Jim Comey’s Sweet Lesson in Leadership

Connie Williams


Showtime released its 2 part “The Comey Rules” series that aired earlier this week.  In the movie, based on Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty, Truth, Lies and Leadership, Comey is portrayed as someone who cares deeply about truth and justice.  The movie depicts Comey as a skilled leader and family man who truly loves his wife and daughters as well as the people who work with him at the FBI — with nearly all of them clearly loving him back.  Yet, the decisions Comey made about the Clinton emails and the Russian investigation managed to infuriate just about everyone on both sides of the political spectrum in some way or another.


Whether you think Comey is a good or a bad guy, there is one lovely lesson in leadership that we can take away from the telling.  Instead of cutting to the front, the Director stands in line at the FBI cafeteria and chats up the people ahead of him.  He asks his driver about his daughter’s recital.  He uses the invitingly simple and non-judgmental “say more” when faced with surprising information.  When Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein asks Comey about how to make himself more of a leader, he responds with “what was your favorite childhood candy?”, inviting a different kind of conversation.  Comey demonstrates that sharing helps people connect.  Rosenstein is skeptical, although he awkwardly tries it out and was unsuccessful largely because he did NOT care.  Genuine interest in others is a crucial aspect of leading others. Sharing something about ourselves and hearing stories from others lets down barriers and builds trust. It brings a smile to our faces.  At Synecticsworld, we call that “setting climate”.  When the climate is sweet, ideas flow and people are more open to new things.  So, why not try some junk food at your next meeting, “what was your favorite childhood candy?”  Mine was a Mounds bar.

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