Why police leaders should be selective about executive team composition

Few things will impact your effectiveness as a team leader like the composition of your executive staff


Few things will impact your effectiveness as a team leader like the composition of your executive staff. If you are lucky enough to find yourself at the head of an agency or taking on a new executive responsibility you should always pick your executive team, if you have the luxury to do so. 

In the management book “Good To Great,” Jim Collins identifies putting the right people in key seats (or getting the right people on the bus) as a primary step to taking any organization to the next level. It’s a clear acknowledgment of the importance that key stakeholders play in the desired outcomes.

The strategy established and promoted by the executive team means everything. You can’t expect to achieve greatness without identifying the road map to success or without explaining what that success might look like. You also can’t expect to be everywhere within the organization at once. This road map needs to be promoted and embraced at every level. This only happens through reiteration and emphasis by supervisory personnel. 

Achieving Your Objectives
When you have the executive staff in place that both embraces and promotes the strategic objectives, it greatly enhances the chances of the team being successful. Sometimes, the team needs for you to draw a straight line between everyday decisions and those high-level objectives. 

If the executive team is unable to explain the strategy to his or her team members you can expect to fall short of some of your objectives. This is the primary reason you have to ensure that your executive team shares your vision. If even one of them doesn’t quite understand the vision, you can expect ripple effects to impact your everyday outcomes. In a recent discussion with my management team, I had to fall on my sword. 

After some personal examination of the disparity in the ability of our team members to identify with our most basic and established strategic objectives, I realized that I had gone about identifying the strategy, but failed to continue to reiterate it to the point of acceptance among our ranks. I explained to the team that I had fallen short in one of the most basic tenets of executive team leadership and that things would be different moving forward. I’m still in the trust building phase with this group (I had assumed we had developed into a much more mature phase of synergy) and the personification and embodiment of our common objectives has not yet materialized. 

If you pick the team/executive staff, there tends to be some existing trust in the well, which is likely to benefit the day-to-day struggle of keeping teams focused on strategic objectives and passing the message on at every level. 

Identifying the Team
So, how do you go about identifying the members of your executive team? It may happen one of several different ways. The most organic method happens when you find yourself working with colleagues who share your leadership philosophy, management style and understanding of leadership fundamentals. When given the opportunity to work with these individuals again, you take advantage of it because you are literally starting the race a few paces in front of the starting line. Other possibilities include seeking the advice of those whom you trust in helping to identify executive team members. Colleagues and mentors who have worked with you before have some understanding of your fills and gaps or strengths and weaknesses. They can often recommend others to you who may compliment your existing skill sets. 

As the adage goes “the best indicator of future performance is prior performance.” This route usually maximizes efficiencies because each member of the team is allowed to engage in areas where they have shown strengths and usually a certain synergy develops.

What if you don’t have the luxury of picking your executive team (as is the case in most public sector work)? Then you have to work extra hard at reinforcing the fundamentals of team development and messaging the vision. Things like clearly stating the mission, developing trust among the core team members and recognizing each other’s strengths and weaknesses become paramount. The best teams are the ones that embody excellence at each and every level. I would suggest spending some extra time on picking the team who will help carry the vision forward

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