posts » Summer leadership

Summer holiday and I've used the first week to catch up with a bit of work that I was unable to finish previously. I've also had time to do some reading: not heavy duty journal articles, nor a complicated piece of French literature (I've been trying to challenge myself a bit this past year), but a bit of lighter stuff, in English. So, to start with, James Comey's "A Higher Loyalty: True, Lies and Leadership" - not quite what I'd planned (or expected) but it came highly recommended by the people I was holidaying with. And now, I too highly recommend it.

I was actually captivated right from the beginning, having sat down a little cynical and expecting to be able to dismiss it rapidly. After all, this was the (former) leader of the FBI - one of those TLAs of which I'm not very fond. So, I was surprised to read in the Author's Note right at the very beginning about "ethical leadership":

I have learned that ethical leaders lead by seeing beyond the short-term, beyond the urgent, and take every action with a view towards lasting values. They might find their values in a religious tradition or a moral worldview or even an appreciation of history. But thos values -- like truth, integrity, and respecdt for others, to name just a few -- serve as external reference points for ethical leaders to make decisions, especially hard decisions in which there is no easy or good option. Those values are more important than what may pass for prevailing wisdom or the groupthink of a tribe. Those values are more important than the impulses of the bosses above them and the passions of the employees below them. They are more important than the organization's profitability and the bottom line. Ethical leaders choose a higher loyalty to those core values over their own personal gain.

That resonated - especially the bit about values being more important than finances or personal gain. He continued:

Ethical leadership is also 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.

Also very interesting. I try to speak truth (including to power) but it's not always easy and it sometimes gets you (well, me!) in trouble. Getting the balance between speaking truth and holding your tongue can be awkward. Maybe I find the balance, probably more people might say I don't: it's something I work on; I don't know if I ever get it right. And, did Comey? He lost his job - the whim of Trump. But he kept his ethics and, I believe, that's more important.

Trump, on the other hand: who knows? I also recently read an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times (I'd got it free in an airport somewhere, while crossing Europe for some reason or other). It was by Ross Douthat who I've never heard of, and he proposes three theories or, as he likes to call them, "scenarios". The first is what he calls "Trump Being Trump" and he gives it a "65 percent chance of being the truth":

In this theory of the case, you can explain all of Trump’s Russia-related behavior simply by finding him guilty of being the person we always knew him to be — vain, mendacious, self-serving, sleazy and absurdly stubborn, with a purely personalized understanding of allies and adversaries, a not-so-sneaking admiration for strongmen and the information filter of an old man who prefers his own reality to the discomforts of contrary information.

I guess it's not unreasonable. The second possibility is given a one in four chance of being true, and is called "Watergate With Russian Burglars." It's predicated on the fact that the Russians also stole analytical data from the Democrat party that they then (supposedly) shared with Trump, thus he knew "enough about it to inform his firing of Comey ... [which is] collusion and a case for impeachment wrapped into one scenario." And the final possibility (10% chance) is apparently that Trump is a "Muscovite Candidate" who is either being blackmailed by Putin or was actually recruited by the KGB back in the 1980s.

In fact, another book that I've been reading this holiday is called Collusion, by Luke Harding who is a journalist at the Guardian. This was actually a great book to read after Comey's as it tells the Trump story in much more detail -- right from the beginning (although only, of course, until about this time last year when it must have been due at the publisher's). I don't want to give anything much away - but it's all so obvious anyway that that seems difficult. Which tempts me just to provide a quote straight from the end:q

If Trump had been telling the truth - about his visits to Moscow, his dealings with Russian and Soviet emissaries, his financial entanglements - he had nothing to fear. It was a big if.

If he had been lying, the situation was grave. Sooner or later, the truth might engulf him and sweep away his presidency.

I guess we are still waiting for that end-game to play out. But the different sources are at least consistent in their recounting of "FAKE NEWS."