As a CEO, taking time to sharpen the saw is critical. The Aspen Executive Seminar is the best whetstone out there.
Madeleine Albright, Former U.S. Secretary of State
What I found most valuable was rereading texts I’d read in college and grad school, but through a lens of real world experience. The exercise helped me better understand my own government decisions and actions….I recommend the Aspen Seminar to everyone.
Peter Reiling, Vice President, Leadership Programs, Netflix
Leadership would be easy if people were sheep. But they are not. They have values they hold dear, and they won’t follow someone who doesn’t take these values into account. This was important enough in past days when leadership as mostly local and domestic. But in these days of global companies and organizations, it is nothing less than critical.
Capt. (ret.) Mark Gorenflo, USN, SECDEF/Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, Formerly Principal Director, Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy
The Aspen Seminar was a remarkably valuable experience for me as a leader and for my own personal development. It helped me think deeply and critically about timeless issues in a safe yet challenging atmosphere. In the process, I was shown alternate ways to approach issues and, in turn, was able to share the experiences and viewpoints informed by a career of military service. In the process, I made great friends, learned new skills and taught my fellow citizens something about the military professionals which defend their freedom and serve their Nation.
Col. Cornelia Weiss, U.S. Air Force
The ability to have an entire week to think, to ponder about who we are and what forms our thinking and beliefs, is critical for military officers as we daily grapple with our own internal ethos as well as our role in shaping and defining external values and behaviors. The Aspen Executive Seminar provides the opportunity, time, and space to get away from the Mach 10 frenzy of military life to think about and discuss the issues that shape our conduct and the societies we encounter: the Guardians, the Lumpen who vote against their self-interest (Karl Marx), the freedom of mobility constricted by fear (Simone de Beauvoir), etc. Military leaders can benefit, more than many other leaders, from an uninhibited, serious, collegial discussion on the most important problems facing leaders in individuals occupying similar positions of responsibility in other walks of life. They can best do so when the atmosphere is both collegial and confidential, and when discussions concentrate on key ideas in philosophy, history, religion, literature, and politics. The Aspen Seminars offer an ideal model for such an opportunity.
Maj. Gen. (ret.) Robert F. Behler US Army
For me, attending the Aspen Seminar was an eye-opening event that changed my strategic thinking and world values in a very positive way. My strongest endorsement would be that I wish I had an opportunity to attend the Aspen Seminar before I became a commanding general. Although the Harvard Fellowship program was a tremendous year focusing in our national strategic challenges, it left out the underlying premise for our democracy. The Aspen Seminar
filled that void…..Today’s senior officer have spent the last 20-25 years helping to keep America safe and strong. They need to ponder the great books for a short period of time to understand how they got to that position of awesome responsibility. Every senior officer needs to read Billy Budd!
Adm. Harry Harris, USN, Commander, PACOM
Bottom line—an extraordinary experience. I’ve taken a number of seminar-based executive leadership education events across my 37-year career in the US Navy and this seminar trumped all of them.
Michael Dempsey, Former Deputy Director of National Intelligence
The most important elements are the Seminar’s ethical orientation and the opportunity for busy leaders to think more deeply about where the military as an institution, and the officers in particular, fit in our society. The interaction with really bright students from an incredibly diverse background is another obvious selling point.
The Aspen Executive Seminar experience is powerful and hard to articulate fully, but the opportunity to immerse oneself in the readings with the support of moderators/participants allows one to both travel back in time with noted philosophers/writers/activists and to chart what could be a better future for society.
The experience clarified my understanding of my own ambitions, strengths and weaknesses. It reminded me that the exploration and exchange of challenging and novel ideas gives me greater satisfaction than any other pursuit and persuaded me that the next chapter of my career must be grounded in this. It also prodded my ambitions and challenged me to consider pursue a true leadership role instead of the advisory/strategic roles I have always played. The real value will come when I operationalize these insights over the coming weeks and months.
[I will] think more on what I believe is a good society and my active role in creating and shaping that society; the tradeoffs we make every day as leaders--small and large--to be more thoughtful about the impacts; clarified and pushed my values and beliefs; a strong kick to be a better ally and to not accept the Dream and the world the way it is; to deepen my personal and professional commitment to equity.
This was an incredible experience. I didn't have a liberal arts education and this was the first time I'd read many of the authors including Plato, Socrates, Confucious etc... It was a grounding….This helps me understand my world better and gives me an analysis about the world around me. To me, understanding, is a core fundamental of leadership, and I appreciate the opportunity to see the bigger picture.
I feel that this past week has changed my life. I learned that a group of complete strangers has the ability to bond while discussing classic readings, and that we can be civil while having discourse. The perspectives that were shared were moving and have motivated me to be an agent for change.
Aspen has inspired me to take a step back and undertake some serious self reflection before I try to make another career or life move. I have long thought that I was driven by and satisfied with the mission of my organization, and while that has been the case for nearly two decades, I am not sure anymore that what motivates me in life is what I find in the four walls of my office. You must love what you do to really do the best job possible, and I am not clear that I am serving my people, my mission, and my country with the laser focus and clear-sightedness that defined my early career.
I took away a better understanding of leadership, and how our politics has developed. I will try to understand how the great thinkers lead the way for our current world.
Truly superb experience that delivered on everything I hoped. The process and people help to clarify my thinking and kickstart my ambition to do more meaningful and important things in my next chapter. The program's architecture and schedule effectively builds group trust and the opportunity for personal transformation. I understand now why so many people I respect recommended the experience to me so highly
I am pushing myself to be more reflective of the core values that are fueling my decisions, so that I can be more intentional in my decision making, less reactive when my reaction is driven by upon something that I do not hold as core but may have picked up along the way simply for efficiency's sake.
I came away more committed to identifying ways to find common ground in our deeply divided society
I came out of the Seminar feeling hopeful, energized and recommitted to my work with a new understanding and enlightened sense of my values as a leader. This Seminar goes beyond the traditional leadership styles to a deeper understanding of values-based leadership with humanities framework. I got so much out it.
If I think myself a leader, I learned that it is imperative that I learn to be comfortable with being "uncomfortable". I must stretch my mind and my body to expose myself to diversity of thought and people. If I call myself a leader, I cannot rest and I cannot ignore things, issues, problems that make me uncomfortable. To the true leader, being uncomfortable is intuition to lean in further; strive harder to understand and act to help.
It has changed me in ways that I am aware of and in ways yet to be realized. I will continue to learn and grow from this seminar. I think that the wisdom that I've gained is only a fraction of the pearls of wisdom that will come in time.
The differentiating factor in this seminar is the focus on the evolution of thinking, its application in various forms and governments, and what can be gleaned from those learnings for today and the future.