12 statements that suggest a supervisor is a bleeder, not a leader

Don't be the supervisor who bleeds the enthusiasm out of the officers you are supposed to lead


There are many truly inspiring police leaders, but there are a few who with their words become soul-crushing empty uniforms with rank.

Here are 12 examples of enthusiasm-bleeding statements made too often by “leaders.”

1. While pointing at their stripes on their sleeve, or bars on their collar they declare, “Because these say so.”

If you are a supervisor who has said one or more of these things take heart. You may not be a full-blown soul-crusher yet. (Photo/PoliceOne)
If you are a supervisor who has said one or more of these things take heart. You may not be a full-blown soul-crusher yet. (Photo/PoliceOne)

Have you ever suggested an alternative way to handle a call and had a commander point at their stripes or bars and say, “We’ll do it my way because these say so?”

End of discussion.

2.We’ve always done it this way.”

There are times when officers come forward with a plan to solve a reoccurring problem in an innovative way and their suggestion is met with, “Why change the status quo? We have always done it this way.”

End of suggestions. The next three go together.

3. “Slow down. There is no extra pay for making the most arrests.”

4. “Big arrests, big problems, little arrests, little problems, no arrest, no problem.”

5. “If you keep that up (referring to a high volume of self-initiated activity), they are going to expect that of you every night.”

These three statements have been heard by most proactive police officers who love what they are doing and are extremely active on the street. Some supervisors look at very active officers as a problem rather than a solution and feel it’s their mission to slow them down. The sad thing is, these statements often come from peers as well.

6. “The job will never love you back.”

If any officer lets it slip that they love their job, there will be that wise old supervisor, who will point out, “The job will never love you back.”

Mic drop!

7. "Did you make that arrest 15 minutes before quitting time just for the overtime?"

Many officers never lose sight of their duty. For example, they realize that arresting an impaired driver saves lives

No officer motivated to aggressively pursue an impaired driver will hesitate to arrest said driver 15 minutes before quitting time. These officers eventually run into a commander who will suggest their motivation for the arrest was to “pad their check with overtime.”

8. “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Even though every leadership course in the nation says, “Don’t say this; lead by example,” there seems to be no silencing this refrain.

9. “If I’d have been there, I would have….”

Nothing irks a street officer more than when this statement is made by a commander who has maneuvered into a position where they will never have to handle a life-threatening call again. The statement is made worse when this commander does not even supervise the officers who handled the high-profile, life-threatening situation that he or she is criticizing. These personally boastful statements serve only to give officers that hear them a sense no one has their back.

When the actions of the officers are found to be justified, this unnecessary Monday morning quarterbacking will get back to the officers involved in the critical incident and it becomes a source of pain.

10. “You’re not a social worker!”

There are times in every officer’s career when they are moved to go above and beyond for a little boy, a little girl or even an entire family in need. They are motivated by the caring spirit that brought them to this profession.

An officer may take a Christmas tree to a house. They may buy a pair of shoes for a homeless man or drop off a couple of chili dogs to a down-and-out traveler. Most will see the extra effort as laudatory, but there will be that one commander who will proclaim, “You’re not a social worker!”

The truth is police officers are the only social workers who make house calls 24-7. Most of you are pretty damn good at it also, so keep up the good work!

11. “You can’t make a difference. When a cop leaves this job it’s like pulling your hand out of a bucket of water. No one will even notice you were here.”

Really? A cop can’t make a difference?

What about the officers who have dragged people out of burning cars?

What about the officers who have saved lives with Narcan and tourniquets, or delivered babies?

What about the officers who keep many women from being beaten or killed at domestics every night of the week?

What about the Dayton officers who dropped an active shooter just as he was about to enter a crowded night club?

American police officers do make a difference!

12. “Have you scheduled the lobotomy yet?”

Street officers can demoralize a new supervisor as well by asking in response to the announcement of their promotion, “Have they scheduled the lobotomy yet?” This can be especially troubling when the comment comes from a good friend.

Instead, consider saying, “Congratulations my friend. You earned it.”

Conclusion

The people who say these things are not being leaders. They are choosing to be bleeders. They bleed the enthusiasm out of the officers they are supposed to lead.

To supervisors who say these things, learn to be better. 

To officers who these things are said to remember to not let anyone keep you from doing what you love and loving what you do. When you hear statements like these just remind yourself not all supervisors are leaders and not all leaders are supervisors.

And then, regardless of your rank, be a leader.

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