Ethics and Leadership


Attending the National Conference on Ethics in America at West Point gave me the opportunity to interact with individuals from across the United States and discuss tough issues.

The conference was well planned, and we enjoyed listening to a variety of speakers. Both civilians and military students sat at each table. This arrangement allowed for a diverse range of perspectives to fuel meaningful conversations.

Overall, we discussed different ways leaders can promote positive ethical change in organizations, and several ideas stood out to me.

Learning from Others

For one thing, I learned to appreciate other people’s opinions in a new way. I interacted with students from schools in the South, North, and East, and we all had differing opinions on issues of the day.

For instance, each of the students at my table shared different ideas about changing the atmosphere of their organizations. Some students believed that personal character and presence would inspire others to join an ethical organization. Other students believed that leaders should allow their followers to promote the ethical codes of the organizations.

Retired General Odierno shared his approach to ethics in organizations. He claimed that followers emulate their leader’s ethical decisions. Leaders should then allow their followers to make their own decisions. In this way, the followers learn and grow along with the organization.

Another great speaker for the week, Mr. Rajiv Vinnakota, also added valuable insight into the importance of valuing others’ opinions. Mr. Vinnakota, a successful businessman and entrepreneur, started the SEED Program, a school for troubled metropolitan children.

“People invest in people,” he shared. He then challenged us to think about what kind of leaders we want to be and what we can learn from the successes and failures of individuals around us.

Mr. Vinnakota also challenged us to engage in civil discourse, which brings different cultures and people together to work in a beneficial manner. Clearly, he realized the importance of learning from other people.

Making Investments

In addition to gaining an appreciation for other people’s opinions, I also learned that leaders must convince their followers to invest in making an organization great. Leaders of organizations only work a short time, so they should look beyond their personal careers and inspire others to grow the organization. I would like to bring this idea to my own Badger Battalion.

Overall, each speaker challenged our way of thinking and encouraged us to be open-minded when we take on the responsibility of leadership. Each of the followers in our organizations will hold opinions and beliefs that drive their lives. A good leader will assess these differences and help the organization promote the integration of the followers’ beliefs to create an organization that is ethically sound.

Cadet Elisha Lewis

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