By Mr. Bryan Gatchell (Benning)August 27, 2018
COLUMBUS, Ga. (Aug. 27, 2018) - The Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning and the 199th Infantry Brigade opened the first day of its Centennial Leadership Symposium at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia, Aug. 27, with a talk on organizational leadership.
Retired Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess Jr., current chief operational officer for Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, and former commander of the Defense Intelligence Agency, led the discussion, which imparted lessons learned from throughout his career to the audience of mostly U.S. Army officers.
Maj. Gen. Gary M. Brito, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, opened the symposium.
"You need to be a leader of integrity, you need to be a leader of professionalism, you need to have a character, you need to have ethics, you need to have values," said Brito. "I have faith in you. Your senior leaders have faith in you, and I've said this before, there are moms and dads across America in all fifty states and the territories, who have put their faith in you to take care of their sons and daughters."
Burgess was commissioned in military intelligence through the Auburn University Reserve Officer Training Corps program in 1974. He earned a Master of Science degree in education from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in 1980 and a Master of Military Arts from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1986.
His general command positions included director of intelligence, J2, for U.S. Southern Command; director of intelligence, J2, for the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; deputy director of National Intelligence for Customer Outcomes; director of the intelligence staff in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence; twice as acting principal deputy director of National Intelligence; and finally the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
In 2012, after 38 years of military service, Burgess retired to take a role at Auburn University, eventually becoming their chief operating officer.
Burgess laid a lot of his career out for the audience made up largely of young officers so they might ask questions of him. Nevertheless, what he talked about largely reflected his time as a young officer, a lot of which was at Fort Benning.
"I was stationed out at Harmony Church for the first two and a half years," said Burgess. "That career is not going to be seriously unlike some of y'all sitting here in this room."
Burgess added that to him in the 1970s, 2nd Lt. Ronald Burgess obtaining a general officer rank or going far in the military was inconceivable.
What he does believe is that though leadership development may not have been as radically different then as it is now, the world has changed.
"The world that I and others grew up in is a lot different than what you coming into the Army - some of you that are brand new, some of you that have been in - find yourself in today," said Burgess. "Each of you will need to adapt to that change and that transition."
Burgess cited both population change and new information technology as significant drivers of global change.
And while Burgess spoke some about his time and about his understanding of world affairs to the Soldiers, when he said he didn't believe he had any great revelations for the audience. He talked about knowing one's own limitations, the importance of character and working by the golden rule.
"You've got to know yourself," said Burgess on the first point. "You've got to know and understand your strengths and weaknesses. You've got to be sure enough of yourself to seek outside opinions and advice on those strengths and weaknesses. You have to adapt them or learn ways to mitigate them when necessary."
On the point of character, he felt character was the true measure of success, not rank.
"I honestly believe that for every BG (brigadier general) that does get selected, at a minimum there are 10 or 20 colonels that are just as qualified to have gotten promoted," said Burgess. "At the end of the day, though, it is about how you measure yourself. You've got to be able to look yourself in the mirror and be able to say - if you look at yourself and mean it and understand it - 'I did the best I could.' That's all that anyone can ask."
As to the golden rule, the subject of empathy was especially crucial in an organization made up of humans, who are liable to make mistakes.
"It is not a zero-defects world that we live in; people are going to make mistakes," he said. "I would rather you commit the sin of commission than omission. Do something. I trust your values, your judgment, and the training that we've given you. And if you make a mistake, we'll fix it."
Burgess ended his portion of the symposium by taking questions from the audience
The symposium gathers business, civic and military leaders to give mid-level leaders within the Chattahoochee Valley community insights into their development.
Other speakers include Greg Frady, Georgia State University baseball coach; retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Mellinger, former command sergeant major of Multi-National Force - Iraq; retired Col. James R. Harper III, former U.S. Marine Corps judge advocate general; Scott Uzzell, president of venturing and emerging brands at Coca-Cola; and Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, mayor of Columbus, Georgia. This symposium is a free event.
To learn more, visit www.army.mil/article/210285.