Magazine: Summer04:Gettysburg Leadership

Listening to the voices of history: The Gettysburg Leadership Experience

Gettysburg Personal Reflection
By Bashir Georges Bou-Assi
A junior with an international business specialization and a minor in entrepreneurship

The lessons learned during the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War can be applied to entrepreneurship and personal leadership. The historian Colonel Kingseed was very knowledgeable and answered all of our questions. In addition, Kingseed’s educational style was full of passion, similar to an entrepreneur’s passion for business. We learned about the causes of the battle, walked around the battlefield, visited the site of President Lincoln’s speech and connected all of this to our own lives.

How did General Lee persuade an army of men to march across an open mile of rough terrain toward their enemy? We learned that this famous attack, known as Pickett’s Charge, was a catastrophic decision. The Union Army was waiting at the top of a hill for the Confederates to charge, in a position where their success was inevitable. We were able to see General Lee’s exact view of the battlefield. Just as General Lee had been over a century ago, we were deceived. It wasn’t until we began the run ourselves that we saw the hills and fences, and stumbled over the steep terrain.

This was one of the most rewarding hands-on learning experiences that I have ever been a part of. Although General Lee was one of the most successful leaders during the war, we discussed why he had made this huge error in judgment, and how he could have persuaded his army to concede. Was it his health? Or his pride? He had never before lost a battle, but is that an excuse to put these men’s lives in jeopardy? General Lee’s advisers and subordinates had warned him of the severe risk of this attack. However, General Lee continued against better judgment, and as a result more than 7,500 Confederates died during this attack that lasted only a few hours.

At first glance, one might not see the connection between a war and entrepreneurship. But, as Colonel O’Shea said, “Leadership transcends time and situation. Effective leaders in the arena of war are no different from effective leaders in the world of business.”

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