Facilatating The Adaptive Leader Program at The Army ROTC Leadership Conference at Harvard University


Will Foley and I, had the honor and privilege to facilitate an adaptive leadership workshop a few weeks back at the Army ROTC Leadership Conference. Over 70 Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets from 20 colleges in Massachusetts and New York participated in an ROTC Leadership Conference at Harvard University on 30 and 31 January 2016. The conference brought together US Army War College Fellows and Army Advanced Civil Schooling students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, and Tufts to facilitate small group discussion with the cadets on topics ranging from the Army Profession, Mission Command, and Ethics.


Over the two days Will and I facilitated tactical decision exercises. Day one we had the Cadets separated into small teams, organized either as a defending force (Blue Team) or an attacking OPFOR (Red Team), and conducted hasty mission analysis and course-of-action development as part of the competitive phase of the Adaptive Leader Program exercise.


On day two we conducted a larger scale red team exercise. Red Team Cadets planned as if they were members of a local terrorist cell targeting a local landmark while Blue Team Cadets role played as coalition forces in order to develop response and defense concepts. Cadets brief a scenario based concept of the operation during the Red Team v. Blue Team phase.



The highlight of the conference was the Adaptive Leader Program, facilitated by Fred Leland and Will Foley, which was filled with interactive Tactical Decision Exercises, peer assessments and lively analytic discussions that challenged the cadets to think critically and creatively in order to solve complex and ambiguous problems. Fred and Will kept the students engaged throughout the exercise and forced the cadets to work together in high-pressure situations to develop solutions to problems and make difficult decisions with incomplete and sometimes contradictory information. Thanks to Fred and Will for facilitating an excellent event! ~Peter F. Godfrin Jr. Lieutenant Colonel, US Army

Adaptive Leader Program

The late Col. John Boyd was constantly admonishing leaders in the United States to remember that in the field of human competition the three most important determinants of success are People, Ideas and Things – in that order. Identifying and developing good decision makers is the first obligation of any organization – without those decision makers the best ideas will not emerge and cannot succeed. Organizations are already full of potentially brilliant leaders who just need to be unleashed on the problems and opportunities crisis or conflicts are made of. Teaching Adaptability With Outcomes Based Training & Education (OBTE) OBTE is training from the Neck Up and is part of the adaptive Leader program and imparts the concepts and skill set necessary to become an adaptive organization, capable of handling conventional and unconventional crisis and conflict – balancing the harmonized effort of the traditionally centralized structures of organizations with the individual leadership, initiative and creativity found in learning organizations or bottoms up culture. Empower leaders within your organization to seize opportunities and react to threats as they emerge.

The Adaptive Leader program is an exciting first step on the road to creating a fast moving, adaptive organization with dynamic and courageous leadership. We use proven learning methodologies to ensure participants stay fully engaged and involved throughout the two-day session. Our workshops are filled with interactive Tactical Decision Exercises (TDEs), peer assessment and lively analytical discussions creating a safe yet challenging environment for all participants.

Workshop Outcomes

Organization Leaders
  • Rapid Team Cohesion
  • Increased decision making under pressure
  • Faster decision making execution
  • Improved decision making effectiveness
  • More dynamic and responsive teams
  • Comfortable with ambiguity and pressure
  • Clear missions for teams and leaders
  • A more advanced and ambitious tactical mindset
  • Outcomes based guidance to harmonize activity
  • More responsive to emerging opportunities
  • Increased trust and accountability with teams
  • Greater creativity in decision-making


Course Outline

The course runs non-stop, creating a fluid and engaging learning environment. Participants are always in a situation conducive to the development of personal initiative, team work and adaptability. Everyone takes an active role in the course. This may consist of learning how to evaluate peers during Tactical Decision Exercises, briefing solutions to the class, or assuming a leadership role during one of the many Tactical Decision Exercises.

During our workshop participants:

  • Assume the role of decision-makers in a variety of high-pressure situations;
  • Make difficult decisions with incomplete and sometimes contradictory information available, and observe their peers in similar situations;
  • Gain an understanding of each other’s preferred working styles and the importance of moral courage in good leadership,
  • Quickly develop a sense of trust among their team as they explore complex problems and build dynamic, adaptive teams.

During the workshop we will introduce and practice After Action Reviews (AAR), a tool adapted from the military world and a vital building block for developing adaptive leaders and teams. The trust, respect and understanding developed within the workshop enables students to honestly, effectively and critically evaluate themselves and their peers, critiquing the decisions not the decision-makers. Conducting effective AARs is also a great way of promoting an adaptive culture, helping disseminate knowledge, experience and hard-won lessons throughout the organization and encouraging the faster and more effective decision making and action we aim to deliver our clients.

Our approach to teaching with TDEs utilizes Outcomes Based Training & Education (OBT&E) theory, proven to embed and imprint experiences in adult learners. Participants in our course will learn adaptive leadership concepts in their own words and by relating their personal experiences to the principles taught. Only at the end of each session is the concept they have ‘discovered’ given a name. Learning through TDGs builds strength of character in leaders, teaching them how to think rather than the classical approach using “process” and “task” training methods that attempt to teach leaders “what to think”.

The ROTC Cadre and both Will and I believe we accomplished these outcomes.

Facilitator Bio’s:

FRED T. LELAND, JR. is the Founder and Principal Trainer of LESC: Law Enforcement & Security Consulting (www.lesc.NET). He is the author of “Adaptive Leadership Handbook: Innovative Ways to Teach and Develop Your People, written for police and security professionals, published in January 2014, and is available on Amazon. In addition to his work with LESC, Fred Leland is an active Lieutenant with the Walpole (MA) Police Department. He previously worked as a deputy with the Charlotte County (FL) Sheriff’s Department and before that spent six years with the United States Marines including as a squad leader in Beirut, Lebanon. Leland is an accomplished trainer with more than 28 years’ experience teaching law enforcement, military and security professionals. His programs of instruction include handling dynamic encounters; threat assessment; nonverbal communications; decision making under pressure; evolving threats; violence prevention; firearms; use of force; officer created jeopardy and adaptive leadership. He is also a 2004 graduate of the FBI National Academy Class 216, and a current instructor for the Massachusetts Municipal Police Training Committee. Outcomes based training and education (OBTE) is his approach to creating and nurturing decision makers to observe, orient, decide and act while considering consequences.

William Foley USA (Ret.) is an adaptive leadership applications consultant and lecturer since 2013 with over 15 years’ experience as a US Army Special Forces Supervisor, Instructor and Operator. Will began his military service as an Infantry Paratrooper and Recon Scout with the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg NC. After earning the Green Beret in 2000 he was then assigned to a team in the 10th Special Forces Group stationed at Ft. Carson CO participating in operations throughout Europe, Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East during Operation Joint Guardian in Kosovo, Operation Enduring Freedom, Viking Hammer and Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2005 he was assigned JFK Special Warfare Training Group (A) Ft. Bragg, North Carolina as an Instructor and Cadre Field Team Sergeant where he managed all aspects of Small Unit Tactics training for the Special Forces qualification course and was twice nominated for Instructor of the Year. Upon retirement from active duty, he then positioned with the Dept. of the Army as Supervisor and Program Manager for all of the Special Forces Qualification Course’s combat skills training. There he was instrumental in the development and implementation of outcomes and measures of effectiveness spearheading their Adaptive Leadership program of instruction and also supervised operations in support of the Special Forces Qualification Course’s dynamic Unconventional Warfare field training exercise Robin Sage.


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