By Alyssa Menard, U.S. Naval War College Public Affairs
NEWPORT, R.I. -- The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy and a closer look at why successful people make ethical mistakes were two topic areas explored during the final ethics conference held at the U.S. Naval War College (NWC), on May 18.
Air Force Lt. Col. Linell Letendre, a judge advocate general involved with the Department of Defense review of DADT impacts, spoke about the repeal process and the issues future military leaders will face implementing the repeal. Following Letendre, Dr. Clinton Longenecker from the University of Toledo spoke about the Bathsheba Syndrome that attempts to explain why successful people make career-ending, ethical mistakes.
Letendre began her discussion of the DADT repeal by asking students how they would balance their professional responsibility with their personal convictions and the challenge to choose between the two.“The most difficult challenge future leaders will face will be experiencing times when the needs of the service trump those of individual interests,” said Lentendre.
Using the military oath of office as a starting point, Letendre reminded everyone the difference between military members and civilians when it comes to personal rights.
“Those individuals in the military no longer have the right to freedom of speech that civilians have to voice their opinions and beliefs,” said Letendre. “Military members take an oath to serve and defend the Constitution of the United States, not their personal beliefs. This is where some of the conflicts arise.”
Letendre went on to talk about how current military leaders are handling implementation of the DADT repeal and lessons she learned about balancing personal convictions and professional obligations from Marine General Carter Ham who led the DoD DADT repeal task force.
During the second half of the conference, Longenecker challenged students with a simple question, asking “why do successful leaders do unethical things and throw away their success?” He went on to explain in more detail that great success leads to different temptations that these people think they can control when in fact, they can’t. The “Bathsheba Syndrome” is a term devised in the 1990s to describe the ethical failure of highly successful people.
“The higher the rise, the greater exposure there is to temptation, and conversely the farther you fall,” said Longenecker.
He suggested leaders consider temptation and develop moral “guardrails” that will prevent them from falling for temptation and going over the edge.
“It is critically important to remember what it is you stand for and to have a strong support system to remind you when you lose sight of it,” said Longenecker.
After the morning lectures, students gathered in moderator-led seminar discussions to share greater insight into the ethics issues raised.
“These lectures really drove in the challenges that need to be dealt with today, especially to the junior officers who haven’t had to face these issues before now,” said Capt. James Hughes, who is a student in NWC’s College of Naval Warfare.
Posted by Alyssa Menard
Edited by Dan Marciniak