WileySSteven B. Wiley, president of the Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg, brings his innovative brand of leadership development to THE Performance Improvement Conference 2013, April 14-17, in Reno, Nevada. He will be speaking at 8 a.m. in the opening session of THE Performance Improvement Conference on Tuesday, April 16. ABC News said “Steve Wiley is the best speaker you’ve never heard of” and USA Today called his presentation “the most powerful performance training available.” I had a chance to speak with Steven to learn more about his keynote presentation—“Lessons from Gettysburg: The Human Side of High Performance”–as well as his thoughts on leadership and performance improvement.

Could you discuss the importance of developing leadership on performance improvement?

There is a litany of statistics and studies out there linking leadership and performance. 70% – 91% of U.S. employees say they are disengaged or actively disengaged at work. How are they performing if they are actively disengaged at work? Disengagement increases absenteeism by 51%, turnover by 55%, and costs us a trillion dollars a year in lost productivity. And what was the number one reason for being disengaged at work? The quality of leadership. So, is it important that we lead others around us in such a way that they feel engaged? Absolutely. I’m not sure that there’s anything more important. Having disengaged people significantly hurts companies and organizations when it comes to productivity.

What makes your take on leadership development different or unique?

I hope my keynote will be an exciting and entertaining presentation about leadership and doing what is necessary during a very frightening time–specifically, during the battle of Gettysburg in 1863, where, in three days, there were 51,000 casualties and 5,000 dead horses. The leadership that took place in that environment is one of the most profound examples that we could find. Anyone can be a good leader when things are going great, but it’s during challenging times that real leadership skills are needed. This session will be relevant to anyone who has ever had to lead or follow in a rapidly changing, stressful environment, and my hope is that a couple of lightbulbs might go off for them.

What will people take away from your keynote presentation?

Hopefully it will make them think. The strategic purpose of the presentation is not to teach leadership, but to get attendees to think and reflect on leadership. I hope to encourage, facilitate, motivate, and even provoke the audience members to think about leadership and their followership in a more serious, focused way. Why? I do it this way because I believe that thinking about and reflecting upon leadership and your experiences is how people develop leadership skills.

Do you think that this reflection will benefit people who are not currently in a leadership role at work?

Absolutely. The takeaways are relevant not only in the workplace, but in your home, your family, your community, and even your place of worship. We’re all leaders and we all have influence and the opportunity to lead whether we are aware of it or not. Everyone leads in some capacity or some form in their lives, even if it’s leading themselves.

What does it take to be a good leader?

I firmly believe that leaders aren’t born, they’re made, and they’re always self-made. They’re self-made through experience. And they don’t learn from their experiences; they learn from reflecting upon their experiences. I’m not going to teach everyone how to be a good leader, but I will attempt to encourage them to reflect upon their experiences and challenge them to think about how those experiences affect their current leadership style. I will invite the audience to also reflect upon the leadership of other people and form their own ideas about leadership. It’s important that people don’t think that I believe I can teach them leadership; but I can facilitate, motivate, and encourage them to think about their own, personal brand of leadership. And, it is through this reflection that the hard work of developing leadership skills emerges.

Do not miss Steven B. Wiley’s presentation at THE Performance Improvement Conference 2013, April 14-17, in Reno, Nevada. Register for the conference today!