Thu09Oct2014Sat11Oct2014Jackson Hole, Wyoming
2014 Ethics & Leadership Summit
"The First Priority of Leadership is Integrity"
In what just might have been the finest SLLF educational program ever, more than 50 state legislative leaders and a like number of corporate participants gathered in Jackson Hole, Wyoming to talk about ethics and leadership. This was not your run-of-the-mill discussion about ethics and ethics reform. There was no discussion of "model legislation" on the agenda. Nor was there simply a recitation of the various ethical and legal troubles public officials so often get themselves into.
Instead, we set out to get the attention of these men and women who work in the public arena by painting a vivid picture of how real people get into ethical trouble and the often harsh consequences they inevitably must face. We drove home the message that small lapses in judgment often lead to larger transgressions and just when you think you're home free, you're not! We set out to make these folks uncomfortable and a bit fearful, and we succeeded.
Stephen Lakis, SLLF President, set the tone in his welcoming remarks:
"This discussion of ethics and leadership is critical to our country because without the people's trust in their government, democracy cannot sustain itself. Ethics transcends partisan bickering and all the policy issues that divide us. It is the core issue of a healthy and vibrant democracy."
The next morning, on what was to be a long and memorable day in the classroom, Dr. Thom Little, SLLF Director of Curriculum Development and Research, promised to “step on some toes” suggesting that attendees should be wearing steel-toed boots. By the end of the day, everybody knew he wasn't kidding.
Cathilea Robinett, Executive Vice President of e.Republic, opened the presentations with a vivid description of the increasingly invasive world of social media. Lest anyone have any doubts, the once fictional Big Brother is here and we better learn to how to deal with him.
Then, in what was to be the most riveting presentation of the entire conference, former Missouri Speaker Rod Jetton took us through his meteoric rise to becoming master of his political universe only to succumb to the titillations of power ending in scandal, political ruin, and lost reputation.
And the beat went on. Former US Attorney Hank Shea gave an unforgiving recitation of how the government views political corruption. When it comes to what drives the FBI and US attorneys, rooting out political corruption is at the top of their list and they have more tools than ever to root it out and vigorously prosecute offenders.
There was no letup. Dr. Kirk Hanson, Executive Director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics (co-sponsors of this program), took the attendees through an exercise designed to demonstrate that making the ethical choice is not all that easy. The lesson learned is that all of us need to carefully think about the actions we take, big or small, and when in doubt, we should seek out dispassionate counsel.
What we talked about, debated, and questioned on Friday continued unabated on Saturday. Former state senator Jeff Smith of Missouri told his story of how his unbridled ambition caused him to turn a blind eye on a seemingly insignificant campaign violation that in the most random and unexpected manner eventually blossomed into a criminal violation, jail time, and ruin.
We do these programs for legislative leaders because we respect the office they hold and we cherish the institution they serve. This one was among the best ever because it hit home and, we believe, will make a profound difference in how we all look at Ethics and Leadership.
Please contact Evelene Lakis at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.