Ethics in Political Leadership

Illinois State Sen. Dave Koehler

By Frank Radosevich II
November 20, 2012

For Illinois State Sen. Dave Koehler, the guiding principle of ethical leadership is a simple one: it’s what you do when nobody is watching.

Speaking to 20 Bradley students studying ethical leadership, Sen. Koehler shared his thoughts on what it means to be a principled leader in politics, a field not often remembered for its proper conduct and moral integrity.

“Ethics has to be something that is consistent,” he told the students of EHS 381, Ethical Leadership. “If I do something publically I have to believe it privately. And if I do something privately I have to be willing to share that publicly.”

The new class is open to all students and is part of Bradley’s leadership minor, an interdisciplinary studies program that teaches students the necessary skills for understanding the theory and practice of leadership. During the talk, students asked Sen. Koehler questions and shared their own thoughts on what it means to be an ethical leader.

“It’s been really enlightening to know that there are good people out there who hold ethics in high regard and are also successful,” said senior Emmanuelle Bailey-Greene, who is studying psychology. “It’s too common to hear the story about an ethical leader who is discouraged from holding that value.”

Aside from Sen. Koehler, the course features other guest speakers from the world of business, city management and academia.

A three-term Democrat who represents Illinois Senate’s 46th district, which includes Bradley’s campus, Sen. Koehler added that ethical leaders must also be transparent and accountable to their constituents. Sen. Koehler’s talk gave students a firsthand look into the decisions and consequences facing politicians.

As the dust settles from the 2012 election, he also talked about the tough campaign season that preceded it and what he sees as upcoming challenges for Illinois government, namely fixing the state’s pension system and reducing its deficit. He stressed bipartisanship among Peoria-area politicians as an important feature for getting the job done.

Justin Smith, a sophomore studying business management and administration, said he enjoyed hearing Sen. Koehler stressing bipartisanship in the Illinois House and Senate. Smith said the class has taught him to think more about and refine his views on the difference between right and wrong.

“There can be change but only if people work together,” Smith said. “We’ve had some great speakers and hearing all these different people you see that they all share similar beliefs.”