Personal Narrative: my Perspective on Leadership
This personal narrative will express the author’s perspective on leadership. It will discuss their leadership experiences, the qualities they believe are essential in a leader, and how these have been shaped by personal experiences. The piece will reflect on the role of empathy, integrity, and vision in effective leadership. At PapersOwl too, you can discover numerous free essay illustrations related to Leadership.
I will begin my reflection of the book with a quotation from the book as follows, “Ethical leaders never ask for loyalty” – James Comey. The book revolves around the story of James Comey, starting from his childhood up to becoming the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director who was later fired by President Trump. This paper will focus mainly on how the book has opened my view on what leadership is truly all about. It is for this reason that I am very pleased because the subject on ethical leadership has broadened my perspective on leadership which was supplemented by the book.
Just like James Comey, I also found people whom I admired during my childhood at home. Aside from my father, I saw our eldest brother as a good sample of a leader for I saw him how he led us, his siblings when we are away from our parents. During vacations, we would travel all by ourselves without our parents because they have to stay for work. Our eldest brother would act as our leader during the travel all by ourselves, transferring from one bus to another until reaching our grandparents’ house approximately almost four hundred kilometers away. That was during our elementary days, when we were not yet teenagers then. Up to now, even though we have families of our own now, I still call my brother for advises. I did not stop admiring him and after we all separated as siblings when we started having work and have families of our own, we still talk a lot especially on how to deal with our family and our finances.
On the other hand, my journey in the military started by way of becoming a follower. From being a follower, I do not know if I have done my part satisfactorily as a follower to my superiors for I cannot rate my own performance. As a follower, I also have my classmates whom I considered as friends and siblings and not as competitors. And as I grew from the service, I slowly became a small unit leader and a mentor. Becoming a leader means having subordinates to look down to so that they will be guided along their careers. This has been one of my principle as a leader, to mentor those who are under you. Today, I consider these superiors, classmates and subordinates to be all my friends. That reason of friendship became my barometer in rating my human relations with others. The more I have enemies, the more I felt the guilt of failing as a leader. Just like at home, at training and at work, I think the lessons I learned about leadership were all about the principles of leadership. And for as long as I stick with the rules and regulations at home or at school, or for as long as no law were violated while being a part of society, I thought I already developed moral and character maturity. Little did I know that there is still a higher stage of development that has to be learned for it will further strengthen my leadership by way of moral and character development. It is only now that this perspective of leadership known as ethical leadership is starting to sink in me and I am hoping that this will further develop me into a better leader as I go up the ladder of my military career.
The story of James Comey reflects how he became a victim in numerous ways. At home, together with his brother, they were victimized by a burglar who broke into their home stealing their valuables and catching them up at gunpoint. On the other hand while at school, he was bullied because of the way he dressed and his haircut. And as a working student, he was victimized by his co-worker at the grocery store that made him tip over a stack of milk crates causing it to fall from the floor creating a flood of milk at the aisle and instead of being punished, it became a lesson for him on leadership. In all incidents, these made Comey a better person while growing up. These were his formative years that gave him courage and determination on to pursue in life and even learning some important lessons on leadership. These initial development of Comey can be related to the pre-conventional stage of moral development as espoused by Kohlberg.
Comey attained the second stage of moral development which is the conventional stage when as a college pre-med student, he decided to become a lawyer because he came to realize that his desire was to help people who are defenseless and it was the most effective way of making a difference. It was further enriched when he became a lawyer. As a lawyer, he worked at the United States Attorney’s office in Manhattan under Rudy Giuliani where he handled the cases of Mafia mobsters in the likes of Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno and the Gambino crime family members. It is in this part of his career that he saw another kind of leadership. The leadership that was used by the Mafia was the fear-based leadership wherein becoming a member entails taking an oath of loyalty. The conventional stage of moral development started to develop further for Comey when he started working with a new boss named Helen Fahey of the US Attorney’s office in Eastern Virginia. Her characteristics as a leader were what Comey appreciated like humility, kindness, toughness and a sense of humor. These characteristics made her become respected by subordinates that at any time will display loyalty and support. For Comey, this influenced him that to be able to gain loyalty, it can be achieved through confidence, hard work and compassion.
