Waterloo Leadership Development Experience Agenda

The Waterloo Experience: Where on a Sunday afternoon an organisation was let down by its decision makers

What can history tell us about leadership? In this Leadership Open Event programme we will discover the leadership behaviours and actions that arguably shaped modern Europe. Drawing on recent research by the Conference Board, we will explore the relevance to the leadership behaviours that are critical to success in organizations operating globally in the 21st Century. As you gain insight into how the critical events and decisions played out we will invite you to reflect on your own business challenges, share perspectives with other executives and come to some conclusions about the leadership behaviours you need to develop and promote in your business.

Day One

08:45 - 09:00 Introductions and Event briefing

09:00 - 09:45 Expectations and key leadership challenges – from participants

09:45 - 10:00 Waterloo - ‘The Leaders - Setting the Strategic Aim’

Sets the context for our discussions over the next two days. Examines the personalities, the politics and the painful evolution of the strategy which brought the French, Allies and Prussian armies to Waterloo in 1815. In particular we introduce s the backgrounds and personalities of Napoleon, Wellington, Ziethen, Blücher and Ney and the pressures which made them act in the way they did.


  • Clarifies expectations for the event and the specific leadership challenges we should attempt to address.
  • Sets the historical context for our experiential learning experience.

10:00 - 11:30 Le Caillou - Napoleon’s Headquarters - The Man, The Icon, The Leader

Studies Napoleon’s leadership style, the alignment of the top team and why a very senior crisis management meeting went horribly wrong.

Napoleon and the decision makers around him. How and why did a very senior management meeting descend into trust damaging frustration when the boss refused to listen?

What led the greatest CEO in history to his infamous bad day at the office? What constituted to his poor leadership performance?


  • Do you have the right people in the right roles?
  • Inclusive leadership – do you have time for it?
  • Agility and adaptability - can your leadership team adapt fast enough to changing circumstances?

11:45 - 12:05 The Panorama - The largest mural in Europe depicting the scenes from that bloody Sunday in June 1815

 Visualise the tactics, weapons, the leaders, the reality of war and correlation to business.


  • Firing up the imagination for the Event
  • Clarity in understanding the historical context. 

12.05 – 12.45 The Lion Mound - Understanding the big picture and Wellington’s strategic plan

Covers the ground of the importance, the military strengths, and the sequence of the battle that brought Europe 40 years of peace and stability


Provides a reference point for our subsequent discussions on:

  • Strategic clarity
  • Creation of a compelling vision
  • Alignment of purpose 

13:00 - 14:00 Lunch 

14:00 - 15:45 Hougoumont Farm – Empowerment

Addresses the importance of integrity, trust and motivating others. Why and how did Wellington place the enormous responsibility on one of his subordinates for defending a farm complex nearer Napoleon’s Line than his own? What happens when a leader empowers with authority? What happens when a leader empowers without providing clarity on the bigger picture?


  • Importance of trust and integrity
  • Building the team at every level in an organisation
  • Delegating decision making to the person on the spot no matter what their status
  • Tactical action and strategic success

16:15 – 17.00 After action Review

What have we learnt so far? Are the leadership characteristics still relevant to-day and in our own businesses? Are there new competencies that to-day’s leaders need to have?


  • Clarity on enduring leadership behaviours
  • Insight into new competencies

17:00 - 17:45 Leadership Behaviours for the 21st Century

High level results from recent research by The Conference Board

19:15 - 19:45 Pre Dinner talk - “Leadership in Action”

Brilliant leadership can be difficult to define but when it happens it shines through and is obvious to all.

19:50 - 22:30 Reception & Dinner

Day Two

08:45 - 10:00 Ziethen’s Crossroads - Ziethen’s Decision

Examines the need for strategic agility and accountability. When the best laid plans go awry, who pulls the irons out of the fire and what is the value of moral courage?


  • Decision making under pressure without the luxury of time
  • Moral Courage - The effects that the qualities of this have on a team and the business outcome
  • Flexibility of approach when the plan starts to unravel
  • Contingency planning helps to reduce the unexpected but not every option can be addressed

10:20 - 11:00 Chateau Frischemont. The ruin with a secret

Looks at the need to learn from past experiences, the value of research and the willingness to learn from others.


  • Knowing the opposition
  • Boxing in the opposition.

11.15 - 12.15 Mercers Ridge - ‘Ney’s Decision’. Leadership from the Front.

Examines the consequences of Ney’s leadership style and decision making on the outcome of the battle.


  • Leadership Styles - strengths and weaknesses
  • Boardroom or shop floor, where should the leader be? How can you use your experience and personality to decisively influence the outcome?
  • Measuring Risk
  • How do you describe success?

12:30 - 13:30 Lunch

13:45 - 14:15 After action review - Leadership Attributes of the Key Players

Looking at the evidence we will attempt to assess the leadership qualities of Wellington, Napoleon, Blucher, Zeithen and Ney.

14:15 - 15:45 After action review – Leadership Challenges to-day

What leadership lessons can we draw from history on a personal basis and for our leadership teams? What practical steps can we take to address the leadership challenges we face to-day?


  • What lasting personal and business lessons can we draw from the Waterloo Leadership Experience?

15:45 – 16:15 Event debrief

Upcoming Waterloo Leadership Development Experience Dates

Spring, 2015 (open enrollment programme)

*Additional dates available for customized team events.

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Waterloo Leadership Development Experience Inquiry

For registration and further information or for customised team events, please contact Jeff Jackson at +1 212 339 0380 or Johan Witters at +(32) (0) 2 679 50 60 or jeffrey.jackson@conferenceboard.org

Inquiry Form

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