Tacos, wine, millennials and police leadership

Leaders, trainers, and patrol officers often complain about the "new generation" and how they do not want to put in the time on the streets


I am a 59-year-old baby boomer who started his law enforcement career in 1979. I am also the proud father of two millennials who inspired this article. Both of my sons, Jesse and Cody, are entrepreneurs. Jesse, 32, owns a very successful boutique wine store and a cocktail bar. He is working on opening a second wine store in the fall and a restaurant in the spring of 2017. Cody, 30, owns a very successful restaurant called Native Tongues Taqueria. He is working on opening a second restaurant (completely different theme) in 2017. 

As I watch my two sons continue to learn about leadership and grow as leaders, I am frustrated by the "generation bashing" I hear from law enforcement professionals across North America regarding the Millennial Generation (those of you born since 1980). 

I continually hear the terms "selfish" and "entitled" used to refer to this generation. I hear leaders, trainers, and patrol officers complaining about the "new generation" and how they do not want to put in the time on the streets. They all want to be the chief right now. 

We must look at ourselves 
I find it interesting that we blame a generation for how their parents raised them, their teachers taught them, and their coaches coached them. Many of the people complaining about them are those same parents, teachers and coaches. We also blame them for how we recruit them. We recruit them on the promise they can be SWAT officers, homicide investigators, commanders and even the chief or the sheriff. 

I also find it interesting that the generation we call selfish and entitled are the majority of the men and women who voluntarily joined our military since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. They joined in a time of war knowing they would likely be deployed, possibly for multiple tours, and may not come home or may come home without all their limbs. Not only did they join, they served heroically tour after tour. Some have gone on to serve in law enforcement following their military service. 

This is the generation the research refers to as "the Next Greatest Generation." This is a generation the research also says is the most tolerant of diversity, the most service oriented and the most entrepreneurial in history. The research is also very clear that the millennial generation wants to be part of a cause or a mission greater than themselves. Millennials are the future of the law enforcement profession. 

Learning from millennials
Back to tacos and wine and some of the leadership lessons I have learned from watching my sons: 

  1. Hire talent, not bodies.
  2. Invest in your people by providing ongoing training and development.
  3. Treat your people well and they in turn will treat your community well. 
  4. Surround yourself with great people who have different strengths and talents than you do.
  5. Know your community so you can serve your community.
  6. Dare to be great and continually strive to get better. You are always going to be compared to how great you can be. 
  7. Failure is part of the growth process. Not every idea, project or personnel move is going to be successful. The most successful people have failed more than everyone else, learned and grew from their failures and moved forward, improved from the experience.
  8. When you screw up (and you will) stand up, own up, learn from it and move forward. 
  9. Be willing to do the work. Success, greatness and leadership are all hard work. 
  10. Relationships are everything.
  11. Have a life outside work. 
  12. Make family a priority. 
  13. Be yourself, but always strive to become a better version of you.
  14. Study, learn, be humble, ask questions and seek feedback. 
  15. Know what you stand for and be true to your core values and principles. 
  16. Never build yourself up by putting others down. 

Lessons learned
These leadership lessons have helped Jesse and Cody to continue to grow their businesses in a down economy. These lessons however, are not only about tacos and wine, or about growing sales and revenue. They are about leading people. They are about striving to be great by serving greatly. 

If you are a fellow baby boomer or a Gen Xer, it is time to stop bashing the "new generation" (some of whom are in their mid-30s and are sergeants and commanders in your agencies) and start learning from them. We all bring something unique to the profession and we are all wired a little differently. 

And, if you are a member of the millennial generation we need you to step up. We need you to become a student of leadership and to evolve the culture of our profession. We need you to take your entrepreneurial bent and focus it on the organization. Become entrepreneurs and find ways to innovate and enhance the thinking, systems and processes in your agency.

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