One day my training officer, Nick Najera, said, “Most of the burglaries in our district are committed by heroin addicts. If we could get them in jail, we would reduce burglaries. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a month without any home burglaries?”
Without deliberately following the best of leadership tactics, he had presented a “vision” to me.
Our department had an enforcement tool that empowered us to arrest narcotic addicts. That same law also mandated a 90-day jail stay for those addicts. So, during the next several months, we devoted our discretionary time to looking for “hypes” (heroin addicts).
We succeeded in arresting nearly 100 addicts. Burglaries dropped dramatically. Then, the burglary detectives in our district prepared a commendation for our personnel packages. Admittedly, this had not been a sophisticated or formal vision. This simple vision, however, was a powerful tool that motivated, gave direction and challenged.
Have a Vision
Soon after being appointed assistant chief of police and director of operations, I realized the need to update our strategic plan. We selected a group of officers of various ranks representing the entities of the organization, as well as the five deputy chiefs. The planning group identified 13 areas which needed improvement. For this article, I’ll use one of those deficiencies, response time, as an example. At that time, we averaged 12 minutes to respond to 911 emergency calls for service much too long.
Develop the Vision
Over the next several months, our planning team held 13, single-purpose, all-day meetings, addressing each of our deficiencies individually. Team members were given research materials to read in preparation for each meeting.
For the session addressing our poor response time, each team member had been given articles and other materials describing what other agencies had done to improve their response times. We were loaded for bear. The day was productive. The end plans were good because many minds collaborated in their development. We developed policies, strategies and tactics designed to reduce our average response time to seven minutes. This goal was a consensus reached by the field officers responsible for achieving this specific goal.
Share the Vision
The next job was to get these plans disseminated throughout the department. A great plan is worthless if it’s not communicated effectively. Officers at every level within the organization must understand the purpose and benefits of achieving each goal. They must also be equipped to implement the plans through training and preparation. Simply giving direction without securing commitment to the vision will not work.
For example, our officers had to have a strong desire, coupled with the techniques and organization necessary, to achieve our response time goal. In our case, it took a combination of presentations, training, discussions and one-on-one meetings. Typically, insufficient time and effort is devoted to this difficult step in visionary leadership.
Retain the Focus
Providing timely data on a goal’s progress is a very important component of this part of visionary leadership. Commanding officers and supervisors were encouraged to use their creativity.
Keeping with our response time example, the staff at a district station prepared and placed an innovative poster at the roll call room’s exit door. The poster had a giant clock with the seven minutes before midnight shaded in red with the phrase “stop the clock.” This consistent reminder, along with our newly developed strategies, helped them reach the response time goal in less than 30 days.
Vision in Motion
Here are some tips that can help you use vision in your leadership.
1. Vision makes the future. It does not predict or anticipate the future, it creates the future. It describes a desirable state of the organization in the not-too -distant future.
2. Vision sets the standard. It presents a high standard of excellence that the organization is committed to achieve. It describes in some detail the actions and quality of behavior that will deliver desirable results.
3. Vision describes uniqueness. It explains how the organization will “stand out” from similar organizations. It illustrates the ways the members will achieve exceptional results and emerge as setting the standard for the industry or profession.
4. Vision is idealistic. It presents a bold goal worthy to achieve. It calls its members to a noble and meaningful purpose or cause. It is inspiring.
5. Vision in clarifying. It presents specific direction to the members. It is a roadmap or blueprint to ensure all members are working as a team to achieve their goals.
6. Vision is challenging. It motivates members to stretch and go beyond their comfort zone. It dares them to achieve higher levels of accomplishment.
7. Vision is not complex. It is simple enough to be communicated, and yet comprehensive enough to give clear direction and guidance.
Authorities on the subject of leadership recognize that vision is one of the essential ingredients of being a successful leader on point.
Former Assistant Police Chief Vernon supervised all departmental police operations for Los Angeles’ 18 police stations. Chief Vernon is an author, speaker, and consultant who speaks on the need for change in the moral fabric of our nation. Chief Vernon has presented leadership and ethics seminars to the military and police leaders in foreign governments and seven foreign parliaments.