When runners need fuel, they binge on carbs. When cars need fuel, we gas them up. When leaders need fuel, they look to other leaders to help guide them.

Local leaders will have a chance to engage with two professors emeritus from Harvard University and Florida Polytechnic faculty to fuel their brains, engage their creativity and focus on the future in a new weeklong program: Florida Polytechnic Executive Leadership Course.

“The business world is littered with examples of companies, and entire industries, that have been overtaken by more agile entities,” said Dr. Tim Shedd, director of graduate programs at Poly and part of the faculty involved in the course. “But there are also stories of success as century-old stalwarts re-make themselves into new organizations, innovating through an entrepreneurial approach. This conference is about learning to do just this.”

The idea for the course started when Florida Polytechnic President Randy Avent was talking to Dr. Earl Sasser, a friend and professor at Harvard University about the structure of Florida’s 12th state university.

“We were discussing where we were and our mission to help economic development,” Avent said. “(Sasser) pitched this idea of an executive course that would help industry in the area and would have a little bit of a technology bent to it … how you use it, how you use data to make better business decisions.”

Although technology will be included, the course information will be appropriate for any industry, he said.

A look at the agenda shows courses such as Drivers of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Revolution, Leading Change, Service Excellence and Design Thinking.

Sasser enlisted Harvard colleague Dr. Paul Marshall, and they started developing the program and working with the Poly faculty.

Poly’s Shedd said the course is designed to expose leaders to new ideas and new ways of “approaching their business that they just wouldn’t have randomly run into during the busy, intense life of an executive.”

“They will be challenged to walk in the shoes of their clients, to empathize and find new ways to meet their needs,” Shedd said. “They will be exposed to new technologies on the horizon and encouraged to find ways of exploiting them to grow their businesses.

Leadership in the workplace takes adaptability, innovation, and strategic thinking, says a line on the course’s registration page. Avent says it’s a great opportunity for local leaders to refresh their skills, taking time from their hectic daily lives and building relationships that will last.

“You can fly to somewhere and pay lots and lots of money or you can come here,” Avent said, spending a week on the Lakeland campus, including nights in a dorm room. “There are two reasons for this: At night, (participants) will work on problems. That’s when they’ll also have a chance to socialize and network, to build relationships.”

Shedd says learning at any level is critical to future development.

“One of the criteria that we use to measure our success as a university is whether our students graduate with the ability and drive to be lifelong learners,” he said. “No one today will be doing their work in the same way five years from now. Technologies appear and drive change; new markets open domestically and Internationally with new cultures, norms and languages that must be understood; legal systems evolve.

“Being a successful leader almost by definition means being an aggressive learner. Failure to learn will mean career stagnation and lost business opportunities,” he said.

Avent said the university is on its way to hitting the targeted number of participants: 20.

The course is scheduled for August 5th through the 10th.

The deadline to register is July 22, 2018. Registration can be completed here.

Shedd knows what he wants participants to leave with: “A renewed excitement for their business and the opportunities they can unlock with the new knowledge and skills they will have gained.”