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Wharton Leadership Ventures:  U.S. Marine Corps Program

Learning Leadership and Decision Making Under Uncertainty and Complexity

Next offering of program:  September 15-16, 2005 and April 13-14, 2006

Sponsored by Lehman Brothers in 2001, 2002, and April 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006
Sponsored by General Motors in September 2003, 2004, 2005


Articles on the Program
Photos of the Program
Readings and Websites
Speakers at the Program

Other Wharton Leadership Ventures


Wharton Leadership Ventures provide intense experience in leadership development by focusing on a single arena of decision making and action.  This venture builds upon the programs and facilities of the U.S. Marine Corps for developing leadership at its Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia.  Drawing on its famed Leadership Reaction Course and Combat Course, the two-day program provides an intense, hands-on learning experience that emphasizes fast decision-making, team-based problem solving, and effective strategic thinking. 


On Thursday evening we place participants in individual and team-based leadership scenarios similar to those encountered by officer candidates for the Marine Corps.  Friday is given to solving logistical and strategic problems with guidance and feedback by Marine officers.  Formed into small "fire teams," we face navigation challenges, surmount physical barriers, establish plans of action, and recreate battlefield scenarios.  We conclude the day by extracting the enduring lessons for company leadership, and senior military commanders guide us in a discussion of how they have led their forces and built leadership within the ranks.  

The event is designed on the premise that by experiencing and evaluating the fast-paced and demanding decision making and leadership environment that military commanders face, we can better appreciate what we will need for our own thinking and actions when we are in a leadership position of our own.    


The event is organized by the Wharton Leadership Program, Wharton Veterans Club, and the Wharton Center for Leadership and Change, and in 2003 it is sponsored by Lehman Brothers and General Motors.  It is conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Marine Corps, and all expenses are covered by generous gifts from Lehman Brothers and General Motors. The program is open to Wharton MBA and executive MBA students.  


Prior to the program, participants read Jon R. Katzenbach and Jason A. Santamaria's “Firing Up the Front Line,” Harvard Business Review (May-June, 1999), and at the conclusion of the program all are provided David H. Freedman’s Corps Business: The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marines (Harper Business, 2000). 

The program requires reasonably sound physical condition, but no prior experience in any aspects of the program is necessary.  Information on dress code, clothing, and equipment is available here, and directions for driving to the Marine Corps base at Quantico can be found here.  A presentation on the program can be found here.

The program is orchestrated by Wharton Leadership Venture Fellows (2nd-year MBA students): 

Articles on the Program

Pamela Gould, "Business Students Learn Leadership from Military," Associated Press, April 11, 2004; also published as "Students Hit the Trenches,"  Free-Lance Star, April 4, 2004.

John Carroll, "Command Performance," American Way, February 1, 2004.

Von Thomas Fischermann, "Das harteste 'Jobinterview der Welt,'" Die Zeit (Germany), November 27, 2003 (PDF, 600 Kb). 

Impressions of Quantico, Wharton Journal, October 6, 2003.

Nick Blawat, "Quantico! Heart and Intensity," Wharton Journal, October 6, 2003. 

CNN, program broadcast on September 27-29, 2003. 

Joseph Goldberg, "Marines Inspire Shock, Awe in Wharton MBAs," Wharton Journal, April 14, 2003.

Clay Carol, "Fear, Mud, and No-Net Gymnastics," Wharton Journal, April 14, 2003. 

Kolja Rudzio, "Starmanager adieu: Die Führungskräfte von morgen lernen Demut und Respekt vor den anderen – so jedenfalls die Idee" (in German), Die Zeit, December 23, 2002. 

Paul Sheppard, "Learning the Hard Way," Financial Times, July 1, 2002. 

Daniel Matson, "Marine Corps Drills Wharton Into Shape," Wharton Journal, April 15, 2002. 

Sgt. James Covington, "Suits to Boots," Quantico Sentry, April 21, 2001 (also posted on the U.S. Marine Corps website). 

Eric Dash, "The Few, the Proud, the MBAs," Business Week, April 16, 2001. 

Rob Laymon and Kate Campbell, "Learning to Lead, Marine Style," Wharton Alumni Magazine, Summer, 2001. 

Stephen Lessar and Jason Cummins, "Learning from the U.S. Marine Corps:  Combat and Leadership Courses," Wharton Leadership Digest, May, 2001. 

Richard Mo "Boot Camp for Business Leaders: 
A Group of Wharton MBAs Traveled to a Marine Base for Lessons in Leadership," Daily Pennsylvanian, April 27, 2001.

Jason Santamaria, "Leadership Program Draws Lessons from Marines," The Wharton Journal, March 5, 2001.

Kara Scannell, "Wharton Offers Students a Tough Course in Combat," Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2001.  Also published in Handelsblatt (Germany) as "MBA im Schlamm," June 22, 2001.

David Turrettini, "Quantico Uses Mud to Build Student Leaders," The Wharton Journal, April 23, 2001.

