Leadership in law enforcement is not about rank
Everyone in an organization is in a position to lead
I was 22 years old when I started my law enforcement career and I had a great deal to learn about life, about being a law enforcement professional and about leadership. Like a lot of people I thought leadership was about rank, title, and position in an organization. I thought that the leaders of the organization were the Sergeant, Inspectors, Lieutenants, Captains, Superintendents and Chiefs. Over the years, I learned many valuable lessons about leadership. I learned that leadership is not about rank, position or title. Leadership is about action and interaction. Leadership is about doing what’s right, not what’s popular. Leadership is about doing what’s right, not what’s expedient. Perhaps most the most important lesson I’ve learned over the years is that everyone in an organization is in a position to lead.
Throughout my career I observed, and at times participated in, the continual and excessive complaining and finger pointing. I have seen too many officers get caught up in the blame game where instead of looking for solutions, they are continually looking for someone to blame. As cops we often spend a great deal of time and energy complaining.
We complain about:
• The ‘lack of leadership’ at the top of the organization
The point of this article is to encourage you to take the first step toward being a leader. Step away from the blame game, stop pointing fingers, and stop waiting for someone else to take action. It is important throughout your career to focus on what you can control. Focus on what you can do to make a difference. Accept the fact that regardless of your position in your organization, you are in a position to lead... to train yourself and others and to make a difference.
It’s been my experience that many of the major changes in organizations started at the grass roots level. These significant changes are bottom up driven, not top down driven. The officers in the field know what works, and what does not. They know what they need for equipment and training. They know what needs to be done at a particular call to make it safer for the people that are there. They know because they are there. They know because they are at the pointy end of the stick. They know because they do the job every day. The ones that understand leadership take action to initiate change.
Stepping Up and Speaking Up
If you see something that could be improved in your agency put together an action plan with potential solutions and put it foreword to someone who has the authority to approve it or is willing to take it to higher levels for approval. If you see a gap in training then do some research and put forward some possible solutions on how those gaps might be filled. Better yet, get involved as a trainer for your organization.
It is important to remember that no one buys anything (cars, houses, your proposals) based on why it is important to you. Learn to step back and put yourself in the other person’s position, then sell it to them based on why it is important to them. I would also encourage you to read the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath.
Remember to be Patient
I wish I had known at the start of my career that everyone is in a position to:
Two questions you need to ask yourself:
1. What’s Important Now?
Given the choice between spending your career as a problem identifier or a problem solver, choose to be a problem solver. Choose to be a leader.
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