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SLDC Leadership Luncheon: The Failure of Ethical Leadership

On February 7, the Student Leadership Development Committee hosted alumnus L.T. Lafferty as the guest speaker for their monthly Leadership Luncheon. Mr. Lafferty is a shareholder at Fowler White in Tampa. He is the Firm’s Practice Leader for White Collar Crime, Government Investigations, and Corporate Compliance and Ethics practice.  Prior to Fowler White, he was an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) in Tampa for ten years. Particularly applicable to the luncheon topic of Ethics, he is a member of the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics and is on the Advisory Board for the University of Tampa Center for Ethics. His practice also includes a variety of State of Florida professional regulatory and disciplinary investigations, the representation of public officers and the provision of ethics advice in matters related to Florida’s Code of Conduct for state and local public officers and the Florida Commission on Ethics (FCE) as well as judicial officers in matters pertaining to the Florida Judicial Code of Conduct and the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC).

Mr. Lafferty spoke to an audience of about 100 students on a variety of topics, including learning from failure, ethics, white collar crime and how to infuse ethics into leadership. He emphasized that everyone fails, and society’s fixation with measuring people’s worth by their successes is inherently faulty. Instead, what is really important is how a person reacts to failure and how they use that failure to constantly improve. While Mr. Lafferty inserted numerous quotes into his presentation, one that he mentioned on this topic was from Winston Churchill, “Success is moving from one failure to the next failure, with enthusiasm.”

Ethics was addressed in the speech as the basis of law as a whole. Mr. Lafferty contends that all of the issues facing his white collar clients can be stripped down to one basic concept: ethical violations. Strong emphasis was put on strength of character and when faced with questions that blur the lines of what is ethical and what isn’t, making the ethical decision every time is something that can’t be taught, but it is really a question of character. Some statistics were mentioned about the increasing number of securities fraud, mortgage fraud, healthcare fraud and political corruption cases were emerging out of Florida yearly. While Mr. Lafferty believes that ethical people can be taught whatever skills they need to be successful, it is important for leaders to make ethical decisions every day and use those decisions as teaching tools for their followers.  After all, if his clients had made the undeniably ethical decisions in the first place, they would not be under federal investigation and in need of his defense.

Overall, Mr. Lafferty emphasized how important it is to learn from and move past failure to achieve greatness both personally and professionally.

Article by student Marisol Gomez