Investigations: a Leader Tool as a Weapon

By | April 21, 2019

[April 21, 2019] As a senior military Flag Officer, I’ve used investigations as a tool to ferret the truth when other avenues were closed. However, in my experience, investigations are also used unethically to punish leaders or to harass them.1 When this leader tool is used as a weapon, everyone loses.

“About all I can say for the United States Senate is that it opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation.” – Will Rogers, American actor, cowboy, humorist, commentator

The perpetrators of such misuse of investigations are rarely punished. In any organization, there will be unscrupulous people who attempt to gain money, fame, promotion, or power through a corruption of the rules of fairness. In such places, there are clear-cut rules on how to properly and morally use investigations, yet there is often little said when used for unethical purposes.

Misuse of investigations must change if we are to make progress as leaders. It is the responsibility of each leader to do whatever they can to avoid the fraudulent use of this leadership tool.

When I was a boy and played baseball, if you lost, then you lost honestly and without cheating. Like all my friends, we never liked to lose a game (which was often) but to cheat would label us as untrustworthy and the fallout would be immediate. If we cheated, our team would not be allowed to play other teams. Our parents would be notified (a great fear). And, we would be called a “cheater” in school.

When investigations are used as a weapon, the user is cheating. A few years before my retirement, a senior civilian in the U.S. Army had been performing poorly. She failed to complete simple tasks or to supervise her subordinates. When counseled for her poor performance by her superior officer, she filed a harassment charge against him. This investigation delayed her being held accountable; exactly what she wanted.

As I write this blog post, people are studying the U.S. Department of Justice report known as the Mueller Investigation. Many have called this out as an example of an attempt to punish a sitting U.S. President because they disagree with him politically.

The best leaders lead by example. If it turns out the Mueller Investigation was used as a weapon, then those involved must be punished. Good leaders should closely study this and not take it as a ticket for a free ride to get back at those they dislike.


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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

15 thoughts on “Investigations: a Leader Tool as a Weapon

  1. Albert Ayer

    Another great article. That’s why I keep coming back.

    1. Eric Coda

      Me too. Good to hear from you again, Albert.

  2. Max Foster

    I’ve been thinking the same thing for years but never really thought of it this way. Holding people accountable for their actions in launching an “investigation” is something that is overdue. Ex-FBI director James Comey should be the first to have his actions exposed by the sunlight of an INVESTIGATION of what some say is a “soft political coup.” These are, of course, serious charges and should be thoroughly investigated. If for no other reason to show that this sort of “no percussion” justice is not the American way.

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      Good job Max. I too think that Comey, as well as the heads of several major intelligence organizations and senior leaders within them, should be accountable for their actions.

  3. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    The US Dept of Justice and the FBI has been politicized. Pres Obama allowed this to happen either purposefully (which is a crime of great magnitude) or out of laziness/stupidity. Either way, he showed us how NOT to be a leader. Hillary Clinton would have been worse than Obama.

    1. Joe the Aussie

      Spot-on comment. The hyper-liberalism of the USA today is growing in strength. The end result will be the destruction of the USA if you guys don’t get your act together pretty quickly. Cheers!

  4. Mikka Solarno

    I’m new to this website and have been reading some of the older articles to do some catching up. I like what I see and appreciate the relevance of the subject matter. Well done!

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Welcome Mikka. I’m a long-time reader and can tell you that General Satterfield encourages comments and uses this forum as a way to improve upon the arguments (pro and con) to what he has written. Continue to coming back and read even more.

  5. JT Patterson

    TImely topic. Too many investigations are truthfully used as a weapon, as you note. While that gives them a bad name, they are still a useful tool.

    1. Bill Sanders, Jr.

      Correct but the point here is that they are being used improperly and without consequences. The Mueller investigation cost 10s of millions of dollars and distracted our elected President and his party from doing the real needed business of the country.

      1. Doug Smith

        Keep those comments coming. Bill you are correct in your assessments. I like reading your comments.

    2. Roger Yellowmule

      Yes, JT. You are right and that is why we are in the state we are in. Ex Pres Obama once called it a “ircular firing squad.” In other places, I’ve heard it called, “eating their own.”

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