Whilst reading James Comey’s A Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, I was struck by the striking similarities between my experiences as a lawyer and those of Mr Comey during his stint as Deputy Attorney General in the White House. I could relate to the pressure placed on him to approve the legality of controversial decisions and his struggle to discharge his role with integrity.
The book took me back to the beginning of my career, when I was a freshly minted lawyer assigned to a court with a bullying judge, determined to publicly humiliate me at every opportunity. Being a novice, I fought back as best as I could, but the judge’s behaviour exposed an underlying aggression which was wholly inappropriate. Yet no one objected, for fear of drawing attention to themselves and becoming a target. Consequently, my complaints fell on deaf ears and I endured a painful six months, by which time I became more proficient in my role and the judge lost interest in me. It was during this period that I began to rely on prayer for strength and resilience and it taught me an invaluable lesson about the power of faith.
Later, when I moved into the corporate world, I was exposed to other unedifying behaviour, which was usually founded on my refusal to approve a proposed course of action. I often found myself embroiled in career limiting battles about the ethics of a decision, which left me drained and exhausted. However, acquiescence would have meant relinquishing my integrity (which I wasn’t prepared to do), so I often left the office questioning my future at the company.
Once home, I’d replay the incident in my mind and wrestle with my conscience, questioning whether I was being too cautious and impeding progress rather than protecting the company. Surely with my imaginative legal skills, I could justify controversial decisions? I even reflected on how much easier my life would be if I conceded the argument and imagined basking in the warm glow of approval when I announced a change of heart.
However, reality soon intruded when I reminded myself that I couldn’t be one person at home and another in the office. I had to remain true to my values and professional ethics. Yet remaining resolute in an environment where capitulation was rewarded, required immense strength and no leadership handbook or executive coaching could imbue me with the authority I needed, to stand my ground. So, I turned to God and came to rely on Ephesians 6.10-6.18 for the rallying battle cry in the “Whole Armour of God”, which never failed to lift my spirits and set me on the right course.
During those times, my greatest fear always centred around losing my job and the uncertainty, which would follow. Yet, when I reconciled myself to that outcome, I was liberated from my fears and took comfort in an absolute conviction that God would take care of me. I realised through those skirmishes that although legal decisions were made with the rational mind using reason and intellect, it was faith which provided the firepower to see them to execution.