Executive Education

True Leadership: Leading With Meaning

Reignite your purpose and inspire others around you. Leadership is about more than managing - and that subtle distinction makes all the difference. If you are already an effective manager, True Leadership: Leading With Meaning will help take your leadership to the next level, as well as encourage leadership in others.

Program Overview

Taught by world-class faculty at U.Va.'s top-ranked business school known globally for its strengths in leadership development and Executive Education, True Leadership: Leading With Meaning helps senior-level leaders articulate and elevate their own personal models of leadership, while creating a positive culture that brings out the best in everyone. Bringing together leaders from both the business and nonprofit worlds, participants study cutting-edge ideas from business practice and current research, and come away equipped with the often subtle tools of highly effective leaders:

  • A strong sense of purpose that goes beyond daily execution
  • The talent to mold a shared vision and motivate all stakeholders
  • Strong communication skills, including the ability to craft powerful narratives

Participants return to their workplaces ready to move from merely managing themselves and others to cultivating a positive environment in which others can become leaders themselves.


"This changed my view of leadership. ... The reading material turned some of my concepts of leadership upside-down."

Randy Kindsfather
Director EO-IR Engineering
Northrop Grumman Corp.

"The program really changed my view of leadership. It gave me an opportunity to reflect upon my purpose, the reason why I began this career. It gave me an opportunity to really think about how my views and my behavior really do impact every single member of the team. … The program gave me a renewed focus."
Camille Coleman
North Area Superintendent
School District of Palm Beach County

"The program was inspirational. It was the opportunity to learn … tried and true principles that inspire great leadership. And now, learning from them, you can take those principles right back to work, with confidence, and know that you can be a great leader to others."
Eric Reed
Vice President of Market Issues & Policy
Verizon Communications

Related Resources


Those wrestling with the challenges of leading more diverse, independent or creative organizations will especially benefit from this program, as will leaders in the business and nonprofit worlds who are already effective managers but want to move from simply controlling daily activities to creating new opportunities. All attendees must be willing to stretch their thinking and shift their actions.

Sample Participant Titles:


Assistant Vice President
Director of Business Development & Sales
Director of Marketing
Executive Director
General Manager

Head of a Major Functional Area
Investment Accounting Director
Partner, Professional Services Firm
Process Technology Manager
Senior Manager, Communications
Technology Director
Vice President


Organizations Recently Represented:


Altria Group Inc.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge
Building Goodness Foundation
Community Investment Collaborative
Dominion Resources Inc.
Genworth Financial Inc.
Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems Inc.
Media General Inc.
Molnlycke Health Care
Molnlycke Health Care
Navy Federal Credit Union
Northrop Grumman Corp.
Raytheon Co.
The School District of Palm Beach County
Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless
U.S. Army
U.S. Navy
Verizon Communications Inc.




R. Edward Freeman - Faculty Leader

University Professor; Elis and Signe Olsson Professor of Business Administration; Academic Director, Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics; Academic Director, Institute for Business in Society
Since he began teaching more than three decades ago, Freeman has received numerous recognitions from institutions all over the world. An expert in stakeholder management, leadership, business ethics, business strategy and corporate responsibility, he has written extensively on these subjects. His books include the award-winning Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach as well as Stakeholder Theory: The State of the Art and Managing for Stakeholders: Survival, Reputation and Success. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Washington University and also teaches religious studies at U.Va. His courses include the popular "Leadership and Theater" class, which he teaches each spring at Darden. He has presented at dozens of conferences around the globe and currently serves on the board of directors for the nonprofit Conscious Capitalism Inc.

Faculty Bio Page

David L. Newkirk

David L. Newkirk

Strategy and Leadership Advisor; Former CEO, Darden Executive Education
With 30 years of business experience spanning several continents, Newkirk currently consults full time for global corporations on issues of strategy and leadership. Before heading Darden's top-ranked Executive Education program for more than six years (until 2012), he led award-winning teams as a senior partner in the London office of Booz & Company, where his roles included director of European operations, Asia chair and head of the firm's worldwide Strategy Practice. He has also held a series of senior management positions at American Express. He earned degrees in mathematics and philosophy from Oxford University, where he was a Marshall Scholar, and Carleton College.