As a staff officer, being exposed to personnel, intelligence and in operations, the dilemmas I handled were in the level of the conventional stage of moral development. I may have done decisions that were based on moral and ethical values but for me, these were just coincidence. I know I learned through my experiences and my trainings based on existing laws and much worst still based on rewards, punishment and obedience. Compared to Comey, I am still at a stage that equates obedience to loyalty. And in my analysis, I am still stocked-up in between the post-conventional and the conventional stages of moral development. As a personnel officer, one of the most unforgettable dilemma that I went through was during a major recruitment of 1,069 Candidate Soldiers. I was very lucky enough that the quota for recruitment was very big so I thought that I can accommodate the request of many senior officers, my contemporaries and even subordinate who are sponsoring applicants during the processing. There was no problem accommodating their request because I even needed more applicants because I cannot fill-up totally the quota because of the lack of applicants and the time constrain for the processing of the applicants. The dilemma came when the Commander made it clear to me that he brought with him some applicants and that we needed to help them pass the qualification examinations at the hospital. As a loyal staff officer, all I did was to comply with the instructions so I have to talk with the doctors making the examinations and also the psychiatrists making the NP. There were two of his applicants who did not pass the initial examinations and I made arrangements to make them pass. I feel guilty at some point but I believe during that time that I did not violate any law because all I did was for them to take the examinations again until they passed. It is only unfair for some other applicants who were not given such privilege because they are not connected to anybody. And as I reflect on what I have done before, I can say that I am still torn between the first and second stage of moral development.
For the postconventional stage of moral development, Comey projected this stage of development starting on the prosecution of a certain Martha Stewart for breaking the law by selling stock through the use of an insider information. Even though the amount involved here was only $50,000, compared to the fame of Martha Stewart who was some sort of a celebrity that time, it did not prevented her prosecution because she lied to the federal investigators by trying to cover up the conversation with her broker. Her defense was that she was too rich to care about a measly $50,000. Such defense and her status did not intimidate Comey but instead he pursued the prosecution of the defendant because it was not ethical to do so. There are other incidence of ethical dilemmas that Comey experienced and he handled them with moral and character maturity. He stood up against the White House policies on the conduct of surveillance long after the 9/11 New York attacks. As the Department of Justice (DOJ) Deputy Attorney General, together with the Attorney General, John Ashcroft, they both agreed that the program should no longer receive DOJ approval on the conduct of surveillance without warrants being done by the National Security Agency (NSA). White House staff were very insistent to get the DOJ approval on the matter however, Comey stood his ground and together with the FBI director Robert Mueller, they threatened to resign. Such act of courage to stand their ground made President Bush heed to the DOJ’s advice and make appropriate changes to White House’s surveillance policies. Such actions revealed Comey’s actions according to principles and values.
There are other instances wherein Comey was able to show his third stage of moral development. He resigned from the DOJ because of conflicts with the current system of interrogation using physical pain which he condoned during the Bush administration. In 2013, even though not close to the newly elected President Obama, he was chosen as the FBI Director and after being installed in office, one of his marching order was to incorporate strong ethics and make the FBI to become an effective organization by reflecting the nation’s demographic. With his new program, FBI had to take in more non-Caucasian agents to include the selection also of more female agents. Recruitment was then diverse in the bureau. While serving under President Obama as FBI director, he came to know Obama as one great, effective and intelligent leader. He was a leader who is willing to listen and most especially, he was admired by Comey by making the FBI an apolitical and independent institution. Nevertheless, the admiration of Comey to President Obama came into being because of the traits that the president showed which are exactly the traits that defines his definition of a great leader. After manifesting the three stages of moral development, we can see Comey as a Conscientious Moral Agent by willing to listen to reason even if it will mean changing his decision and willing to act with courage upon moving through the process of deliberation as what was shown during the Clinton email investigation. Days before the presidential elections, the FBI with the guidance of Comey changed their earlier statement that Clinton’s investigation ended already and now that another discovery was about to be unfolded with the discovery of new evidence, he had to change his stand and he had to tell that they need to reopen the case even knowing that it might affect the result of the elections. The courage of Comey to get into that state reflects him as a Conscientious Moral Agent who is concerned impartially with the interests of everyone affected and that he carefully examined the facts and their implications.
