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Comey: Leading during a crisis 'doesn't mean promising people all will be fine'

Comey: Leading during a crisis 'doesn't mean promising people all will be fine'
© Stefani Reynolds

Former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Trump remarks put pressure on Barr Ex-deputy attorney general says Justice Dept. 'will ignore' Trump's threats against political rivals MORE said Sunday that leading during a crisis “doesn’t mean promising people all will be fine.”

Comey highlighted how important a leader’s honesty is during a crisis in a Washington Post op-ed published Sunday.

“People crave leadership when they are afraid,” he said. “But leading well during a crisis does not mean ‘faking it so people don’t freak out.’ It doesn’t mean promising people all will be fine or lecturing them for being frightened.”

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The former FBI director said leaders during the crisis should work on “radiating calm, competence and compassion so the people being led are comforted by the leader’s presence and vision.” 

Comey described fear and anxiety as “contagious” like the coronavirus currently wreaking havoc on the country.

“Candor — as opposed to sugarcoating the situation — allows people to relax a bit, knowing the leader will always tell them what they need to know, when they need to know it,” he wrote. “This allows them to shift some of their emotional burden to the leader’s shoulders, giving them the chance to find some normalcy in the storm.”

He praised Queen Elizabeth II’s address to the country last week, saying she was “candid about the present, yet optimistic about the future.” He also cited President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s radio speech to the country after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

But the former FBI director said the country will survive “even without effective national leadership.”

“Even without effective national leadership, we will get through this pandemic crisis,” he said. “We will meet again and, when we do, the United States will be a better country, with a much deeper appreciation for what leadership requires.”

The president fired Comey as the FBI director in May 2017, a few months after his inauguration, because of the former director's management of the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBon Jovi to campaign with Biden in Pennsylvania The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 spending wars | Biden looks to clean up oil comments | Debate ratings are in Biden gets late boost with key union endorsement MORE email investigation and his involvement in the Russia investigation to examine ties between the country and Trump’s campaign.

Since then, Comey has spoken out against Trump – who has come under fire for his coronavirus briefings, which some have characterized as overly optimistic – in various interviews and op-eds.