Keynote Speaker Thomas A. Kolditz Exclusive

Thomas A. Kolditz

Leadership Keynote Speaker, retired Brigadier General, Author, and Executive Director of the Doerr Institute for New Leaders

  • Speaker's U.S. Fee Range
    $10,001 - $20,000 i
  • Languages Spoken
  • Travels From
    Texas, USA

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About Speaker Thomas Kolditz:

Thomas Kolditz is a leadership speaker and expert, retired Brigadier General, author, and the Executive Director of the Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice University. Kolditz has served 34 years in the military and is the author of In Extremis Leadership: Leading as if Your Life Depended on It, which was based on more than 175 interviews taken on the ground in Iraq during combat operations.

Tom has been named a top leadership Thought Leader by the Leader to Leader Institute, and has appeared as an expert on more than a dozen national and international news agencies, including ABC World News, 20-20, Al Jazeera, MSNBC, CBS, Calgary Today, and Morning Ireland.

Why Thomas Kolditz?

Brigadier Gen. Tom Kolditz shows how extreme life-and-death situations can offer profound lessons for leaders in any setting. Gen. Kolditz’s research reveals that the leadership skills and principles evident in dangerous settings also apply to leading in business and everyday life, making this program applicable to both personal and professional success.

Full Keynote Speaker Bio:

Tom Kolditz is the founding Executive Director of the Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice University. He designed and directed the core Leader Development Program at the Yale School of Management, served as the chairman of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at West Point, and was the founding director of the West Point Leadership Center. A highly experienced leader, Brigadier General (retired) Kolditz has more than 26 years in P&L level supervisory positions, serving on four continents in his 34 years of military service. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and is a member of the Academy of Management. He serves as a senior advisor to the Future of Executive Development Forum. His most recent book, titled In Extremis Leadership: Leading as if Your Life Depended on It, was based on more than 175 interviews taken on the ground in Iraq during combat operations. He has been named as a leadership Thought Leader by the Leader to Leader Institute and as a Top Leader Development Professional by Leadership Excellence. He holds a BA from Vanderbilt University, three master’s degrees, and a Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Missouri. In 2009, he was named to the Council of Senior Advisors, Future of Executive Development Forum.

A skydiving instructor since 1980, General Kolditz served as the senior instructor for the West Point Sport Parachute Team.  He weaves his personal experiences and abilities as a soldier, skydiver, and scholar into the first-hand study, analysis, and practice of leadership in dangerous circumstances—in extremis leadership—and how such leadership can inform the practice of leading in more ordinary settings.

More About Speaker, Thomas Kolditz…

General Kolditz has presented leadership content to more than 150 governmental, corporate, and social sector audiences worldwide. As a professor, he has led academic seminars or given lectures to students from: Babson, Wellesley, and Olin Colleges, the University of Missouri, Columbia University, Duke University, Yale University, the Military Psychology Center of the Israel Defense Forces, Peking University, the Beijing International MBA program, Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership, seven national and international service academies and more than ten major metropolitan law enforcement, firefighting, and public service academies and assemblies.

Tom Kolditz has appeared on ABC World News, ABC 20-20, Al Jazeera, MSNBC, CBS, NPR, Calgary TodayMorning Ireland, and conducted interviews with the New York Times, the Associated Press, TimeDiscovery, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Washington PostLa Razon, and more than a dozen national and international news agencies.

General Kolditz holds numerous degrees, including a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology from Vanderbilt University, as well as Masters and Ph.D. degrees in Social Psychology, a Master of Military Arts and Science, and a Masters in Strategic Studies.

Testimonials 9

  • “Thomas was a huge hit – everyone enjoyed his speech and I heard from a few folks that his session was their favorite part of Day 1. His talk was impactful, resonated well with our overall leadership theme, and had the perfect blend of humor. Thanks again for your help! “


  • “General Thomas Kolditz was a 10 out of 10! The responses from our key executives and leaders were extremely positive. Having a third party expert on leadership with a unique perspective not often seen in the business community was refreshing, informative and inspiring! We were extremely satisfied with Thomas and BigSpeak.”

