Uniforms do not make police leaders.
You cannot just occupy the uniform and expect to emerge as a police leader because of your longevity in the clothing. Time in the saddle equates to experience, but says nothing about what kind of people navigator you are. You cannot learn all about it in books. Leadership derives from who you become.
Leaders are not always synonymous with the boss. In fact, many materialize and stay near the bottom. What is great about it, is we need leaders in law enforcement at all levels. Rank may mean nothing except a title- but combine leadership, emotional intelligence, and higher authority and you have the means to carry out some great things.
Police really do not care about the debate of whether they are born or made unless you want to break down the philosophy of the issue. Law enforcement just really desire to have an organization full of quality people and good leaders with substance.
Police leadership is complicated.
What kind of substance? For many it can mean a combination of different competencies, traits, emotional intelligence, institutional knowledge, and interpersonal skills. Here is a list of a few things you can’t learn from a book:
- Still realizes the bottom supports the top. You need good community and organizational support starting at the street level. A good police leader recognizes what goes on and appreciates the dynamics of the street level positions whether he or she is working in that area or at the top of the brass.
- Acts as a pioneer with integrity. Honesty, morals, ethics, and police norms. This person might be someone you think of as a “shining example.” Law enforcement effectiveness gains momentum from best practices which might mean change or go-to standards. The important aspect is that the leader knows when to change and when to rely on what works and is effective and efficient.
- Accountability for self and others. An organization cannot progress with a standalone hero. It requires a team effort. A good director has faith in those surrounding him or her and trusts their skills and judgement or holds those accountable who do not cut the mustard. They also match this onus within themselves.
- Defaults to someone with more expertise when necessary. Knowledge levels and skill sets are spread over many individuals in law enforcement. A good leader knows when to follow and when to take charge.
- Mission and goal oriented while driving results. Leaders who have vision and propulsion with follow through are assets to a department’s administration and its officers. They know where they are going and how to get there.
- Maintains a company investment in people and place. Police management requires company buy in as it should. You really represent an organization and must uphold those values. However, the department is full of human resources which mesh together in this organism-like bureaucratic structure, if that makes any sense. It evolves, it grows. But people first. Investment in quality workforce and retention is crucial. Continuing to invest in, educate, and develop those employees will enhance your organization and community.
- Engages in cop humor with appropriateness. Why? Humor is a natural deflection of the negatives from the job. Employing good humor shows a balance of knowing the right place and right time. Police need that mental flexibility, off-key personality, and camaraderie. Additionally, in order to muddle through the impacts of human misery, law enforcement must reach into their funny bag of tricks for emotional survival. Besides, my dad told me never to trust anyone who has no sense of humor.
- Makes solid decision. A strategic plan shows strengths in a practitioner. I used to think a leader making any decision was better than one who made no decision at all or had a case of the “spinning wheels.” Now I think it is important for a leader to make solid and sound judgment based upon emotional intelligence, best operational tactics, and institutional knowledge while combining all within the totality of circumstances. If they cannot, they need to delegate to someone who can.
- Displays situational and self-awareness on point. Probably the smoothest techniques are conducted by leaders who are aware of others and themselves. Law enforcement have to mediate and find resolutions both externally with citizens and internally with colleagues. No one respects a leader who has uncontrolled emotions and gives favoritism to their buddies. Great leaders hand out reasonable expectations and advice. They are the expert communicators. For instance, they can sell you on a task which is despised by all cops and you do it with a smile. The best leaders know the laws at all levels of government and can recite proper police procedures. Not only that, they know how and when they apply. They must be a resource. Furthermore, these leaders can read people, think on their feet, communicate well, and problem solve. Wait. There’s more. They can do all of these things at the same time. That’s simultaneously for your wonder brains.
Law enforcement organizations need police champions.
Most law enforcement agencies have some brass or executive types with the ability to embody many of these qualities and more. However, great leaders are not always in managing or supervisory positions. Some have rank, some are in the trenches, and some are merging into other assignments. They might be working by your side but serve as a mentor and leader among peers. It is crucial a police organization have excellent leadership in all levels of hierarchy to promote a successful environment with growth. They must evolve and adapt with their community needs. Champions fuel an organization’s success and progress through earnest aims and purpose. You know who they are. He or she has a sizable following of respect and admiration within the company. Raise up those pythons! They will carry your department members to greatness.