Photos of the Program

April 7-8, 2005:  By Penny Bamber, Mike Useem, and the Marine Corps

April 1-2, 2004:  By Mike Useem

September 25-26, 2003: By Nick Blawat

April, 2003:  By Sean Brecker, Eric Clemons, Frederick J. Helfrich, and Officer Candidates School, U.S. Marine Corps (photo set 1), Officer Candidates School, U.S. Marine Corps (photo set 2)

                             "Preparing leaders to serve... 
in the company of heroes

Marine Corps University, Quantico, Virginia

                       Readings and Websites

Karen Dillon and Joshua Macht, “The Few, The Proud, the CEOs.”

David H. Freedman, "Corps Values," Inc. Magazine, April 1, 1998.  

David H. Freedman, Corps Business: The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marines.  New York: Harper Business, 2000.

Jon. R. Katzenbach, Real Change Leaders: How You Can Create Growth and High Performance at Your Company. New York: Times Books, 1997. 

Jon. R. Katzenbach, Peak Performance: Aligning the Hearts and Minds of Your Employees.  Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2000. 

Jon. R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith, The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization.  Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1992.  

Jon R. Katzenbach and Jason A. Santamaria, “Firing Up the Front Line,” Harvard Business Review, May-June, 1999, pp. 107-115.  

John Grider Miller, The Bridge at Dong Ha. U.S. Naval Institute, 1996 (about Col. John W. Ripley). 

Ed Ruggero, Duty First:  Westpoint and the Making of American Leaders.  New York: HarperCollins, 2001.

Colin Powell, On Leadership (Powerpoint file, 210 Kb).

Jason A. Santamaria, Vincent Martino, and Eric K. Clemons, The Marine Corps Way: Using Maneuver Warfare To Lead A Winning Organization New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.

Robert Sterling, "Meet America's Best Business Schools" (about the U.S. military service academies), The American Enterprise, July-August, 2000.   

Rod Walsh and Dan Carrison, Semper Fi: Business Leadership the Marine Corps Way (New York: Amacom, 1998). 

U.S. Marine Corps, "26 MEU's new commanding officer takes control of his 'business'" (March, 2001).  

U.S. Marine Corps Association, From The Horses Mouth, Selected Thoughts on Small Unit Leadership (about Col. John W. Ripley).  

James Webb, address at the U.S. Naval Academy, September 30, 1987

Articles from Wharton Leadership Digest:

General Peter Pace, leadership presentation at Wharton, by Jason Santamaria (WG ’01)
U.S. Coast Guard
U.S. Military Academy, by Dano M. Jukanovich (WG ’01)
U.S. Naval Academy, by Harry Hirschman, Loree Hirschman, & Jason Santamaria (WG ’01)


Marine Corps University
Marine Leadership Development
U.S. Marine Corps Base at Quantico, Virginia
U.S. Marine Corps Reading Program
U.S. Marine Corps sites

Speakers at the Program

September 26, 2003

Robert Lutz, Vice Chairman of the General Motors Product Development and Chairman of GM North America. Lutz joined GM in September 2001 after an already distinguished career in the automotive industry. From 1986-1998, he worked at Chrysler Corporation, reaching the position of vice chairman. His time with the company is chronicled in his 1998 book, Guts: The Seven Laws of Business That Made Chrysler the World’s Hottest Car Company. In addition, he worked at Ford Motor Company for a substantial period, where he served as Chairman of Ford Europe, Executive Vice President of Ford’s International Operations, and finished as Executive Vice President of Truck Operations. Prior to joining Ford, Lutz worked at BMW in Munich and at GM in Europe.  Lutz also served as chairman and CEO of Exide Technologies until September 2001. He continues to serve as a member of Exide’s board of directors. 

Robert Lutz has a long-standing relationship with the United States Marine Corps. He served as a jet-attack aviator in the USMC from 1954 to 1965 and attained the rank of captain. He continues to take a keen interest in military jet flying. He is currently a member of the board of trustees of the United States Marine Corps University Foundation and the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, Texas. 

Lutz received both his Bachelor of Science Degree in Production Management and his Master’s in Business Administration from the University of California, Berkley.

April 4, 2003

Major General USMC Reserve Leo V. Williams III, Deputy Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command.  He serves as the Marine Corps Principal Representative to the Joint Requirements Board, which supports the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in carrying out his responsibilities. 

Major General Williams received a Bachelor of Science degree from the U. S. Naval Academy in 1970 and later earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Southern Illinois University in 1978.  He serves as Chairman of the Board, Marine Corps Reserve Officers' Association.  He also is a member of the Board of Directors, U.S. Naval Academy Foundation and Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. 

The Secretary of Defense appointed Major General Williams in September, 2000, as a member of the Reserve Forces Policy Board.  In civilian life, General Williams is the Brand Manager for the Ford Expedition sport utility vehicle, Ford Motor Company.

 2002 and 2001

Jon R. KatzenbachImage of Director, Marine Corps History and Museums Division, Colonial John W. Ripley, USMC (Retired).




Speakers at the 2001 program included  General Thomas V. Draude (click for article), Jon R. Katzenbach (see his books below), Colonel John W. Ripley, and General Clifford L. Stanley; the speaker at the 2002 program was General Clifford L. Stanley.  

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