“This is the foundation for everything. Under Courageous Leadership there are several key principles that are vital to making leadership courageous. The foundation of them all is a principle called Courageous Nobility” – Travis Yates
The shine of the badge first pinned on, the feel of the gun belt on your first shift, the first time you look at your shoulder patches or rank insignia. These times draw to mind a memory for us all where the idealism of being in law enforcement was a concept you couldn’t yet grasp. Quickly, however, you respond to an infant drowning, or a fatal collision, or a series of domestic violence situations involving the same people, or even a shooting. And you sober up to the reality that this job isn’t rainbows and unicorns every day. In fact, as a coping mechanism law enforcement tends to quickly become skilled at assessing people and situations with the worst possible outcome in mind, so that all possible solutions for solving the problem are thought through from the onset. My wife tells me I’m fatalistic.
I tell her I’m a realist. Sound familiar?
I was told in the Academy that “Pride, Honor and Integrity” were the hallmarks of this job. And of those three, Integrity is the key. This is more than a principle when you wear the badge – It’s an expression of what you know about good and evil, right and wrong, and how those struggles are resolved real-time in front of every day. I was challenged years ago to stop being reactive to the circumstances in my life and on the job (to the extent possible), and to be proactive in my approach. I never back away from a challenge so I embraced what that meant and discovered the power in setting my foundation. It was during this time I was invited to a leadership school where “core concepts” were being instructed coupled with a deep dive through the “7 Habits of Law Enforcement.” I was at first amused at what I perceived to be pandering of the people in the class who acted as if they were the responsible change agents in the room to puff up in front of each other. Keep in mind that the class was filled with Agency heads and executive staff – and two sergeants who huddled together on the side of the class.
Reap What You Sow
Gratefully, throughout this multi-week class my attitude completely changed. I contributed to the discussions frequently and with passion and saw the executive staff in the room riveted by the ideas we were collaborating on as a class. It struck me like ice cold water in the face – most in the room had never considered, or long since forgotten, the foundation for why they started on the job and why they chose to move up the ranks. We covered miles of ground in leadership theory married with real-world application. We explored motivation, psychology, and at times simply talked about people. That was the lead-in to the “7 Habits” portion. This FranklinCovey, Co.TM program was a tremendous opportunity to strip the layers of the onion to expose the individual “why” and to wrap up our identity as a law enforcement professional with solid principles. This was where the challenge given to me became real. A key to this program focused on composing a mission statement for your life. The building blocks were taught through the course culminating with a final one-page statement at the end, which we all read aloud to each other.
At this point, there was no escaping the raw transparency we had shared and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room after each person shared. It was a pivotal moment. The thought of being proactive in approaching my entire life with principles set the foundation for where I am today. Grounded in my faith and lived out through a selfless desire to serve others, it was clear that I had discovered the seed then of what has matured today into the concept of Courageous Nobility. Through the years of teaching through this concept and joining other groups dedicated to bringing this message to law enforcement, I was completely unprepared to learn nobody was talking about this. Nobody was putting a premium on a proactive look at their life and identity, and how it shaped their work as a law enforcement professional. From Agency heads all the way through professional staff, I saw a gap which was recognizable through my own experience, and which could be filled through embracing Courageous Nobility.
A Rose is a Rose…
To be clear, many people have been teaching leadership principles through the decades and have adapted to the cultural bend our policing world has taken since professionalizing in the 1960’s. This isn’t about that. A thorough review of these concepts reveal pathways of action taken when faced with stimulus in the organization or culture. Few have addressed looking at the core value permanence that drives the actions described. These core values shape the concept of Courageous Nobility and as the opening quote above from Courageous Leadership chief instructor Travis Yates underscores, it’s the foundation of all the principles making leadership courageous.
Courageous Nobility is defined as, “the practice of representing truth in character, morality, and with principles of sound policing that allow someone to stay true to advocating the right course of action even under political pressure, media scrutiny, or the risk to career advancement.” This is not a label I would be flippant about applying. It’s not someone who is a “good guy” or “hard charger”, but has more in common with the intentionality, dedication, and commitment to a way of living life reminiscent of how Lou Gehrig approached his life in and through baseball. In the book, The Nobility of Policing, the definition of nobility says, “Nobility is greatness of character and high ethical qualities or ideals that serve a cause greater than self; faithfulness to a higher calling or purpose.”
The Road Less Traveled
Consider two excerpts from Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Less Traveled:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both
Law enforcement leaders cannot find long-term stability for their organizations when straddling the pressure to conform from the culture on one road and the duty to provide service to the citizens on the other road. Exhausted, well-intentioned leaders can’t sustain the back and forth tug and invariably end up on ne road or the other. However, Frost continues saying,
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that had made all the difference
Leaders invariably follow a path. That path is charted for everyone in their organization. The vision for the road to travel leading to community trust, high morale and performance from the employees must be rooted in Courageous Nobility for it to take hold. Even the naysayers will abandon their rhetoric when the results of this kind of leadership are seen by the community and cops on the street.
Where do we go from here? Contrary to what the media would have you believe, the forecast for policing in America is not gloom and doom. It requires men and women at all levels of leadership to choose the road most difficult and less traveled by cementing the identity of the organization on nobility and courage. It does not take a critical mass to tip the scales. I am seeing this in different parts of the country done well, and the results show themselves in robust recruiting, decreased attrition, and a groundswell of pride by the officers and professional staff. Staff and line-level contributing to this vision create safer communities, uplifting places to work, and affirm the pride, honor, and integrity we always had in the calling on our lives. Nothing, I repeat, nothing is stopping you from setting a proactive purpose for your life in policing rooted in Courageous Nobility today.
As was told to me years ago, who’s up for the challenge?
This article originally appeared at the Courageous Nobility with Jeff Daukas Substack. Sergeant Daukas is committed to the principles of Courageous Leadership and is the lead instructor for the foundational principle of Courageous Nobility. You can listen to Jeff discuss this vital principle on a recent Courageous Leadership Podcast.