While there has been plenty of talk about former FBI-Director James Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty, most of it is missing the point. This post is neither an indictment nor affirmation of Comey as an individual, his actions, or even his book. While it is easy to get lost in the gossip and the personalities and the political drama, there is a huge piece of truth being presented amidst the muck and the grime.
Pundits want to talk about the two paragraphs describing Trump’s appearance or the confidential details we can only speculate about (and Comey can’t divulge). What we miss in all the melodrama is that Comey’s book is about leadership. The theater of politics has hijacked our discussion of what constitutes good leadership.
As I’ve already said, this post is not about politics. It is about leadership and an important element of good leadership that this new book gives the opportunity for us to talk about, if we can wade through the weeds.
One thing Comey says is that good leaders need an external reference point. Leaders whose decision-making and ambition are aimed solely inward are toxic.
The external reference point Comey refers to is a Transcendent There. We need something that stretches us beyond situation and circumstance. Something that drives us. A lighthouse that beckons us home.
Without this, leaders will flounder and flail. They will get tossed back and forth by the winds and the waves. Lost in the toil of their own insecurity, inward facing leaders buy into the lie of power, the romance of leadership.
Me and WeOne of our previous posts talks about We versus Me. An external reference point brings leaders out into the world. It transforms their perspective and allows them to influence others through service.
While the world is excited about the salacious details of Comey’s interaction with a controversial president, the real value of his book is in shining light on the struggle between an individual leader’s search for power and their search for purpose.
Power charges Me but purpose is the lifeblood of We. Positive leaders see themselves as part of the whole. Not the head, not the source, and certainly not the savior. Instead they are a participant in community.
What Comey calls ‘ethical leadership’ is very close to what we call Servant Leadership.
The idea is that the leader exists to serve others. It is not a role of prestige. It’s not a place of royalty. Leadership is a role of humility. It is a calling to love others as much as you care for yourself.
The culture of our world is thunder-dome-style fight for power. To the winner, we assume, go the spoils. The pursuit of spoils are indeed ruining leadership in our society.
Politics, religion, and personalities aside, good leaders are those with a Transcendent There who serve and influence the collective toward that externally driven good. In the captivating tornado of porn stars and combative tweets, condemnation and judgement, let’s not lose the ability to talk about the heart of the issues – what really matters.