Faculty Bio Page

Bidhan L. Parmar

Assistant Professor in Business Administration
Assistant Professor Bidhan ("Bobby") Parmar teaches First Year Ethics and a Second Year elective on collaboration at the Darden School of Business. Parmar's research interests focus on how managers make decisions and collaborate in uncertain and changing environments to create value for stakeholders. His work helps executive better handle ambiguity in their decision making. His recent research examines the impact of authority on moral decision making in organizations. Parmar’s work has been published in Organization Science and the Journal of Business Ethics.

Parmar is a fellow at the Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics and the Olsson Center for Applied Ethics. Prior to teaching at Darden, Parmar taught at the U.Va. McIntire School of Commerce.

Faculty Bio Page



"Theater is a place where you can really teach people about collaboration, about leading by choice - not leading because of position, because no one has a position here."
-Ed Freeman, co-creator of the "Leadership and Theater" class

Complete faculty information

Key Takeaways

This robust, highly personal leadership course generates impressive results within just a few days. It will reignite your sense of purpose - the "why" of your leadership role - while also delivering practical tools and knowledge that can be put to use immediately.

Participants will learn to:

Create a positive environment/tone.

  • Motivate and inspire people.
  • Encourage responsibility, creativity and collaboration.
  • Emphasize purpose and values as the foundation of good business practice.
  • Balance authority with empowerment.
  • Leverage the difference between managing and leading.

Provide inspiring direction.

  • Craft a shared vision that motivates all your stakeholders.
  • Integrate that vision with new opportunities and innovation.
  • Engage organizational values, history, stakeholders and purpose.
  • Explore and apply emergent leadership strategies.

Set an example through actions.

  • Draft (and adhere to) a personal leadership advancement plan.
  • Understand and cultivate your personal principles.
  • Lead other leaders effectively.


  • Authority and Innovation - Helping People Do the Right Thing
  • Identifying Personal and Organizational Opportunities; Integrating Personal and Organizational Visions
  • Strategy and Leadership: What Are They and Where Do They Come From?
  • Theories Around Emergent Strategy and Leadership
  • Aspirations and Opportunities
  • The Importance of Purpose and Values
  • Ways Leaders Lead Leaders

Week at a Glance

The Leader's Challenges

The week begins with the study of a leader in action, recognizing and addressing organizational and personal challenges, as well as the interactions between them.

Leaders and Managers As a group, participants will address the difference between management and leadership and explore the need to reset both personal leadership and organizational strategies in order to move forward.
Leadership Mapping Participants will tell their stories, speaking to the following: Where am I? What are my core values and aspirations? Where do I want to go? What type of leader do I want to be? What do I think I need to change to get there?
The Organization Concurrently, participants will examine their organizations' values, history, stakeholders and purpose, and how these and external factors can be incorporated into their vision.
Designing Your Leadership Path Participants will engage in exercises on perception, gather information on where they are on the leadership spectrum and identify what gaps and skills need attention.
Understanding Human Beings In the theater, in the classroom and in discussions, the group will explore how a leader can influence groups and individuals to be more motivated, more creative and more responsible.
Learn/Do Discover your purpose. Through an exercise or simulation, participants will gain understanding of the extent to which they are leading vs. managing.


Case studies and research
In Darden's tradition, the faculty and participants will study leaders in varying settings, informed by current research, exploring their challenges and choices, to understand the questions each leader must answer for him or herself.

Tilt 360™ Leadership Predictor and one-on-one executive coaching
The predictor gives participants a clear view of their own leadership models and personal principles. This strengths-based character assessment - in a 360-degree feedback format - measures core character strengths. It helps leaders recognize their influence on the team climate and can predict whether they are creating the conditions for collaboration, values-alignment, innovation and sustainability.

Theater-based experiential learning
The program offers the chance to practice authentic leadership, putting ideas and principles into action. Participants will have the opportunity to develop creative and collaborative skills necessary for true leadership.

Personal plan for leadership advancement
Individual plans will incorporate leadership principles developed over the course of the program and apply them to participants' actions as leaders.


  • Day One kickoff reception and dinner
  • Daily sessions and meals at the Darden School
  • Evenings spent in group discussion and/or individual preparation
  • Final day session and lunch

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  • Course Information

    4-8 May 2015

    Image for EE Register Here
    $7,750 covers materials, meals and accommodations at the Inn at Darden

    Leaders who want to move from simply controlling daily activities to creating new opportunities, especially encouraging independence and creativity within their organization

    Gain one week of credit toward a Certificate of Specialization

    Darden School of Business
    Charlottesville, Virginia

    Additional Information:
    +1-434-924-3000 or contact the program director