Encore: From Combat to Diplomacy to Leadership Innovator
Colonel Christopher D. Kolenda, Ph.D.
“My father, David, and mom, Joanne, had me and three other siblings—Dan, Laura and Mark—and one of the great things all of them taught me was the importance of perseverance and determination, the will to succeed at whatever you put your mind to, and we would always challenge one another to be the best that we could be.”
Christopher D. Kolenda is the founder of the Strategic Leaders Academy, which helps nonprofits and small businesses to grow sustainability by working with them to get the big things right—leadership, culture and strategy. An internationally renowned combat leader, strategist, author, scholar and entrepreneur, Chris spent a career in the military before launching his consulting business. In Afghanistan his unit was the only one to motivate a large insurgent group to stop fighting and eventually join the government. He is the only American to have fought the Taliban as a commander in combat and engage them in high-level diplomacy. With these experiences plus his Ph.D. in strategy, Chris helps organizations that have inspirational missions to grow sustainability.
How Did You Start Using Your Talents?
“I was a skinny and awkward kid, and by the time I got to high school I was bullied relentlessly. West Point was a place where I really felt I thrived and found I was naturally good at a lot of things. Plus, I was exposed to a lot of different opportunities to explore with a positive attitude and a sense of humor—things like boxing and close quarters combat. I decided I was going to do the toughest and most difficult things I could possibly do because I am never going to go through what I had to go through in high school. And that led to Airborne School and Assault Ranger School—some of the toughest schooling and assignments that the Army had.”
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
“Some of the best role models and mentors I had were from the history department at West Point and were either infantry or armor officers. Because of their personal example—the way they taught and led and cared for the students in their classes—they truly inspired me to want to be like them when I became an officer in the Army. I decided that I wanted to come back to West Point and teach one day because I aspired to do the same thing for other cadets that these fine men did for me.”
The Most Powerful Lesson Learned?
“I learned several essential lessons from my parents and siblings: the importance of perseverance and determination along with the will to succeed at whatever you put your mind to. We would always challenge each other to be the best we could be. Another key lesson from a great teacher I had in high school was the value of honoring each person, including myself, and the vital importance of empathy.”
Steps to Success from Colonel Christopher D. Kolenda, Ph.D.
- Use perseverance and determination, along with the will to succeed, to achieve whatever you put your mind to.
- Find a group of people where you can challenge each other to be the best you can be.”
- Honor each person, including yourself.
- Learn to be empathetic; it is vitally important.”
Connecting With Colonel Christopher D. Kolenda, Ph.D.
Book: “Leadership: The Warrior’s Art,” by Christopher D. Kolenda
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