Point in its commitment to organizational and personal integrity, ethics and character development.

Working with client companies, Dr. Karen Kulha, PhD, TLDG’s Director of Education, develops programs to support the organization’s strategic intent and desire to improve or change their corporate culture. Complementing the classroom experience are provocative experiential sessions focusing on effective communication and collaboration. A retired 3- or 4- star general acts as a senior course advisor for each program facilitating curriculum development, discussions and shares their use of principles in military organizations for application in business environments.

Mutually Beneficial

Several studies have determined that 49% of profit variances in corporations are directly attributable to leadership. And leadership is something that if focused on correctly, can be improved with great impact to the bottom line.

Addressing the importance of such a unique program, Bernie Banks, PhD, a TLDG faculty member said,

“Collaboration is never harmful. One cannot be fearful of engaging in dialogue with others. It is not a fixed sum game but one that can open up possibilities that we did not know exist. In a world that is so connected, if we withhold information—that only intensifies the desire to find it. Risk exists. But advantages of collaboration outweigh risks.’

What is leadership?

Leadership is about getting others to do things, getting people to give their best, helping them reach their potential, and motivating them to work toward a common good. It’s about getting repeatable, sustainable results. Leadership is about making decisions, being accountable and taking responsibility. It’s a constant philosophy of seeking improvement and inspiring others.

As the keynote speaker for the Proctor & Gamble program, I had the privilege of sharing leadership experiences and lessons learned from and by West Point’s women graduates.

Making an Impact

All leaders whether public or private business or in government must realize they are stewards and caretakers of the trust that their marketplace, shareholders, consumers and voters have placed in them. Trust and responsibility is a lesson drilled daily into cadets at West Point.

An unparalleled combination of leading-edge scholarship and real-world application, TLDG is uniqued positioned to help corporations, non-profits and government entities build leaders with vision, integrity, and character, the West Point way.

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