Students, Naval Reserve Officer’s Training Corps midshipmen, faculty, and community influencers from several area colleges, universities and high schools attended the Marine Corps Leadership Seminar held at the Morehouse College and Atlanta University Center Oct. 25, to learn about Marine Corps leadership.
The MCLS is an outreach program developed to showcase Marine Corps leadership to the many diverse communities and colleges across the U.S. Additionally, the seminar serves as a tool to foster the accession of a diverse officer corps.
“We are here to teach Marine Corps leadership,” said Dr. Kenneth D. Dunn, a retired Marine Corps colonel and the director for the MCLS. “Our purpose is to attract top talent to just give the Corps a look.”
Guest speaker, Lieutenant General Willie J. Williams, Director, Marine Corps Staff, kicked off the seminar by talking to the students about what it takes to be a successful leader.
“Leadership is not about the leader,” said Williams. “Leadership is about the leader facilitating the success of others.”
Williams spoke about what makes a leader strong and successful and the importance of developing leadership skills based on who you are and the ability to effectively lead others.
Inexperienced leaders are sometimes determined to change who they are or deny themselves, said Williams. They will inevitably find that they’ve become phony and the men and women they are trying to lead will be able to see through that and question their integrity, in turn, becoming ineffective.
“It’s ok to be you and when you accept that, you can then start to develop your skills and talents around who you are - because that will never change,” Williams said. “Never be afraid of who you are, to take advantage of who you are, and develop your talents and traits around who you are. With that you will become a much better leader.”
Williams emphasized the importance of leaders needing to set the environment and conditions for individuals within an organization to achieve excellence.
“You don't focus so much on yourself, but those individuals who you’re leading. You determine right away that it’s not about you and that it's about something that's greater than you.”
The rest of the seminar consisted of Marine Corps instructors from The Basic School and Officers Candidate School, Marine Corps Base Quantico. They gave classes and held discussions with the students about what it means to be a Marine and the fundamentals of Marine Corps leadership.
The students were grouped up and participated in exercises designed to demonstrate situations where leadership plays a key role in decision making and leading others. They learned about the Marine Corps leadership traits and how each one is tailored to make an average leader a great leader.
Jalani Traxler, a Minneapolis native and junior at Morehouse College, learned about the seminar through his mentor from the Morehouse’s leadership department. He was enthusiastic to learn about leadership in the Corps and remained an active participant in the discussions and group exercises.
“One of the most important things I learned from the Marine Corps leadership seminar is communication being key to any activity,” said Traxler. “In order for any system to run effectively, there must be proper means of communication.”
The very first seminar was held here in Atlanta in 2011 with just 12 students, said Dunn. Since then, there have been seminars held across the country to include Houston and Philadelphia – and the numbers are growing.
“We were invited back to MHU for the 25th anniversary of NROTC,” said Dunn. “This is a great opportunity for the Marine Corps and to focus on why we are here.”
The Marine Corps footprint is very big in Atlanta, said Dunn. The measure of effectiveness depends on the number of students who come out to learn about Marine Corps leadership and how we convey our message.
“Having the drive and taking the ingenuity to become a leader is commendable,” Dunn said. “But four or five years in the service will make you a much better leader, the pride of having served your country, and make you a much better person.”