Brian Ellis, Sacramento Police Department & Mitch Javidi, Ph.D., International Academy of Public Safety
“You’re going to go through tough times – that’s life. But I say, ‘Nothing happens to you, it happens for you.’ See the positive in negative events.” ~ Joel Osteen
What happens when a leader builds a great vision which isn’t immediately embraced by an organization? Frequently leaders define a new vision for an organization which can be aligned with existing culture or far from it. Leadership has its moments where leaders have to fight and put their foot down. Inspiring others is a tall order. It requires a leader to be passionate about their core values and determined to build success. It is imperative for leaders to have loyalty to their values so their vision is embraced and carried with conviction as a shared vision. The authors suggest that while leadership is often described through positive people processes, it also requires one to push others into abrasive action. Leaders do this by delivering their core values through salesmanship and dealing with conflict, which is guided via humility and competence.
There are several styles leaders use to inspire others. Two such styles that aid in the movement of others are transformational and authentic leadership. Transformational leadership is a process that changes people, which involves an exceptional form of influence thereby allowing followers to accomplish more than what is expected of them (Northouse, 2010). For the purpose of this article, authentic leadership requires leaders to deal with actual problems. They can do this by asking two primary questions: 1) what is really going on; 2) what are we going to do about it (Terry, 1993)? Great leaders understand the importance of navigating employees through change while concurrently developing their potential to deliver results, no matter what. In doing such, it is important for executives to navigate through leadership challenges with an understanding of two processes they will rely on to influence others: salesmanship and conflict. All leaders will find themselves dealing with Peter Senge’s (1990) second law of systems thinking, “The harder you push, the harder the system pushes back.” Though true, top executives still need answers and need to be well equipped to effectively problem solve towards their mission. Leaders reduce resistance through a well delivered message while dealing with the issues that stand in the way head on.
In one of the most recent bestselling Books of our times, It’s Your Ship, Naval commander David Abrashoff (2002) said, “Instead of salutes, I wanted results. I wanted sailors to open their minds, use their imaginations, and find a way to do everything.” But how do leaders encourage others that extra responsibility and accountability is actually good for them? Leaders do this with exceptional salesmanship. They have to sell their ideas to the workforce through the use of their passion. The first step in a successful sales closing is to set the right objectives (Rackman, 1988). To do this, the starting point becomes to know the level of commitment needed from employees to make a plan a success. Once this has been defined, leaders must do what salespeople have been taught for years to use in closing a sale, they need “closing techniques” (Connor, 2003). A useful idea is to think of three strengths of the plan. By this point, most of the weaknesses should have been vetted and the use of these techniques is to maximize you message. A good sales approach also understands the importance of the repeated message. A leader should use multiple mediums to carry the message. It is important to remember that not all people learn the same way, and sometimes people need to hear a message multiple times before they fully understand the implications of it. The goal is to trigger positive emotions to the vision so to make it a very attractive offer. A well-tailored closing technique for leaders is a message that carries passion which hopefully sparks transference of it. Successful salespeople leverage their time, energy, and resources by earning their customer’s willingness (Connor, 2003).
Leaders also lead by establishing the rules of engagement and mobilizing people around their compelling vision of the future, by empowering them to follow in their footsteps. They show those around them what is possible and inspire them to make those possibilities a reality. This happens through energizing and focusing teams in ways that fulfill their dreams, while providing them processes to realize unity, purpose, and leave them with a profound sense of accomplishment when success is achieved. In certain ways, they lead deliberately like a good salesman by personally modeling behaviors or ways of thinking they desire while encouraging others to courageously take initiative to be independent in their reasoning, and in doing so, transfer ownership and responsibility to others. Finally, leaders act as teachers, mentors, and role models–and they accomplish the majority of their results through the power of influence, not authority.
One theory of how leaders with salesmanship can positively influence their followers is through social influence. Social influence occurs when one’s emotions, opinions, or behaviors are affected by others. Social influence takes many forms and can be seen in conformity, socialization, peer pressure, obedience, leadership, persuasion, sales, and marketing. In 1958, Harvard psychologist Herbert Kelman identified three broad varieties of social influence: compliance, identification, and internalization. Compliance is when people appear to agree with others, but keep their dissenting opinions private. Identification is when people are influenced by someone who is well-liked and respected, such as a (positive) famous celebrity. Internalization is when people accept a belief or behavior and agree both publicly and privately.
Leaders with salesmanship skills use all three types of social influence to consciously maintain respect and influence. For example, compliance is often used by the leaders to maintain order, such as when employees are required to follow the basic rules or policies set out by their leaders. Similarly, identification will occur if the leader is well-liked and respected. Identification is important since a major component of a leader’s job is to be a figurehead that employees, peers, clients and even investors can rally around and support. Having a leader that is well-liked and respected will positively affect the culture of the agency. Finally, internalization occurs when employees “buy-in” to the mission and vision of the organization, due to the influence of its leadership. All of these aspects of influence are essential for leaders to ensure that followers will respect them and the decisions that they make. While influence is important, it is also crucial that leaders persuade “through salesmanship” their followers (through the leader’s actions) to believe that they are “Credible.”
