Archive for November, 2007

Leadership Lessons from West Point

// November 6th, 2007 // No Comments » // Leadership, Uncategorized

The symposium is called the National Conference on Ethics in America and takes place at West Point Military academy in New York. I was invited to share some of my ideas on the subject of ethics especially as they relate to sports and more specifically climbing high peaks. I have climbed in numerous countries around the world and have been challenged by cultural interpretations of ethics and how they change in direct proportion to the distance one is from “civilized culture.” The object of the week at West Point is to bring student delegates from different universities all across the country to discuss the relevance of ethics in relation to campus life and honor codes. The Army’s code is simple: a cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate anyone who does. Beyond this of course there are other codes of dress and etiquette, but this is foundational and carved in stone on the academy grounds. Staring at this stone I reflected on how counter this is to the way most of our society lives each day as lying, cheating, and stealing are quite normal and even more so we seem to all be guilty of tolerating these things. In my time on the high peaks of the world I have seen people go back on their word, promise one thing and deliver something horrible and deceitful in its place. I have seen lives jeopardized and lost due to lack of integrity and ethics. Something seemingly so simple as giving care to someone in need, is withheld for the glory of standing upon a summit. We depend on each other, and the amount on which we can depend is related to the degree by which we are all willing to live by a common code of ethics. My code comes from the Bible and the belief that God has given us a perfect plan by which to live, the only problem with the plan: us.
Perhaps we can’t change the ethic of a society around us, but we can influence the ethic of the team we choose to lead, the team which we support, or the team we have yet to build, but it starts with a foundation of moral and ethical character that seeks to transform those who are willing to build upon it.
I know myself to well to think that I would be the bright light in this place and was thankful to have had the opportunity to listen in to various talks given by Colonels, Generals, White House Correspondents, Writers, Counselors to the President, and Rocket Scientists just to name a few, and the wisdom that they have gained over the years as they have led and failed, Led and learned. Led and succed (succeeded I know).
Having heard from these leaders and from the student leaders I was refreshed and re-energized knowing that there are people who care and feel the same way as I do. That we do have a social obligation to serve in our communities; to seek out of concern change, having a vision to transform our surroundings for the better as we can; that charcter is important for our survival; and that we become our habits, so we should put forth every effort to seek truth knowing well that our thoughts become speech which lead to action going on to habit which forms our character and becomes our destiny. This looks good lest we forget we are not divine and we will fail to manage this sequence of destiny. In seeking truth we seek God, and in finding him we find forgiveness – a loving gift that we can accept knowing that we need to forgive. As leaders we need to look beyond the rules and codes knowing that failure is as large a part of success as is living by the code.