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As a younger college student, Lieutenant Kofi Duodu had nurtured a long-held desire to serve in Ghana’s military. His father had served in the military, and his mother had been a teacher, and he found both careers inspiring. So when he learned that his university did not have a cadet, he formed one; and spent time recruiting and training colleague students. With years in the Ghana Navy under his belt, and as a Leadership lecturer at Ashesi today, he credits a lot of his leadership and teaching principles to those early years heading a cadet group.

“Even as far back as my cadet days, having integrity was really important,” he explains. “Though we may not get called out for what we do right now, people subconsciously form opinions about us based on our actions; and that will affect us and what we represent to the people we lead.”

With Ashesi’s emphasis on teaching leadership and responsibility, Lt. Duodu saw the university community as an excellent opportunity to grow his work beyond the navy and help influence future leadership across multiple sectors of Africa. And in his classes at Ashesi, students quickly learn that he expects each of them to keep their commitments and take responsibility.

“As a teacher, my goal is to build good character in my students,” he shares. “I emphasise that both action and inaction have outcomes that they (students) must be ready to live with. Once the students and I agree on our class rules, for example, as well as consequences for going contrary to them, we take no excuses. And the students often find it unusual, that the rules apply to me too. By establishing this norm, I am hoping that they see the importance of holding not only themselves to account, but their leaders also."

Approximately 9 out of every 10 Ashesi alumni live and work in various roles across Africa, helping create meaningful progress on the continent. Many lead teams and projects, and grapple with the difficulty of making the right leadership choices every day. For Lt. Duodu it is vital that his students go on to represent examples of what good leaders should be and do, in an environment where such role models are highly needed.

“Unfortunately, many people in leadership today do not exude the kind of moral uprightness that could help propel Ghana and the African continent at large forward,” he explains. “Many bend the rules and cut corners frequently; that is what we are trying to change. There isn’t really a way to teach students how to navigate the gray areas – those situations where the right decision is not clear cut. They have to read and learn about the leadership issues happening around the world every day; to give them the intuition necessary for making choices without clear outcomes. We can grow the practice of good neighbourliness and responsibility; but for more of that to happen we need to start building character in young people, starting from those in the classrooms in which we teach.”