Leadership, ethics, and Africa’s role in global security were among the topics discussed when nearly 60 professionals from 40 African nations met for the opening of the Next Generation of African Security Sector Leaders (NextGen) course October 21, 2013, just outside of Washington, D.C.
The three-week program is conducted by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) and runs through November 8.
Mr. Michael Garrison, acting Director of the Africa Center, stressed that one of most important aspects of the program is candid discussion among the dozens of participants.
“We will not provide your answers,” he said. “We will provide you issues for you to discuss. You will provide the answers. Africa is yours, not ours. Africa’s challenges need to be solved by African leaders.”
Major General Christopher Leins, special assistant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff J5 Directorate at the Pentagon, delivered the keynote address and provided an overview of ethical decisions faced by leaders, to include holding up a front-page story in the previous day’s Washington Post newspaper that discussed arrests in a U.S. Navy corruption and bribery scandal. “Leaders are expected to be role models, they are expected to be responsible for the ethical development of subordinates, and they are expected to avoid creating ethical dilemmas for subordinates,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Leins also provided notable examples of past political leaders who, without being forced, resigned power in order to further the governance of their nations, including Cincinnatus, an ancient Roman statesman who resigned his dictatorial powers after leading military victories; U.S. General George Washington, who defeated British colonial powers but expressed “abhorrence” when some officers suggested he take over the young government of the United States; and former South African President Nelson Mandela, who stepped down after a single term.
“Ethical leaders are ethical all the time, not only when someone is looking,” Leins said. “They are also ethical over time, proving again and again that ethics are integral part of intellectual and philosophical framework they use to understand and relate to the world.”
Drawing upon his 34-year career in the U.S. Army, Maj. Gen. Leins said security leaders have a delicate task of balancing what is right and wrong with what they value as necessary to accomplish their mission. Consequently, it is critical for each of them to be instinctively capable of doing what is right. It is also that sense of doing the right thing that defines how one’s leadership will be perceived, assessed and followed by his/her subordinates. “Avoid actions that create the appearance of violating the laws or ethical standards, where a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts could question your decision,” he insisted. “Perception often creates reality.”
The three-week course includes simultaneous translation between English, French, and Portuguese to help break down language barriers between participants. Questions and answers following Maj. Gen. Leins keynote took place under the Africa Center’s strict rule of nonattribution. Questions addresses such issues as how poverty and corruption affect leadership and the effectiveness of nonethical leadership, as well as the motives of the United States for sponsoring the course, and the extent to which U.S. foreign policy actions undermine U.S. leadership.
The current iteration of the NextGen course focuses on enhancing professional dialogue across Africa’s military and civilian security professions. Participants areexamining Africa’s contemporary and emerging security threats, as well as analyzing civil-military relations on the continent to determine the role and place of security professionals in advancing national security in democratizing states.
ACSS marks its 15th anniversary in 2014, providing an environment where civilian professionals and military officers from across Africa can talk to their counterparts in neighboring countries with a high degree of trust and confidence.
The Africa Center is the pre-eminent Department of Defense institution for strategic security studies, research, and outreach in Africa. ACSS offers a range of academic symposiums, workshops, and programs throughout Africa, the United States, and Europe. Since 1999, more than 6,000 African and international leaders have participated in ACSS programs.
Article courtesy ACSS Website