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Lincoln University ROTC cadet learns about ‘followership’ at West Point conference

by Ryan Pivoney | November 19, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

A Lincoln University freshman ROTC cadet spent last weekend at West Point Military Academy for a national conference on ethics.

Theleia McCoy, a criminal justice major, attended the National Conference on Ethics in America hosted by the Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic last weekend. She said the experience gave her skills to propel her future in ROTC and her major.

"They were not just for the military, these are also good business skills to have just in the real world," she said. "It's good to just have them."

The National Conference on Ethics in America gathers military academy cadets, midshipmen, college ROTC and other students together to discuss ethical challenges to followership in service, according to the conference website. Followership, according to the U.S. Army Association, is the reciprocal process to leadership -- a willingness to follow within a team.

The three-day conference featured small group discussions, social events, and guest speakers and panels.

Retired Army Sgt. Maj. Dan Dailey provided the keynote address and was particularly memorable as he discussed staying humble and working with people under his leadership, McCoy said.

"We talk about leadership a lot in this world," she said. "In order to be a leader, you have to know followership."

McCoy said the conference focused on four kinds of followers in the world: two that are engaged and two that are not.

Disengaged followers tend to criticize plans, not conform to expectations or don't contribute to a project. Engaged followers tend to be better prepared to execute plans, McCoy said.

"If you think of it like a sport, the (team) captain is starting practice and by the time a coach comes in, practice has already started," she said, adding she identifies with the "starter" characterization.

McCoy said the conference taught her more about how to support others when they are in a leadership position and how to fill a role on a team. It requires trust and a checked ego, she said.

Nick Bell, military science department head at Lincoln, said it's the first time Lincoln has sent a student since he joined the university about two years ago. The Army paid for the trip, Bell said, and offered the invitation to get participation from historically Black colleges and universities.

He said McCoy will share her experience at the conference with others in Lincoln's ROTC program, teaching them more about what it means to be an ethical follower from daily operations to combat situations.

"The academic experience of the conference and learning about topics such as ethics is very important in the military profession and what it means to be an ethical leader on several fronts," Bell said.

The conference also exposed McCoy to different military education types from around the country and how they compare to what Lincoln provides.

She said she joined ROTC because her family has a military background and she knew she wanted to join.

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