Camp Atterbury experience offers Tobias Fellows a look at military leadership, decision-making

In the military, situations can often be unpredictable. How does a leader help his or her team understand what they’re expected to do in an unpredictable environment? How does he or she train others to be self-reliant and fluid in a dynamic situation?

Answers to these questions and others came into focus for experienced business professionals who participated in military training exercises at Camp Atterbury, an armed forces active-duty and reserve training area near Edinburgh, Indiana. Those professionals are members of an exclusive cohort known as Tobias Fellows, and throughout the year, they dive deep into the practice and theory of leadership.

“The Camp Atterbury training is an example of the unique and experiential opportunities the Tobias Leadership Center provides to selected Fellows," said Julie Manning Magid, professor of business law and executive and academic director of the Tobias Leadership Center, of which the Tobias Fellows is a signature program. "These leadership challenges build the Fellows’ portfolio for future management actions.”

How to Become a Tobias Fellow

Learn more

“For those who aspire to be senior leaders and those who manage a lot of people, this insight into military decision-making showcases fast-paced leadership decisions and offers meaningful perspective on what it means to make life-and-death decisions," said Larry Smith, managing director of the center.

“When I think about successful leaders, I’ve noticed they learn from experiences outside their sectors and find ways to apply them to their fields,” said Tobias Fellow Joe White, who is vice president of school support at The Mind Trust in Indianapolis. “That’s what the diverse experiences through the Tobias Fellows Program have offered. The program has opened my eyes to different ways of problem solving, collaborating, team building, conflict resolution and influencing people.”

“If we study a leader within our own field, we often want to do exactly what he or she does,” said Jim Flynn, associate director of the Tobias Leadership Center and clinical professor of management for the Kelley School of Business at IUPUI. “We should watch someone outside of our industry or type of organization who is successful and figure out what drives that success. Instead of focusing on the little details and situations, we can see how the whole picture goes together and emulate that for ourselves.”

When I think about successful leaders, I’ve noticed they learn from experiences outside their sectors, and they find ways to apply that to their fields.  

Joe White, vice president of school support at The Mind Trust and Tobias Fellow

“At Camp Atterbury specifically, we learned about the military’s systems to develop leaders: to help them grow, to build their capacity and to take next steps professionally within the military,” added White. “It was interesting to think about how the military has sustained itself through a commitment to establishing systems that develop leaders through camaraderie and respect. There were a plethora of transferable ideas and concepts that should be applied to every sector.”

Tobias Fellows work together to get through an obstacle course at Camp Atterbury during their leadership training.

“The military’s decision-making process includes many different people,” said Flynn. “At the top, leaders articulate and define the mission, not the specifics of how it will be carried out. That’s left to those in the field, who make minute-by-minute decisions.

“This is what our leaders can learn—to trust their employees and peers and to give clear direction about the mission. It’s a lot about clear communication from the top.”

The Tobias Fellows Program imparts new skills and core leadership competencies that participants immediately put to work. Each year, 15 to 20 highly talented and experienced leaders are admitted to the program.

“Watch someone outside of your industry who is successful, and figure out what drives that success. Focus on the whole picture instead of the minute details."