“Nothing else in the world…not all the armies…is so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”–Victor Hugo, The Future of Man.
One thing we have learned from President Trump is how leaders like him think and hire. The leadership books make it appear that leaders have a methodical process that they follow when hiring. But that's not true. Leaders in business and politics operate by the gut. The trick to getting the job with them is to appeal to their gut.
In this post, I will focus on William Barr, Attorney General (AG), in how he got the job of AG. I am using an example from the political world since most are probably familiar with him and can verify for themselves, but Barr's technique will work in any field. Note, you don't have to like William Barr or the job he is doing as AG, but you can definitely learn a lot on how to get a job. If you follow his technique, you too can get the job you want.
What I find so interesting about William Barr is that he was not on anyone's shortlist to replace Jeff Sessions as the AG. So how did he end up getting the job? Below you will find the technique he used.
Below are the steps William Barr went through that not only got him the job he wanted but has enabled him to keep the job, which is hard under President Trump.
Everyone wants to be validated and no one wants this more than leaders. If you validate their thinking, you are likely to get their attention. And no leader has demonstrated this more than President Trump.
President Trump kept saying after he became President that he wanted his "Roy Cohn," a lawyer who can get him out of legal troubles. Roy Cohn was his lawyer in New York City who got him out of legal troubles.
Unfortunately, he didn't have his "Roy Cohn" in the justice department to get him out of legal trouble, especially the Mueller investigation. President Trump was letting everyone know about his problem and what he was looking for in an AG who can solve his problem.
President Trump's problem started when his first Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, had recused himself from the Mueller investigation since he had contacts with the Russian Ambassador to the United States. Sessions got the AG job because he helped Trump get elected President. Sessions, when he was the senator, was the first major political figure to endorse Trump.
Sessions was very loyal to Trump and did everything Trump wanted in enacting his policies, especially when it came to immigration. But Sessions was not his "Roy Cohn." For recusing from the Mueller investigation, Sessions drew Trump's ire. It was a matter of time before Trump replaced Sessions.
Enter William Barr. He has always had this view of the Imperial Presidency. Barr's interpretation of the Constitution allowed a president to exercise unlimited power with little to no checks and balances from Congress. Barr and the President thought alike. Barr's idea and time had collided and he was not going to miss this golden opportunity to redefine the presidency the way he envisioned it. But first he had to get his idea to the President since I don't think Trump knew who William Barr was. But how do you get the President's attention? Appeal to his self-interest.
One thing I want to mention. All CEOs will say that they are not driven by self-interest. But when you look deeper, that is not likely to be true. All leaders are driven by self-interest. You just have to do some research to find out what that is and if you focus on that, you will not only get their attention but a job too.
Barr had the credibility and the experience since he was the AG under George H.W. Bush for fourteen months. But he didn't get to re-define the presidency as he envisioned since Bush was defeated in 1992.
Barr saw an opportunity with President Trump. Barr understood Trump's problem and knew how to solve it. But first, he had to get his view in public so Trump would find out. Barr was positioning himself as the "Roy Cohn" Trump was looking for.
Barr wrote a memo dated June 8, 2018, titled "Mueller's 'Obstruction' Theory" that explained what he saw wrong with the Mueller investigation. In short, he thought that a president can't be investigated while in office. Below was the opening sentence in this memo:
"I am writing as a former official deeply concerned with the institutions of the Presidency and the Department of Justice. I realize that I am in the dark about many facts, but I hope my views may be useful."
To follow an appropriate protocol. Barr sent the memo to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Assistant Attorney General Steve Engel. But his ultimate audience was President Trump, and he knew that with his credibility and experience, the memo would get Trump's attention. And it did.
But President Trump needed to see whether William Barr had support from his core supporters before he replaced Jeff Sessions. Barr had plenty of support. One of the people who lobbied on behalf of Barr was Pat Cipollone. Cipollone was Barr's former speechwriter, a fellow board member at the Catholic Information Center, and White House Chief Counsel. Barr also received plenty of support from Fox News, especially Laura Ingraham, whom president Trump frequently talks to get her views on political matters.
President Trump now had the cover from inside the White House and Fox News who he depends on getting ideas and making decisions. Trump wanted Barr.
Getting the Job
Selling President Trump was not hard since the memo did the job. Since Barr's view of the Imperial Presidency aligned with President Trump's view, Trump finally had his "Roy Cohn." To make it official, Barr had to look and sound reasonable in the Senate Judiciary hearing to not cause any consternation among Senate Republicans when it came to confirming Barr. Since the Republicans had the majority Barr was confirmed along party-line votes.
Doing the Job
Barr now had to live up to being Trump's "Roy Cohn" and he did not disappoint.
Instead of releasing the report, Barr released a four-page letter with his interpretation of the Mueller report on March 24, 2019. And the redacted report was not released till April 18, 2019. This allowed Barr to spin the report that Mueller did not find any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. He also did not find any obstruction as he wrote this in the four-page Barr letter:
"... Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel's investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense."
The characterization of the Mueller report in the Barr letter allowed President Trump to keep repeating "No Collusion, No Obstruction, No Nothing." And it stuck. Trump did not get impeached even though there were at least ten incidents of obstruction cited in the Mueller report that were committed by President Trump. But Barr kept Trump out of trouble by creating narrative that the investigating didn't find anything impeachable. It worked.
Michael Flynn Investigation
William Barr recommended that charges be dropped against Michael Flynn, the National Security Advisor. Flynn had admitted that he had lied to the FBI twice regarding his contact with the Russian Ambassador. The reason Barr cited was that Barr felt that the government had no legitimate reason to investigate Flynn in the Russian probe. Again, Trump did not want Flynn to go to jail, and Barr acted as Trump's "Roy Cohn." The Appeals court will decide whether the justice department can drop the charges against Flynn.
Roger Stone Investigation
Roger Stone, long time ally of President Trump, was found guilty of witness tampering and lying. The prosecutors in the justice department wanted to recommend a sentence from seven to nine years. But when Trump sent angry tweets, the four prosecutors withdrew from the case. Another prosecutor working for Barr recommended that the original recommendation was too harsh. Again, Barr came through as Trump's "Roy Cohn."
Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison, a $20,000 fine, two years of probation, and 250 hours of community service. But he never served any time in jail since his sentence was commuted by President Trump.
E.J. Carroll, an American journalist and advice columnist, had filed a defamation suit against Trump. She had accused Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her at the Bergdorf Goodman store in the late 1990s. When a judge ruled that Trump had to provide his DNA, Trump again needed his "Roy Cohn" to go into action. And that is what Barr did.
The justice department took over the case, and at the least, it buys Trump some time during the re-election. At worse, the case will simply disappear since the government can't be charged with defamation. Barr knows what his job is and why he wanted the job and has not disappointed Trump thus far and unlikely to do so.
Barr understood Trump's problem and knew he could solve it. He got Trump's attention by writing a memo and got the job. He has kept Trump out of legal troubles. If you do what Barr has done fro Trump, you too can get the job you want.
Jay Oza is an author, speaker, executive coach. He makes people thrive on high stakes stage whether it's for a job interview, a sales presentation or a high-stakes speech. He is the author of a practical book Winning Speech Moments: How to Achieve Your Objective with Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere. You can get this book on Amazon for 99 cents for a limited time. Please download the free speech checklist that you can use to help you create a winning speech for any situation.
Please contact him if you would like to have a two 75 minute coaching session on job interviewing or high-stakes speaking. If you are interested in inviting him to give a talk on job Interviewing or high-stakes speaking. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.