If It Was Easy – Everyone Would Lead

Leaders in today’s environment attempt to please all sides of the community including the criminals and officers. I contend that the chief executive officer should focus their leadership attention on the department and the law abiding community. These criminals are not worth the time and effort but yet seem to consume most of the efforts of police departments.  To create the necessary paradigm shift, I suggest three timeless examples of leadership that should be taught, studied and applied towards our noble profession.

We as a profession must look to the past once again and see how Sir Robert Peel’s principles hold true today.  The law enforcement profession has appeared to have turned away from a few leadership values.  I would argue that no principle is better than the other but they must be taken as a whole and applied towards the agency and community. My personal favorite is number seven of Peel’s principles:

To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

Law enforcement agencies need to be out in the community, working with the community to solve problems.

Recent history will show each police chief must know and understand their community.  To that end I believe that the most ideal candidates are internal candidates.  The internal candidate understands the agency, community, culture, mores’, values and concerns.   To that end, the chief executive candidates need to be fostered and developed and there clearly needs to be succession planning.  I concur that command schools provide for excellent management skills but they do not always foster development of leadership skills.  They can teach you how to run an internal affairs investigation, but how the chief leads in crisis does inspire and create change within their own organization.  I would suggest that agencies need to study August Vollmer, William Parker, Daryl Gates, Charles Moose, and Teddy Roosevelt to understand how these great chiefs ran, lead, and inspired their agencies.  These men did not bow to political pressure, but lead from the front, and doing what is right and not what was easy.

One of my favorite videos on leadership is presented Dr. Randy Pausch who spoke on the Last Lecture – Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.  I think Dr. Pausch was a great inspirational, non-traditional, leader for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost, Dr. Pausch was raised in a family, which had values and standards.  These standards provided for a solid foundation for Dr. Pausch becoming a solid leader.  Second, Dr. Pausch was tutored and educated by caring professionals.  Third, and finally, he passed these lessons to his students and colleagues.  He continued to develop and create new leaders within his industry.  He was not a perfect leader, but he tried, and kept his team in mind.  Today I see more and more executives who are concerned with their own careers and legacies and often forget to be a leader.  Executives today are not concerned with the development of their staff or work to perpetuate the best of their organization.  They look to protect, defend and mitigate damage to their career and legacy.  Chiefs appear to provide lip-service and jump on the most recent trend that addresses the problems within the agency without keeping employees in mind. Leadership by incident, accident, trend or popular topic is not sustainable; it is a stop gap and does not address change.

I will not pretend to understand top-secret intelligence, employee issues, or other large scope problems that might plague every law enforcement agency.  But leading is not a part time job; it is not a full time job.  The common theme is people.  If you lead your people the way you would want to be lead, you will succeed.  Keep your troops and law abiding citizens in mind when you make policy decisions.  Deal with the incidents that crop up, but remember they are flash in the pans, and they too shall pass.


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