What FBI Comey Can Teach Us About Leadership

In my 67 Undeniable Truths of Business Ownership, I call out several truths on leadership:

  • Success depends more on character than skill
  • Someone must be clearly in charge
  • What you say and do will be scrutinized beyond anyone else in the organization
  • A business is not a democracy
  • You will be misunderstood, misrepresented and misinterpreted
  • The truth is never the problem
  • Reality is your friend – everything else is fantasy
  • You have the problems you tolerate
  • Top performers take ownership of their results and do not try to excuse those or blame someone else for them
  • The immature character asks life to meet his demands. The mature character meets the demands of life.

I believe that FBI
Director Comey was acting in good faith when, in July, he chose not to recommend charges be brought against Mrs. Clinton. By the same token, he is acting in good faith by informing Congress that he has re-opened the investigation against Mrs. Clinton because there exists new evidence that he didn’t have over the last two years.

Think of what type of character it takes to go against one political party only to go against the other in less than 120 days. I believe he is living out that which many of say we desire in a leader. But what we often don’t realize is that when a person goes against our interests, wishes or beliefs, we can suddenly turn on that leader in rather negative and unchristian ways. Here are the qualities of leadership he is living out:

He is clearly in charge. When he made his decision public in July, he made it a point to say that it was his decision and his alone. A leader is always in charge in the most critical moments.

He is willing to be misunderstood and misinterpreted in order to carry out his duties. Director Comey is taking a lot of criticism and heat (at the time of this writing) for his decision to re-open the investigation.

He did not define the truth as the problem. Instead, he is seeking the truth and letting the facts and evidence surface the truth.

He was presented with a problem: New information that may have the evidence to change his July decision. He decided to deal with that problem instead of ignoring it or letting it fester. He squared up and faced into the negative, knowing the heat he would take.

Director Comey is, I believe, between a rock and a hard place. If he chose to not say anything about the re-opened investigation and Mrs. Clinton is elected, then if he needed to bring charges against a sitting President, his decision would be seen as even more political than it is now. He would be criticized for not bring this all up before the election. If he brings it up and finds nothing of substance, but Mrs. Clinton is not elected as a result, it will be seen as a primarily political move to influence the election.

In his leaked internal memo, Comey mentions that he informed Congress out of a sense of duty as well as a sense that if the existence of the investigation were to be leaked to the press, charges of a cover-up would ensue. Given the realities of the world Comey lives in, it seems to be that he did the right thing.

What we’re seeing is good leadership in action. Leadership is often not pretty to watch because it often creates friction. But as another one of my undeniable truths states, “you can’t get any traction without some friction”.

Bill English
Executive Consultant
The Platinum Group