With regards to my dilemmas at the third stage of moral development, I believe that I haven’t reached that stage yet compared to what Comey has already achieved. I am starting to learn from this lesson that I need to grow my moral and character development. As an intelligence officer, I also do background investigations for candidate soldier applicants and because of some pressure within the organization especially from senior officers, I have to give-in to their demand even knowing that certain directive are being violated especially for those applicants who are pretending to have no children. I can easily forego with this kind of dilemma because for as long as my superiors knew about this and that I reported it to them, the decision of still accepting the application of such CS applicants no longer lies with me but with the board with the endorsement of the Commander. In this level, I believe that I am really stocked-up at the level of the conventional stage because I have yet to come to a point wherein I have to question my morals and ethics with regards to my decision. My basis for decision is yet at the level of its conformity with the norms and laws of the society. I really am still learning to embrace openness and begin deciding in the lens of the third stage of moral development once I will encounter another life changing dilemma in my military career.
And finally, with the climax of the book, Comey reflected his being a Conscientious Moral Agent by being very vocal with President Trump. He emphasized to President Trump the independence of the FBI and that he did not gave in to the request of President Trump for Comey to pledge verbally his loyalty to him during private dinners. As said earlier, Comey stands to the ideals of an ethical leader does not ask for loyalty. Instead, he sees President Trump as one of the mobsters he earlier described that is forcing him to make a loyalty oath. From these events until the time that President Trump was fed up with how the FBI was handling the Russia investigations, it ended up with President Trump firing Comey from the FBI. Even though Comey was expecting to finish his term as an FBI Director, his unexpected termination from office brought him the inspiration to write the book to tell everybody who President Trump is. The memos Comey kept in their private conversations depicting President Trump trying to influence the outcome of an ongoing FBI investigation clearly showed how President Trump have not reached yet the level of an ethical leader. The decisions of Comey has also something to do with the support of his wife along the way in his career. It can be seen in this book how Comey’s family influenced his decisions. Most of the time, family provides inspiration to do what is morally right as what happened with Comey.
Putting myself into the shoes of Comey, I may not yet have the courage to disobey a president. Maybe because I am still in the perspective that loyalty is equal to obedience. But after this lesson on ethical leadership and after reading the book of Comey, I am starting to fix myself by starting to understand fully the levels of moral development. Understanding the stages of moral development will provide me with the appropriate tool on how to face my next moral dilemma. It is in this context that I also want to impart this knowledge to my future unit or office. As a leader, I never cease to mentor those who are under me because by mentoring, I may be able to influence them to develop their morals and character. As espoused by the principle of leadership that is to lead by example, I will show my subordinates through my actuations and decisions the proper way of being an ethical leader. In this way, I will live through my core values. Doing what you are teaching is the best way to get the support of others. It should not only be once or twice for they may consider it as purely accidental only. As mentioned in the previous lecture, ethical leadership is already manifested when there is already consistency in all your undertakings. So while I am still in the military service and as I am about to handle bigger formations of soldier in the future, I will make the perspective of an ethical leader as a way of leading. As mentioned a while ago, I am still at the stage of fully understanding the stages of moral development. This learning process will not stop for I believe that leadership and character are inseparable. And to be able to have character development, I must also undergo moral development. By the time that I have completely undergone the process of moral and character development, I will be ready to face squarely my incoming moral dilemmas based on sound, moral and ethical judgment.
Changing the ethical climate of my unit will be done by first having those under me know what my policies are. It is best for them to know what are the do’s and dont’s that I want to introduce into the unit. Aside from the normal rules and regulations, the do’s and dont’s will also focus on moral and ethical standards so that it will be easier for them to make decisions when a dilemma will come on their way. A very good example of the policy is the emphasis on keeping the Commander always informed. This policy is just a normal regulation for us but if this is inculcated into the unit how important this policy is without any exception, this policy will help every individual to be open with the Commander about everything regardless what implications it will bring about. Further, this will provide peace of mind for the Commander that nothing is being hidden from him. What is important here is that the fear of reporting must be removed so that a two-way communication will always be open at all times. Communication and feedback plays an important role in shaping the ethical environment of the unit. Aside from leading by example, it is of most importance for the leader to know his men. It is in knowing your men that you will know his morals and ethics and if you need to enrich it, you may do so through character and moral development programs. In doing so, the unit will be taught how to face their moral dilemmas that may come their way.