Organizational leadership in police departments manifests itself through diverse situations and amongst all ranks. The opposite is just as true. When a chief gives a plan to other executives and managers to carry out, they expect that once they walk out of the door that they embrace the plan as if it was their own. For it should be a plan that those very executives and managers had a role in. Managers who are not with the plan should speak out in the development of the plan with top executives. Courage is a process of leadership. It is normal and acceptable to think differently, but it is the timing of that action that comes into question. Once the plan has been rolled out, this is not the time to undermine it. As Abraham Lincoln said in his famous speech, “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (www.abrahamlincolnonline.org).
Leadership requires people make tough decisions, and criticism comes with the territory. Sometimes you are going to make people angry, even really angry in the pursuit of organizational excellence (Harari, 2002). It becomes important to utilize conflict for several reasons. Conflict brings opportunity, growth, and understanding. As Colin Powell said in his leadership memoirs, “Don’t be afraid of challenging the pros. Pros are people with authority and status” (Harari, 2002).
Courageous leaders make these tough decisions because of their obligation to put things into action. And with that, being responsible sometimes means making people very angry about the decisions you are making (Harari, 2002). These courageous leaders also know how to appropriately use conflict. For many, conflict means an intense emotional response which usually elicits some kind of aggression. True leaders reserve these emotions because they understand that discomfort leads to learning and growth (Belasco & Stayer, 1994). The obligation to make action is an opportunity to align passion with grit thus bringing visions to success. Some of the keys to great conflict are humility and competence.
Great leaders recognize how much humility plays a part in leading others. Take George Washington for example. He grasped that the more he served others and the course of justice, the more success it brought (Bobb, 2013). Others like Abraham Lincoln had several instances where he was challenged by subordinates and used it as an opportunity for growth through the use of steadfast reserve. Humility has a strong link to selflessness. Selflessness is the most logical and practical way to win games (Holley, 2004). Therefore, when leaders create an environment where diversity of thought is accepted, people are more apt to share differences of opinion.
Great leadership is also a product of the lifelong learner. Leaders like to be challenged because it is an opportunity to link their values to the action of an organization. Everyone in professional football knows that Bill Belichick is a competitive man. The life of an NFL coach usually means twenty-plus hour workdays throughout the season. And Belichick has been described as a very competent coach. As much as some of Belichick’s ways can get under your skin, you’ve got to give it to him as a coach, his players knew that nobody’s coach was as good as theirs (Holley, 2004). Leaders have to always be learning so they can reevaluate the way they deliver their core values and translate it into the best service possible.
Competence then becomes the bridge for others to accept your pitch. It also lessens the emotional reaction to diversity of thought as competence builds confidence. One author brings his personal experience as it relates to the stated concepts:
As a leader within my organization, I hold myself responsible for the understanding and growth of my employees. While I don’t expect everyone to see through my eyes and agree with every move, I do expect that we are all in this together. With togetherness, we can make a difference, which brings personal satisfaction and opportunities for all. When we resist or undermine this process, we add wasted effort to our lives, thereby zapping organizational energy. It really comes down to the fact that there is no “I” in team. In order to be a real team, we have to work through our personal differences so we do bring the wins our community wants and needs.
Rather than trying to change others thinking by direct pressure, leaders can change the environment in which others make decisions (Ury, 1993). This is accomplished through persistence towards the values a leader desires to drive organizations. Without the mastery of good salesmanship and the utilization of conflict, many executives won’t achieve the results they want. Leaders can enhance value by using transformational principles linked with authentic action to deliver value driven goals. That is tough leadership.
Leadership requires hard work and dedication to one’s core values to create a vision that inspires others. While some might think that inspiration happens with the initial message, it often manifests itself within a collective group of people who see value in the vision. Leaders have to be poised to use salesmanship to find creative and repetitive ways to bring the vision to life. At times, they will have to resort to conflict in order to find opportunity, growth, and understanding. When conflict is carried out with a humble approach and stems from competent plans, a great deal of momentum awaits. Finally, the lifelong leader-learner builds competence by positioning themselves with a well-equipped tool belt, thereby building credibility and building an avenue towards success.
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Brian Ellis is a 17-year veteran with the Sacramento Police Department. Lieutenant Ellis has worked in a number of specialized assignments including with the Problem Oriented Policing Unit, Parole Intervention and Career Criminal Apprehension Teams, Narcotics and Robbery/Burglary divisions. He is currently a watch commander for the East Command. Brian earned his undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice from California State, Sacramento and has a MS in Organizational Leadership from National University. He is a life-long student of leadership. Brian is passionate about helping others reach their true potential by inspiring authentic action. Some of his publications appear in Law Enforcement Today, Peace Officers Research Association of California, PoliceOne, and The Journal of California Law Enforcement. Follow him on Twitter at @BrianEllis10.
Honorary Sheriff Mitch Javidi holds a Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma and is the co-founder of the International Academy of Public Safety (IAPS), Sheriffs Institute for Credible Leadership Development, and the Criminal Justice Commission on Credible. Mitch is a visionary with over 30 years of practical and hands-on business experience in diverse industries such as academia, automotive, banking, insurance, government, military, law enforcement, retail, logistics, oil and chemical, pharma, procurement, supply chain, and technology. As a globally recognized expert on leadership development, Mitch has trained leaders at the Joint Special Operations Command, and the US Army Special Operations Command and is an honorary member of the United States Army Special Operations Command. A past tenured Associate Professor at NC State University, he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor at NC State and Illinois State Universities. He is a member of the “Academy of Outstanding Teachers and Scholars” and the Distinguished 2004 Alumni of the University of Oklahoma.