What do we mean by GUTS?

Think of GUTS three ways:

First, GUTS means courage — Intellectual Courage, in particular.

Second, it is a metaphor for your middle management. A company can only sustainably grow at the pace of its middle management. Toddler guts = toddler company.

Third, GUTS is a memory aid for the three things your company needs to get right. Greatness = U (your leadership credibility) + T (teams in a thriving organizational culture) + S (strategy to compete and win).

Find out the 15 Habits of GUTS by clicking the button below

Lead with GUTS

Are you leading with GUTS? Take this FREE self-assessment

Take the GUTS Check

Do you want a Company GUTS Check?

How about 360 GUTS Check for you or one of your leaders?

This powerful diagnostic tool assesses leadership, culture, and strategy. It enables you to isolate your major challenges so you can systematically improve your performance.

We put together the quantitative and qualitative results for you, and highlight the areas of great strength and vulnerability. At only $97 per person (less for nonprofits), this tool can save you substantial time, energy, and money.

Contact us to use these tools. We can also discuss a incorporating your assessment into a high-impact workshop.

Our Passion: The Strategic Leaders Academy helps you build the Intellectual Courage needed to thrive and win in a competitive strategic environment.


What is Intellectual Courage? It is a balance of intellectual qualities: between strength of conviction and open-mindedness, decisiveness and deliberation, audacity and prudence, and the like. This is the foundation of good judgment needed to master a strategic environment. We have to develop and nurture it.


America is facing its greatest crisis in Strategic Leadership since the Great Depression — this is happening in business, non-profit, the government, and military. A strategic environment occurs when leaders with high levels of autonomy encounter competitive interaction. Due to growing interconnectedness and shrinking uncontested space, leaders are encountering strategic environments earlier and more frequently than in the past … and are hitting the wall at higher impact. Conventional leader development models are failing them.

Your Path to Intellectual Courage: 1-day Seminar or Consultation on Intellectual Courage –> Normandy or Abraham Lincoln Strategic Leadership Experience –> Strategic Leaders Guild.

Learn more about Intellectual Courage and practical ways to bring this transformational quality to your business by scheduling a day with Dr. Christopher D. Kolenda.

  • During the initial call, you will have a 30-minute conversation to discuss your key business objectives and challenges and see if a leader development day is right for you and your organization.
  • Dr. Kolenda will deliver his ground-breaking presentation on Intellectual Courage;
  • You will work together throughout the day on highly practical ways to implement the 12 Habits of Intellectual Courage;
  • You will have the opportunity to schedule follow-up advising to help you implement solutions and accountability.

Schedule your FREE 30-minute call with Dr. Kolenda here:

Normandy Strategic Leaders Experience: Our flagship program brings leaders on a world class, life-changing, leader development experience. This full-immersion leadership workshop and battlefield experience offers the opportunity to learn from D-Day commanders and their courageous leaders in the field — what problems did they face, what events or people inspired their courage, what strategies and decisions were critical, and why were they able to change the course of history?  We discuss these issues at key places along the Normandy battlefields, while connecting the past and the present-day challenges business leaders face. We turn these powerfully moving D-Day stories into unforgettable linkages for today’s business leaders as you discover highly practical ways to build teams, develop strategies, make courageous decisions, and conquer your competitors. Good stories entertain us, but great stories change the way we are as leaders.

To see more, go to Strategic Leaders Academy

Strategic Leaders Guild:  Join our transformational, year-long program that brings together a small group of high-performing leaders united in mastering the challenges of leadership at the strategic level. In this life-changing year, Guild participants develop Intellectual Courage through

  • organized study and reflection using selected readings each month — you choose one practical idea to bring to your business;
  • an entire year of mentoring, coaching and discussion to help you implement your ideas;
  • semi-annual workshops on the 12 Habits of Intellectual Courage and Strategy, and;
  • Powerful, semi-annual battlefield leadership experiences at Normandy and Antietam/Gettysburg.

True inspirational leadership comes from the content of your character and the depth of your intellectual courage. 


To see more, go to Strategic Leaders Academy

Which D-Day Leader Are You?

Which D-Day leader are you?

Building a balanced leadership team begins with leader self-awareness. Take the Strategic Leaders Academy 5 question test to find out which D-Day leader you resemble most. We describe your tendencies and strengths, as well as the types of people you need around you to succeed.

The test uses SLA’s in-depth research on leader personalities and on these featured D-Day commanders to help you see yourself.

Take the test: click on the link below

How SLA started.

On a mountainside in Afghanistan after a deadly firefight. Two of my soldiers were killed – to include a brilliant and beloved company commander – and a dozen wounded. That was 2007. Not a day goes by that I do not think of these paratroopers – these heroes – and their families.


I recognized then that all of our assumptions about the area were flat wrong. We needed to unlearn a lot of flawed ideas, diagnose the nature of the situation, and develop a winning strategy. We had 13 months to go.


We engaged everyone in the unit, from junior troopers and leaders to our senior leader team, our Afghan counterparts, local elders, and as much as we could read about that remote area of Afghanistan. We developed a highly unconventional – and controversial approach. One that received a lot of pushback from outside … until they saw it working. Two years later, this approach become expected practice for all units in Afghanistan.


What made this work was the leader development and team building we had done in the two years prior to deployment. This included reading, creating a culture for candid conversations and exchange of ideas, realistic training, tough and imaginative crucibles, and using old battlefields as classrooms to discuss new ideas and current challenges.


These shared experiences created a group of intellectually courageous leaders who could think creatively and systematically – and communicate complex ideas quickly and implicitly. This enabled us to learn and adapt effectively in a dynamic and dangerous environment. That unit became the only one to have motivated a major insurgent group to stop fighting and to eventually join the government. I have now met with my former adversary 10 times. His story is fascinating.


Those outcomes led to my service with three 4-star generals in Afghanistan and being senior adviser to the #3 person in the Pentagon. From those positions, I learned from some extraordinary leaders, who are mentors to this day. I grew to realize in those jobs and during my doctoral research that the U.S. government was great at making plans but inept at strategy and unable to manage powerful bureaucratic silos. American is paying the price in blood and treasure.


Inadequate leadership and poor strategic thinking played key roles in the 2008 financial crisis, which has cost the U.S. roughly $12.8 trillion. Similar problems were resulting in failures in business and non-profits, too. The heart of the problems more often than not was inadequate intellectual courage.


SLA was born to address this problem.