Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Embrace Exceptional Leadership, Winnefeld Tells NDU Grads

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2014 – The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today encouraged 645 graduates of National Defense University to tackle modern-day global leadership challenges with boldness and caring.

In delivering NDU’s commencement address, Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. reminded graduates that each of them will confront an ever-changing and complex world from a position of greater responsibility.

Among the national security issues he said graduates will encounter as they embark on their careers are those involving energy and infrastructure, population growth and hunger, water resources and climate change as well as a rapidly changing economic landscape.

As such, Winnefeld challenged them to become people who lead the nation into the future by striving for excellence.

“You arrived here with a set of skills unique to your profession and to part with a significantly refreshed foundation of knowledge,” he said. “If you’re going to lead big organizations through big changes, to breathe new life into ideas that matter, then you’re going to have to continue to broaden yourself in a way that allows you to graft important -- sometimes very different -- expertise onto your own.”

And Winnefeld said, exceptional boldness will convey new ideas through a “reluctant system full of vested interest.”

“I’m constantly reminded that incredibly bright adults will work extremely long hours perfecting fundamentally flawed concepts,” the admiral said. “Someone has to lead them out of this and that would be you.”

Credit also goes to exceptional integrity, and Winnefeld referred to a building on NDU’s campus named for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, one of NDU’s founders and someone who “epitomized the meaning of character.”

“We’ve seen disturbing instances in business, sports, governments and even in corners of our own military that reflect a failure of integrity among both the leaders and the led. No organization can excel for very long without a culture of integrity because culture reflects the collective behavior of the senior leadership.”

He explained that former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Colin Powell once told him that the essence of leadership is holding people to the highest possible standard while taking the best possible care of them.

“America is more than just a nation, it remains an idea about freedom and liberty and there are hard-working young men and women out there … who are willing to risk their lives to keep that idea alive,” Winnefeld said. “Make sure you do your best for them for our nation and for our partners around the world.”

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