    DDR Corp

  • “General Kolditz is a visionary in the field of leadership training and development.”

    David S. Corderman

    Office of Leadership Development, FBI Academy

  • “In Extremis Leadership is a myth-busting, heart-stopping, mind-blowing account of what it’s really like to lead in life-and-death situations.”

    Jim Kouzes

    Coauthor of The Leadership Challenge and A Leader's Legacy

  • “You were outstanding, really made us think and your presentation sparked much conversation in the remaining time we had together. Thank you again for inspiring us to think more systemically about leadership development and how we might improve.”

    The Conference Board

  • “General Kolditz is an engaging speaker who is able to make real-world connections between extreme military operations and leading in a corporate environment.  His presentation was truly inspirational and insightful. The universal principals of leadership that Gen. Kolditz has researched and presented can certainly be transferred to a global company such as Siemens.”

    James E. Whaley

    SVP, Communications and Marketing Siemens Corporation

  • “At TIME’s recent global sales meeting, General Kolditz delivered an inspiring and invigorating call to action for our sales team.  His presentation, ‘Leading As If Your Life Depended On It,’ offers the ideal rallying cry for our times – when crisis is ubiquitous and when the worse things get, he says, the calmer true leaders become.  The General’s charge to focus outward and to set yourself apart in order to set your influence apart is the perfect message for an international sales organization facing challenge and change at every turn.  Thanks, General, for helping our team to embrace leadership ‘In Extremis.'”

    TIME Worldwide

  • I attended a seminar taught by Tom at Yale that had a stunning effect on my ability to lead my teams while avoiding micromanagement. The concept of Leader’s Intent, while already familiar to me, was something I could never fully operationalize. That is until attending Tom’s seminar. I was amazed at how easily he was able to describe this concept in a way that I understood and now use every day. As a result I am a better leader – both to those I lead and those that lead me.

    Dan Rosanova

    Senior Program Manager at Microsoft

  • Thomas was a huge hit — everyone enjoyed his speech and I heard from a few folks that his session was their favorite part of Day 1. His talk was impactful, resonated well with our overall leadership theme, and had the perfect blend of humor.


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In Extremis Leadership

The contemporary operating environments for both government and business is characterized by volatility, complexity, and uncertainty—perfect conditions for crises to emerge. This session teaches lessons in crisis leadership drawn from crisis leadership professionals—mountain climbing guides, military leaders, firefighters, and others who routinely lead in dangerous and crisis contexts. Participants will learn how leading in crisis contexts is unique compared to leading in more stable times.

West Point Way of Leadership in Business and Government

General Kolditz was the head of West Point’s leadership department from 2000-2012. He will use that experience to describe in detail precisely how West Point develops leaders, and then show conceptually how the same leader development approach can be used in businesses and in government organizations.

Defining Leadership Across Cultures

This session focuses on the nature of leadership, its definition, and how leadership differs between cultures. Participants will engage in an exercise where they reflect on, and create, their personal leadership philosophy.

Developing Talent for High Performance

In this practice-oriented session, participants will learn simple techniques to immediately put to use in leading their organizations. Each of these techniques has been used successfully in both business and government settings. The emphasis is on simplicity and on using techniques that empower others to perform better.

Feedback and Shaping a Learning Culture

Participants will explore techniques for giving and receiving feedback for performance that is honest, yet face saving. Techniques taught will included one on one feedback in private, as well as a process for shaping a business or government agency into a learning organization.


Learning from Assignments

Participants will learn a leader development process that is self-directed. This process is used at the Yale School of Management, and is also in use at Google, West Point, and various government agencies in the US. Participants will leave with the ability to develop their own direct reports using this process.

University Leader Development


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