Ethical Leadership: James Comey

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Former FBI Director James Comey and the cover of his new book, A Higher Loyalty.

Leadership is often seen as a personal enterprise: an exercise in inward focus on one’s self, and refining the things that enable you to lead a group of people.

Another facet of leadership is that it is often a careless exercise, more focused on effective management of a group of assets, rather than a thoughtful inventory of actual people on a team.

These two faults, in my mind, lead the whole industry and study of leadership on a sidetracked path away from what is truly needed to not just manage a team but to be a leader. I feel like in the book, A Higher Loyalty, Truth Lies and Leadership book, James Comey peels away the layers of the cliche to strike at the heart of this missed bloc of leadership training which he refers to as “ethical leadership.”

“Ethical leadership is … about understanding the truth about humans and our need for meaning. It is about building workplaces where standards are high and fear is low. Those are the kinds of cultures where people will feel comfortable speaking the truth to others as they seek excellence in themselves and the people around them.” – James Comey
The political veracity and political ethics of his book aside, I feel like the above quote defines a thread of useful and incisive leadership lessons that he does quite well.
There are drawbacks in the way he weaves personal platitudes attacking the President in petty and assinine ways, which, in a way, detract from the message of ethical leadership in and of themselves.
An ethical leader, he implies throughout the book, is someone who rises above the fray, to provide a space for nothing but accurate and open dialogue — not underhanded attacks.
Overall, those are small detractions from an overall historically relevant, and leadership pertinent read that is ever so timely for managers and leaders in the current shark tank of business, politics, and the strange world that has arisen between.