Competence and Character Formula for Leadership


In 1991, at the conclusion of Operation Desert Storm, U.S. Army General Norman Schwarzkopf addressed the cadets at West Point and explained, “You will be the leaders of the 21st century, and to lead in the 21st century you will be required to have both competence and character.”  I wasn’t a cadet at the time, but when my West Point experience began I read through General Schwarzkopf’s 1991 speech. Every successful 21st century leader has those two attributes – competence and character.  Whether in the public or private sector, the people changing our world for the better embrace those qualities.  As I embark upon my Simon experience, what I am most excited about is the opportunity to gain an even deeper commitment to those qualities, and a skill set that will better equip me to handle the challenges of leadership in the 21st century.

A commitment to life-long learning is not just healthy, but critical to the success of any leader. The Simon School has a distinguished reputation for generating competent leaders that are tackling the most challenging problems our society faces.  The diverse core curriculum, coupled with a faculty that has already demonstrated genuine support during the admissions process, will help set the conditions for my future success.  I’m convinced that this Simon experience will develop me into a more competent leader, better prepared to assist with some of the most challenging problems facing America today.

While a professional education is critical to becoming a competent leader, professional reading and professional discussion are equally as important.  I believe the Simon School will provide a variety of opportunities for growth in this area as well.  More often than not, it isn’t a lack of reading or dialogue that inhibits intellectual growth, it’s choosing to read only what we agree with or interact only with like-minded people.  The international draw and diverse demographics of the Simon School will ultimately facilitate a healthy interaction of talented scholars, and leaders from all walks of life.  This forum will assist me in developing a deeper understanding of why we see things differently in this complex world.

The ability to deliver that competency in a manner that will positively impact an organization is the character that General Schwarzkopf speaks of.  I can almost guarantee that in tomorrow’s newspaper I will come across an article about a leader who failed their team because they lacked character – a politician who cheated on his wife, or a corporate executive convicted of insider trading.  This disregard for character occurs with such frequency that it has become almost expected in our society.  21st century leaders must devote themselves to a set of values that demonstrate their true commitment to the organization and its people.  I was incredibly impressed when I read Simon’s 2013 MBA brochure earlier this month.  On the very first page of the document was a statement highlighting the Simon School’s commitment to leadership, “… what matters is not just what you learn – but the ethics and ideals you develop that help guide your leadership and help you make an impact forever.”  This commitment to not only developing intellectuals, but actually working to shape future leaders of character is something I’m proud to be a part of.

The Simon experience is something that I’m looking forward to. While I expect it to be challenging, I also expect it to be truly rewarding.  As I prepare for graduate school, I do so knowing that the Simon School is not just a means to an end, but rather an institution that represents ideals that I see in myself, with a strong commitment to both competence and character.  In this regard, the Simon School will help make me, “ever better – forever.”  Meliora!

Comments are closed.