McDonough School of Business professors Paul Almeida and Brooks Holtom recently taught 60 future leaders about strategic partnership at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum as part of the Presidential Leadership Scholars program, which launched in 2015 to train scholars in leadership skills.
In their lectures, Almeida and Holtom emphasized Bush’s strength in forming and taking advantage of alliances. His first lady, Barbara Bush, also attended the lecture.
Almeida was originally contacted in 2013 with Georgetown professor Michael O’Leary to design the academic curriculumof the Presidential Leadership Scholars program. The three Georgetown professors have recently started teaching scholars in the program on topics of strategic partnership.
According to O’Leary, the goal of the program is to improve the leadership ability of people who are already highly advanced in their careers. O’Leary said the program aims to help successful graduates acquire leadership skills and mostly admits students who are involved in projects or organizations that aim to effect social change. People who have graduated from any school in the country and who have started their careers may apply.
“These are people who are already doing very impressive things but who want to increase their capacity to lead,” O’Leary said.
According to the MSB website, the scholar program focuses on teaching future leaders about vision and communication, decision-making, coalition-building and persuasion and influence. Additionally, the program, which is not affiliated with the university, draws upon the academic resources of the Lyndon B. Johnson, George H.W. Bush, William Clinton and George W. Bush presidential centers.
According to Almeida, his instruction at the program with his fellow Georgetown professors examines professional relationships at a variety of stages and teaches students how to use those relationships to their benefit.
“We looked at strategic partnerships at the political and international level, the organizational level and the individual level,” Almeida said. “The ability to create them and leverage them is one of the most important aspects of leadership.”
The program aims to use the experience of past presidents to better educate the leaders of the future. Almeida cited George H.W. Bush’s unique ability to form bipartisan relationships by creating strong personal connections with his colleagues.
“When the time came, he would leverage them. If you look at his presidency, it is an example of how to put together coalitions, how to create partnerships,” Almeida said. “If you looked at Operation Desert Storm, he put together this vast and diverse coalition of the West, with Arabs, Asians to be able to liberate Kuwait.”
The Presidential Leadership Scholars program aims to promote more cross-partisan dialogue and cooperation between political parties — something that, according to Almeida, is lacking in politics today.
“If we really believe in doing good for the country we should be willing to ally across the ideological spectrum for the common good,” Almeida said. “I think this is what candidates nowadays have to remember. There is no ideologically pure, sustained solution out there.”
Almeida said the skills he gained from teaching at Georgetown have helped immensely with his teaching in the program.
“That is why Georgetown’s role is so magnificent over here. We are using our scholarship and our insights and our teaching ability honed through the undergraduate programs and the master’s programs to bring the best to the very best in government,” Almeida said.
The program incorporates scholars for a wide variety of careers and professions. This year’s 60 scholars come from the military, government, education, health care and other professions both in the public and private sectors.
Citing Georgetown’s extensive history with government and public policy, Almeida said the program is an opportunity for Georgetown to continue to fulfill its historical role.
“We are lodged in the nation’s capital, and we have been around for over 200 years and we were formed to educate the future leaders in a confusing and emerging world,” Almeida said. “We are following that path for which Georgetown was born: educating the leaders of an emerging nation. I think that is wonderful.”
Almeida stressed that the program can create long-lasting relationships with Georgetown and produce leaders who will strive to improve the world.
“This is in fact an example of a strategic partnership, a partnership between Georgetown and the foundations to produce that neither of us could have done together,” Almeida said. “We are not here to educate just the people in the world but the best people for the world.”
Almeida also said he has gained new insight into what it takes to be a world leader from teaching the program, adding that he aimed to incorporate more social activist elements into degree programs.
“You get a much better appreciation for what it takes to be a leader,” Almeida said. “It is affecting our programs and how we think every new degree program we are launching, we are having a social justice angle to it and a social justice, social action project embedded in it.”
Five Georgetown graduates will graduate from the program this year, and O’Leary said he plans to invite some of them back to speak on campus in the future.
“We have been working to bring those people to come and speak on campus and be involved with our students on various ways,” O’Leary said.
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