Character, leadership, and the healthcare professions.

Author:Holmes, Elizabeth
Position:Capstone Moral Leadership Seminar


Mr. P. Khulumani, Director of the Ministry of Health, Botswana, Your Excellency Ambassador Nolan, and distinguished leaders of the Government of Botswana and the University, colleagues, students, and friends:

It is a deep honor to be with you all today and lead this morning session. I am honored and privileged to follow Archbishop Tutu's outstanding presentation. Like him, I feel "a little bit breathless" to speak in front of such an audience. Thank you for inviting me and asking me to be part of this important conference.

I invite you to join me this morning on a transformative path of professional growth. Let us together travel the journey outlined by the United States Naval Academy (USNA) and University of Botswana (UB) to becoming leaders of character.

Mission and Vision

What could the United States Naval Academy and the University of Botswana have in common?

Each has a timeless mission: At the USNA, it is "to develop midshipmen morally, mentally, and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor, and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of Naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship, and government."

The vision at the USNA is to provide leaders of great character, competence, vision, and drive to transform the Navy and Marine Corps and serve the nation in a century of promise and uncertainty.

The mission of the UB School of Medicine is "to prepare skillful, productive, ethical, and compassionate physicians who advance and apply in humanistic and professional manner scientific discovery and technological innovation to health care needs of individual patients, their families, and larger societal groups." Specifically, the University of Botswana states that it will "provide excellence in the delivery of learning to ensure society is provided with talented, creative, and confident graduates."

To achieve its vision, the University of Botswana values its students, as is shown by its pursuit of "creating a holistic environment which ensures that learning is their central focus and by establishing a range of learning, social, cultural, and recreational opportunities that will facilitate the full realization of their potential for academic and personal growth." The University of Botswana also values "cultural authenticity by ensuring that the diversity of Botswana's indigenous values and cultural heritage forms an important part of the academic and organizational life of the institution." Clearly, culture plays an important role in all human interactions. Isn't it interesting that both the University of Botswana and the Naval Academy are invested in the importance of valuing culture?

Curriculum for Developing Ethical Leaders

Midshipmen learn about ethical leadership at the USNA through a combination of classroom instruction, personal learning, and professional interactions. The goal is for midshipmen to understand leadership and what it means to be a leader of character. During their four years, midshipmen study leadership, human behavior, ethics, law, and character, along with individual, group, and organizational behavior.

In their first year, midshipmen learn about organizational dynamics and how to lead themselves. The following year, they focus on ethics and moral reasoning for the military leader. In their third year, midshipmen take a class on leadership theories and applications. In their final year, the classroom training focuses on law for the junior officer and technical skills for their selected service.

Midshipmen attend the Capstone Moral Leadership Seminar their last year. It is their final academic opportunity to discuss and apply concepts related to leadership, character, and ethics learned over the previous years before they leave the USNA for the fleet. In this seminar, midshipmen are also exposed to Last Call, an interactive simulation that teaches ethical decisionmaking. Last Call can be downloaded on the web at

Graduate Attributes and Professionalism

What else do both academic...

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