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Army War College and Deloitte Team Up With Women Leaders

By Rob Starr, Big4.com Content Manager

According to the 2016 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, only 13 percent of companies report they are “excellent” at building global leaders, and only 14 percent describe themselves as “strong” at succession planning throughout the business. For the past 5 years Deloitte’s WIN program has teamed up with the Army War College to advance senior female leaders in a fun and exciting way, that doesn’t follow the status quo. The program includes a “staff ride” to the Gettysburg Battlefield, guided by a military historian from the Army War College – accompanied by other women military officers.  This experience is designed to foster in-depth discussions about strategic decision-making and strategic leadership in high-stakes situations. The C-Suite women in attendance not only learn about their own leadership tendencies, but receive an inside look how women from the military assess the same situation. China Widener, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP , answered some questions for Big4.com

How is Deloitte’s WIN program teaming up with the Army War College to advance senior female leaders?

Deloitte’s Women’s Initiative (WIN) is our long-standing commitment to attract, retain and advance women. This is similar to the mission of the Army War College, which is to teach the art

China Widener

China Widener

and science of strategic leadership to Colonels and/or Lt. Colonels on track for General. Deloitte’s program with the Army War College fosters analysis and in-depth discussions on conducting strategic and tactical assessments, strategic decision-making and strategic leadership in high-stakes situations.

How does the Deloitte/Army War College program work?

The program brings together Deloitte women business leaders with women military leaders for a focused day in the field to review and consider leadership options and opportunities in the setting of a “staff ride” on the Gettysburg Battlefield. During the staff ride, the three-day battle is compressed into eight hours of battlefield time. While on the battlefield, the women are provided with context of the events of the battle, key logistical details and political context. The women are then asked to either assess the decisions made or to suggest decisions that they might make in the same situation.

What are some of the similar issues faced by women in the Army War College and Deloitte?

Deloitte provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax, and advisory services to many of the world’s most admired brands, including 80% of the Fortune 500. Our people work across more than 20 industry sectors to deliver measurable, lasting results and strategic leadership. Whether you’re on the battlefield or in the boardroom or executive offices, the characteristics needed to lead and the processes of decision making are the same: assessment of situation, strategic decision making and leadership communication.  For example, in these situations you have different types of leaders that you may not directly report to, but that you need to keep engaged at a distance. You need to stay consistent in conveying your vision, despite other priorities that may take precedent for those around you. The program focuses on the effectiveness of articulating a vision, gaining consensus, and then empowering the team to execute in every situation.

How is this experience different from other leadership training and development programs?

Deloitte has a strong culture of continuous development at every stage of your career in the organization. A hallmark of Deloitte’s culture is not just skills development, but leadership development and most importantly our culture provides the opportunity to execute on the learnings through roles and responsibilities.

The Army War College provides a different set of experiences and a unique way to approach learning those skills. That approach is intellectual (historical data), emotional (context and human background) and physical (walking the battle field and retracing steps of soldiers).

How was it a game changer for your leadership style and ultimately your career?

During the program, we discussed that General Lee’s progress north was a function of focus and single mindedness. As leaders, it’s important to make sure not only that your vision is understood, but also to recognize and accept that it is your responsibility to be consistent about that vision. Doing so requires a different approach, one that requires you as the leader to offer or redirect others to that vision, not in lieu of other issues or decisions but in addition to so that it is not lost during a time of transition, change or competing priorities.

Also, even though we knew how the battle turned out, there were numerous decisions along the way. There was not just one decision that led to the outcome, but a context for every strategic step.

How will this program be instrumental in the development and training of new female leaders for the next generation?

Apprenticeship is a value that is embedded in the Deloitte culture. As leaders in the organization our learnings are not limited to just ourselves. We are expected to pay it forward, to bring others along through guidance and demonstration. Since joining Deloitte 10 years ago, I can attest to, and have been the beneficiary of our collective approach of “see one, do one, teach one’. Because the Army War College lessons and learnings are provided in a unique way there is a “stickiness” that allows each participant to share the acquired knowledge across to teams and across staff levels.

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