FBI Tips

July 14, 2014

In a June 9, 2014 National Public Radio story about the first nine months of James B. Comey’s 10-year term as FBI director, two leadership tips emerged that may apply to all types of organizations.

The first is that since the 9/11 tragedy, the FBI has had to change from an agency created to catch bank robbers to an agency that prevents crime before it occurs.

While all comparisons pale next to 9/11, many organizations have had some kind of crisis that demonstrates dramatically that the organization must change fundamentally in order to serve its overarching purpose in a changing world.

It requires an entirely different mindset, perhaps, an entirely reordered set of priorities.

The second point raised in the interview, and very likely the key to accomplishing the first, is that the FBI is now focused on the biggest steps, not just the easiest ones. This is what Director Comey sees is necessary for the FBI to become the agency our nation needs in today’s world.

The required response to a defining-moment crisis cannot be cosmetic change, but must be almost genetic change. Hard change – a focus on deep, systemic issues, not superficial matters.

It requires an entirely different level of commitment than existed before.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.