Well-taught leadership principles look good in the abstract, but leaders frequently fail in the execution. If leaders cannot artfully perform the conceptual sciences of leadership, they are like sexy models without a brain. They may look good, but ask for some thoughts and you’ll know where the phrase, “light’s on but no one’s home,” originated.
Leading versus being “in charge”
A good leader can execute a bad plan better than a bad leader can perform a good one. This is because some people have the gift to lead, while others are simply “in charge.” I hope to provide a fresh perspective regarding some practical leadership tools. Most of these are frequently cast aside. Yet they are abstract concepts that will help anyone transition from simply being in charge, to leading with substance.
If you desire followership, it’s up to you to bring theoretical leadership principles to practical reality in your role of influencing others.
Leadership principles of the mind
- Embrace the concept of overseer. The supervisor is focused on completing a task, but the overseer will shepherd the work force.
- Interlace the push and pull. While the transformational leader understands pulling others toward a vision, the transactional leader can nudge workers when necessary. Yet each style is required within the organization. Hopefully, wisdom will determine which is appropriate for the need of the moment.
- Know that atmospheric pressure will affect morale. As a result, a sensible leader will possess situational awareness and create a tone of optimism.
- Appreciate that leaders are learners. Therefore, the leader who “knows it all” will eventually learn the meaning of discomfiture—confused embarrassment.
- Use ink when writing. In other words, avoid sugar AND acid when documenting favorable and unfavorable events.
- Be able to explain your strategy. “Because I’m the boss” is the wrong answer.
- Desire to train a proxy. Moreover, multiplying replacements is the practice of a first-class leader.
Leadership principles of the heart
- Replace ambition with servitude. Since ambition comes from the Latin word meaning “campaigning for promotion,” the overly ambitious person who does this can be self-serving. As a result, this individual will not recognize the needs of others.
- Focus on 360-degree service. Most people know they need to make the boss happy, serve customers/citizens, and maintain good relationships with peers. But few bosses understand the principle of serving subordinates. Hence, superiors who’ve figured out how to help people, regardless of position, are well on their way to becoming overseers.
- Understand that leaders are not lords. Regardless of job function or division of work, a person of influence works in harmony with followers, and does not lord over them in a stalking manner.
- The perpetually closed door is a barricade. Consequently, it also handicaps opportunities to lead and can abdicate responsibility.
Leadership principles of subordination
- Believe that exceptional leaders are good followers. Therefore, support ethical leadership regardless of differing philosophies.
- Apply organizational integrity over individual loyalty. Ultimately, the organization cannot be corrupted, only individuals going astray can bring shame.
- Seek counsel. It is a sign of strength, not weakness. Be mindful that pride often precedes failure.
Emphasize values in leadership principles
- Earn respect and trust as vital components to your command. Because managers can issue orders, but demanding respect is not one of them. Much as trust is compromised it is likely to be gone forever.
- Practice self-control since flamboyance is not your friend.
- Consider that mediocrity is a choice. It is reinforced by sluggish behavior and avoidance.
- Recognize that leadership styles germinate and regenerate. For better or worse, organizational culture will breed.
- Comprehend that leadership is taxing. Therefore, daily renewal is vital.
- Ensure your heart and mind are captured. If passion is absent then success will be fleeting. If victory is brief then you are unlikely to possess long-term effectiveness.
Whether you are a field-training officer supervising one individual, or the chief of police managing thousands, you have an ethical obligation to be a good steward with your influence. Being a leader among leaders is a solemn responsibility. The best do not happen by accident. There is intentionality involved when applying leadership principles.
Finally, when concepts become deeds, you’ve taken the classroom to the street. That is where it belongs, where it has value, and where a person in charge becomes an effective leader!
– Jim McNeff
Jim worked in military and civilian law enforcement for thirty-one years. While in the USAF he flew as a crewmember aboard the National Emergency Airborne Command Post—a presidential support detail. Following his military service, he served for twenty-eight years with the Fountain Valley Police Department in Orange County, California where he retired as a lieutenant. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from Southwest University and graduated from the prestigious Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute as well as the IACP course, Leadership in Police Organizations.