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Military Ethics and Responsible Leadership: The Enduring Contribution of Guillaume-Henri Dufour

Responsible Leadership and Ethical Decision-Making

ISBN: 978-1-78714-416-3, eISBN: 978-1-78714-415-6

Publication date: 16 May 2017


The purpose of this paper is to suggest that the case of General Guillaume-Henri Dufour may offer useful ideas for the development of responsible leadership in military ethics. Military ethics is a field of growing importance. And in the military profession, leadership is particularly valued. The systematic and continuing production of leaders at all levels is a constant task of military forces in any country, and the need for leaders who are responsible and ethical is not only desirable, but also essential – as a variety of ethical failures have shown us.

Guillaume-Henri Dufour was a decorated soldier serving Switzerland as a general, who founded a military academy and trained others in the military sciences, who served as a politician, and who contributed noted achievements in the fields of cartography and civil engineering. A short sketch of his life is provided, and then focus turns to two specific occasions: the Sonderbund War and the agreement for the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field.




I would like to express my thanks to Chris Provis (UniSA) and George Wilkes (Edinburgh) for their comments on various drafts of this paper as presented to the Australian Association of Professional and Applied Ethics. I would like to thank Denis Allistone and Vincent Bernard (ICRC) for their help with sources. Finally, I would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for Research in Ethical Issues in Organisations for their helpful comments.


O’Brien, R. (2017), "Military Ethics and Responsible Leadership: The Enduring Contribution of Guillaume-Henri Dufour", Responsible Leadership and Ethical Decision-Making (Research in Ethical Issues in Organizations, Vol. 17), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 37-48.



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