The Hartwick Classic Leadership Seminar

This seminar is animated by the belief that leadership is, at its core, one of the humanities. Based on Clemens’ book, The Classic Touch: Leadership Lessons from Homer to Hemingway, co-authored with Douglas F. Mayer, each seminar focuses on one or more great classics of literary and visual art.

In this unique presentation, delivered in either a one-hour speech or a three-hour interactive session, Clemens tells a story of personal transformation: his discovery that mankind’s greatest works of literature, history, philosophy, biography, art and drama contain a wealth of time-tested leadership principles.

From the classical world, he decodes Plato’s Republic into a set of turnaround recommendations for any organization—ancient or modern—that has lost its competitive edge. He explains how Socratic dialogue—translated by Jack Welch into the modern idiom of spirited listening, cajoling and questioning—transformed GE. He uncovers why it took the Greeks ten years to win the Trojan War: their leaders spent more time competing with each other than they did in fighting the real enemy. “More recently,” observes Clemens, “they’ve faced the same problem of CEO hubris at DaimlerChrysler, Hewlett-Packard, NCR and Walt Disney.” And he brings Sophocles’ tragic Antigone into the modern era when he reveals it to be the all-too-familiar story of a woman who tries unsuccessfully to change a male-dominated organization.

Clemens’ selections from Renaissance and modern works include Shakespeare’s King Lear, which warns of the perils of unwise succession planning. Henry V’s speech before the Battle of Agincourt becomes a model for inspired leadership in any era. Melville’s Moby Dick is a testimony to the importance of stretch goals and quest journeys, as well as a warning about managerial monomania. And Willy Loman, Arthur Miller’s ill fated salesman, provides irrefutable evidence that leaders must take responsibility for their people.

From the visual arts, he discusses The Raft of the Medusa, Géricault’s magisterial portrayal of leadership in crisis, a painting whose rarely noticed message is fundamental to leadership: that whatever enlarges hope also exalts courage. Rodin’s haunting sculpture, The Burghers of Calais, comes alive as he transforms it into the ultimate team, a group of leaders who are willing to sacrifice their well-being for the good of the organization. And his description of Michelangelo’s David celebrates that supreme moment when decision turns to action, when everything is on the line and the fate or fortune of others depend on what we do.

Clemens’ goal is to enable his audiences to realize that the heroes of mankind’s greatest works mirror our own humanity, our strengths and frailties, our ability to lead and to manage. As he puts it, “…as we get to know these unforgettable characters, their struggles, and their victories, we see a bit more deeply into our own lives, both personal and professional”. Lively, rich in anecdotes, and loaded with timely insights, The Hartwick Classic Leadership Seminar weaves a fascinating tale that is entertaining, revealing, and useful.

Audiences learn:
• How to use classic techniques to get people out of their comfort zones

• How to move beyond monologue and use dialogue to fully engage others

• How to replace jargon and “management-speak” with the language of leadership

• How to decide what to do when a member of the organization challenges its rules and policies

• How to replace despair with optimism in times of crisis

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