The Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg


Humble Beginnings and Perseverance in the Face of Change 

By Jessica L. Knouse

Humility. It’s the first word that comes to mind when speaking to Steve Wiley, global keynote speaker and founder of the Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg. “Please don’t make this story all about me,” he says from across the conference table in a cheery, brightly lit office. Steve leans forward, ready to engage with whatever questions are asked of him. His tall, broad frame relaxes when he learns that this meeting is intended to be a casual conversation to learn more about the Lincoln Leadership Institute and the inspiring story behind its founding.

The Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg creates an immersive, interactive educational experience for leaders of all backgrounds and professions. Typical sessions are based on a three-day leadership curriculum that focuses on the Battle of Gettysburg, tracing the footsteps of America’s military leaders during one of the most influential battles in American history. The institute also provides courses tailored toward an organization’s or an individual’s specific business needs, as well as college credits accredited via Purdue University.

The Lincoln Leadership Institute has hosted a diverse range of participants, including professional football teams, military organizations, government agencies and Fortune 100 companies like Pfizer, FedEx and General Electric. Combined with a meaningful curriculum, the Lincoln Leadership Institute boasts a faculty of highly qualified experts who deliver course content. This includes leadership specialists like Admiral Scott Moore, a retired serviceman with over 30 years of experience in naval special warfare and a former SEAL platoon commander, and Dr. Judy Morley, a historian, speaker, entrepreneur and author with a Ph.D. in the history of the American West and a master’s degree in conscious leadership. 

Prior to founding the Lincoln Leadership Institute, Steve owned several businesses, including Camp Gettysburg (now The Lodges at Gettysburg) and Ameri-Mobile Services, which focused on the restoration of historical buildings, downtown façades and the preservation of original structures in towns around the world. To an average onlooker, Steve’s entrepreneurial endeavors were successful and lucrative. 

However, with a legislative decision to restrict federal tax credit benefits for these type of restoration projects, his business went from the heights of soaring success to a screaming halt. In the face of such a challenge, what to do? 

Perseverance. This word captures the spirit of Steve’s vision for leaders who matriculate from the Lincoln Leadership Institute. What Steve wants participants to gain from his program is simple—and rooted from his own entrepreneurial challenges. “We equip leaders to perform and produce in rapidly changing, stressful environments,” he says. 

The Lincoln Leadership Institute came about from Steve reaching the highest highs and then the lowest lows. “…[I]n one year, we lost $4.5 million, were being sued, experienced an audit, cars were being repossessed and my dad passed away.” Steve pauses thoughtfully. “But we turned that around.” 

He persevered and began to work his way out of financial and entrepreneurial failure to the point where he was approached by a venture capital group to begin facilitating motivational speaking engagements to help other professionals pivot in times of great difficulty. 

Let’s take a moment to consider how often we shame ourselves when we make a mistake or learn that our grand vision did not succeed as planned. It happens to everyone, and Steve understands these life lessons firsthand from his own success and failure. “What we talk about here is applicable not only to someone’s workplace, but to their place of worship and their communities and their families,” says Steve. “And 98% of our program participants strongly agree that our program is life changing.”

Supportive. If you were to ask Admiral Moore the most vital aspect of leadership, he’d tell you that it is to create “buy in” from your team. Not only does Steve have the experience to speak authentically, he also has the genuine ability for earning buy in by engaging others with clear communication and empathy, by fostering trust and demonstrating competence in his role as a keynote speaker and entrepreneur. 

“The thing I enjoy the most about working with Steve is how generous and caring he is,” says Alex Girouard, the Lincoln Leadership Institute’s operations manager. “His personal leadership style is relationship-based and personal. Whether it’s working with clients or leading the company, Steve is focused on the foundational relationship with that person or group, and the time he spends on building those relationships have been immensely helpful when we’re dealing with challenges or obstacles. He knows there’s a job to be done or a task at hand, but he doesn’t lose the personal side of things.”

Instructor Dr. Morley says Steve is incredibly collaborative by engaging his faculty to contribute their own area of expertise to the program curriculum. Thus, the superior quality of course curriculum belongs not just to Steve, but to his team of recognized, award-winning experts. “Being part of the faculty … I have met some of the most incredible people as clients, and I get to work on the battlefield on all of these fantastic, historical locations,” she says. Not only do participants learn about leadership, but they are also immersed in it at a historical, military location—on the Gettysburg battlefield, at the Alamo, at Normandy or Pearl Harbor. 

From Steve’s personal life lessons, the Lincoln Leadership Institute was born, teaching that from failure comes the dawn of a new day, new possibility,
a fertile opportunity to embrace change.

Without any of his own failures and experiences, the Lincoln Leadership Institute may not have existed, its expert instructors wouldn’t be traversing the battlefield—or the world—teaching others how to communicate, listen, persevere and connect those lessons to affect change in their own lives, to learn, grow reflect and, ultimately, transform. 

Experiential Leadership

The Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg is offering open enrollment for its popular three-day development program during these dates:

Sept. 11-13 and Oct. 28-30

Learn more about this and other programs by visiting


About Author

Jessica Knouse

Jessica Knouse is a native to Adams County and grew up at the Round Barn Farm. A problem solver at heart, she is also great at making connections and finding creative solutions to her writing assignments. She lives with her husband in Gettysburg, along with her dog Freddy Mayonnaise. She has three stepdaughters: Kiera, Delanee and Allana.

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