Thomas Kolditz

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Tom Kolditz is the founding Executive Director of the Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice University. He designed and directed the core Leader Development Program at the Yale School of Management, served as the chairman of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at West Point, and was the founding director of the West Point Leadership Center.


A highly experienced leader, Brigadier General (retired) Kolditz has more than 26 years in P&L level supervisory positions, serving on four continents in his 34 years of military service. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and is a member of the Academy of Management. He serves as a senior advisor to the Future of Executive Development Forum. His most recent book, titled In Extremis Leadership: Leading as if Your Life Depended On It, was based on more than 175 interviews taken on the ground in Iraq during combat operations. He has been named a leadership Thought Leader by the Leader to Leader Institute and as a Top Leader Development Professional by Leadership Excellence. He holds a BA from Vanderbilt University, three master’s degrees, and a Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Missouri. In 2009, he was named to the Council of Senior Advisors, Future of Executive Development Forum.


A skydiving instructor since 1980, General Kolditz served as the senior instructor for the West Point Sport Parachute Team.  He weaves his personal experiences and abilities as a soldier, skydiver, and scholar into the first-hand study, analysis, and practice of leadership in dangerous circumstances—in extremis leadership—and how such leadership can inform the practice of leading in more ordinary settings.


Sample Keynote Programs-


In Extremis Leadership: Leading As If Your Life Depended On It

Operating environments for both government and business are characterized by volatility, complexity, and uncertainty—perfect conditions for crises to emerge. Brigadier Gen. Tom Kolditz, author of In Extremis Leadership: Leading as if Your Life Depended On It, shows how extreme life-and-death situations can offer profound lessons for leaders in any setting. Tom’s research reveals that the leadership skills and principles evident in dangerous settings also apply to leading in business and everyday life, making this program applicable to both personal and professional success.


Failure: Why You Can Survive Big Mistakes

Fear of failure holds companies back. General Kolditz shows anxious employees, particularly young people, that failures, even big ones, do not necessarily end one’s career IF handled properly. He reviews a number of colorful mini-case studies of significant failures, then stuns the audience with the reveal that the failures were all his. He unpacks how fear affects leadership, and discusses how firing vs. retaining personnel really works. His direct professional experience at managing failure, yet becoming highly successful, is both informative and inspirational to all who fear that a single failure is a career-ender.


Measure What Matters: Innovate With OKRs

If you can’t measure it, how do you know it’s working? With four successful start-ups, and as the founding executive director of the Ann & John Doerr Institute for New Leaders, Tom shares specific techniques for sparking innovation, tracking outcomes, and achieving real results. Management by OKRs has been extraordinarily successful in stand-alone start-ups, but it also energizes innovation and initiative in established organizations. Tom can lay out the “how.”


Hope Is Not A Method: 40 Years Of Leadership Takeaways

Too often, leaders hope for success without using specific techniques for leading effectively.  After leading dozens of organizations on 4 continents, and teaching leaders and leadership for 25 years, Tom distills eight proven techniques he uses regularly to get the job done as a leader.  This presentation is extremely pragmatic and will allow for immediate application in peoples’ professional and personal lives.


Leaders Develop Leaders

One of a leader’s most powerful legacies is developing the leaders who follow them. Leadership development programs in business are often focused on talent managers and HR directors. Brigadier Gen. Tom Kolditz illustrates how, in an evidence-based way, each leader can personally and directly develop their people, increasing the performance and retention of employees and building a solid foundation for the future. Tapping leadership development principles used at West Point, the Yale School of Management, and other high-performing organizations, Tom’s presentation creates a clear path and practical framework for leaders to have greater impact and influence over their people while simultaneously helping them achieve their potential.


Leading By Serving: The Principles Of Servant Leadership

While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the top of the pyramid, “servant leadership” is different. The servant-leader shares power puts the needs of others first and helps develop the team to perform as high as possible. In this keynote, Brigadier Gen. Tom Kolditz outlines the most prominent servant-leader approaches and how all leaders can adopt servant-leader behaviors to impact the growth and well-being of other leaders, team members, and the organizations to which they belong.

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