If there was one recipe for failed leadership in law enforcement it would be the misapplication of what far too many believe is actual leadership. Getting this wrong is like building a house without a foundation.
Everything will eventually crumble and it will be devastating.
Leadership is never about position or authority.
Leadership is always about credibility.
Unfortunately, the law enforcement profession often treats leadership as positional. Prior to teaching “Courageous Police Leadership” for an agency, I ask who will be in the class. The answer typically is a certain rank that does not include the line officer. Fortunately, after I explain that the course is for everyone, the host agency will usually open the course up but I understand the typical default of “rank only.”
Law enforcement aligns leadership with rank and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve worked with veteran officers that had more leadership in their small toe than some of the “celebrity” police chiefs I know.
I don’t expect everyone to understand that position has nothing to do with leadership because frankly, law enforcement puts a lot of emphasis on position but a rank will never change anything.
Only leadership can do that.
Leadership & Credibility
Leadership is influence and while someone in position may have the authority to tell someone what to do, only leadership and the credibility that entails can influence what others do.
How are you doing int the area of credibility?
Do you treat people the same regardless of who they are?
Is your decision making based on how the decision can help you or how it can help others?
Do you give credit to others or do you take it?
Are you more concerned with your reputation or your integrity. Reputation can be taken from you regardless of your actions but you alone own your integrity.
Status Quo Must Go
If law enforcement is honest, many of our agencies reward the exact opposite of what a credible leader is. If you want the next promotion, simply go along with the system and do what it takes to make yourself look good regardless of the cost to others. If the chief is looking for that next “big city” chief job, champion whatever the flavor of the year is for your agency regardless of the impact.
All of this works…influence and credibility be damned but all of it is shortsighted.
None of it will matter.
That promotion you stepped over others to get will only last for a time. The new job you ruined your old agency for will probably only last a few years.
Leadership & Legacy
At the end of it all, only leadership that influences others, will live past a few years.
How you treat others will be remembered for decades.
The decisions that helped others will resonate throughout their careers.
The credit you showered on those around you will be appreciated and respected beyond belief.
And your integrity will be passed on for generations through those that knew you and emulated you.
This is why leadership matters.
Dr. Travis Yates retired as a commander with a large municipal police department after 30 years of service. He is the author of “The Courageous Police Leader: A Survival Guide for Combating Cowards, Chaos & Lies.” His risk management and leadership seminars have been taught to thousands of professionals across the world. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy with a Doctorate Degree in Strategic Leadership and the CEO of the Courageous Police Leadership Alliance.