Today I write to you about effective leadership, recognizing that yesterday effective leadership intersected with politics in the American experience. However, there should be nothing of partisan politics in seeing that experience for what it was: Killing the messenger.
When I speak to audiences of attorneys and law students about effective leadership, as addressed in my book, Best Friends at the Bar: Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, one of the concepts that I stress is taking responsibility for your own actions and not killing the messenger. It is a fundamental theme of effective leadership, as recognized by the most well-respected global leadership trainers, including my own personal leadership guru, Marshall Goldsmith.
Former FBI Director James Comey was not fired by the American President because of something he had done in the past. He clearly was fired for something that it was feared he would do in the future. Comey had made it clear that he was pursuing the investigation into White House personnel — including or not including the President, however, was not clear — as actions of those individuals may or may not relate to what has become known as “The Russian Problem.”
That was what Comey did —- and that is why he was punished. If you have any doubt about that, consider the fact that Comey’s past actions all had been praised by the President, time and time again. In fact, those past actions may have benefited the President in getting him elected to the highest office in the land.
Your legal career will call on you repeatedly to become an effective leader — in small ways and in much larger ways. To be an effective leader, you must be honorable, honest, and maintain your dignity. You must not blame others, and you must not kill the messenger. You cannot be or do any of those things if you compromise yourself with actions that you cannot defend.
Start now, at the beginning of your career so that doing the honorable, honest and dignified thing becomes second nature to you. Do as former Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted this morning to the career men and women at the Department of Justice and the FBI :
“You know what the job entails and how to do it. Be strong and unafraid. Duty. Honor. Country.“
That just about says it all.