“It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” ~ Edmund Burke
Brian Ellis, Anthony H. Normore, & Mitch Javidi – National Command and Staff College
Lieutenant Smith is new to the special operations bureau. He’s been identified as a fast up and comer who’s a spry thirty-five year old manager with just under two years of management experience. Lt. Smith is a fifteen-year veteran of a larger organization and was a supervisor for four years before being promoted to lieutenant. His promotion to management frustrated many who thought he was too green for the job, and many senior and proficient supervisors were passed up for this energetic addition. Lt. Smith now has his sights set on being a captain and has been encouraged to take the next captain’s test, although there are many capable and competent lieutenants who have been patiently waiting their turn, while taking development opportunities seriously. Recently, Lt. Smith has made some significant mistakes seen by his subordinates, although leadership makes excuses for him as just learning his new role, protecting him from scrutiny and learning opportunities come and go without anyone identifying critical components that would help him do his job better. But many also know that he is friends with a deputy chief whom he’s given his loyalty to.
Lt. Smith is struggling in his new role as the tactical commander, taking a soft approach to tactical incidents, which has impacted operational outcomes on a few occasions. Thankfully, the indecision has not resulted in anyone’s injury, although the sergeants who work for the young lieutenant are frustrated. They are embarking on a serious discussion with a boss who they see is in a sprint to the top, but they are at a breaking point because something has to change before someone gets hurt. The sergeants have been frustrated as Lt. Smith has been absent of many trainings and meetings where there’s the ability to learn the competencies of his team while having the opportunity to make some critical decisions about much needed safety equipment that the team has been asking for. Many of the supervisor’s concerns are related to staffing issues and a lack of safety equipment needed to get their job done. What they don’t know is that Lt. Smith was told by his boss to hold down the fort and that everyone Lt. Smith was managing was competent and could get the job done. Captain Klein advised Lt. Smith, “let them do their job, keep the financials low, and stay off the radar and you’ll get your captain bars in no time.” The sergeants of his unit see a boss who’s growing in power faster that his intellectual capacity can manage, and his current role is being neglected to sit in meetings with higher ups to get to his ultimate goal of promotion. In a recent event, Lt. Smith overlooked his managerial role, allowing the cost of an operation to unnecessarily grow out of control; and now faced with the fact he cannot afford the safety equipment his team has asked for without going to his boss asking for additional funds. Now in the unit for four months, Lt. Smith sees his team as disengaged and has asked what is wrong. Fortunate for him, he has a sergeant that is ready to tell him what needs to be said.
In the fifth installment of dark leadership that impedes the best in leadership, we will examine the short falls of the intemperate leaderand how they negatively impact police organizations. Harvard professor Barbara Kellerman has identified seven types of bad leaders, and by ignoring bad leadership people undermine good leadership (Johnson, 2012). This article is part five of a seven-part series, illuminating light on the seven errors of leadership behaviors. We will explore the seven types, what they are and look like. We will attempt to promote the best in leadership for police organizations and hopefully eradicate some poor leadership qualities along the way.
Professor Kellerman has identified intemperate leaders as the fifth of the seven types of bad leaders (Johnson, 2012). Intemperate leadership happens when there is a lack of self-control which manifests itself through being aided and abetted by followers who are unwilling and perhaps unable to intervene (Johnson, 2012), creating a host of issues including:
- Creates environments of selfishness where leaders claim all the credits of good work, and usually met with resentment by subordinates.
- Zaps the energy of an organization. Organizations who lack energy have no enduring efforts in anything.
- Use power to satisfy leaders goals only and destroys teamwork.
- Not fostering honesty and growth of the group.
- People desiring more power that they need or can control.
- Double standards within the organization.
The environment an intemperate leader creates is filled with hubris, while the followers lack the ability to be honest with them. Intemperate leaders are often immersed in themselves to the point of inebriation; believing their own hype and creating passive followership where subordinates do what you ask them and nothing more (Kellerman, 2004). This ultimately leads to the destabilization of a learning and growing environment, hampering the overall abilities of any police organization. The intemperate leader grows his or her self-interest to the point that they can take credit for initiatives of subordinates, which is usually met with resentment (Gallo, 2015), thereby zapping organizational energy while enduring work efforts erode.
Hacking the intemperate leader
The real key to leadership lies in the ability to know how to move people. Power is only as strong as the way it is yielded by those who have it (Van Vugt, 2006). When leading others, the more power you give away the more productivity you get. As power is shared, teams build a sense of psychological safety which leads followers in knowing they have a voice – creating meaning and impact (Stallard, Pankau, & Stallard, 2015). This essential element of leadership also allows for candor to occur which is the centerpiece of a team’s ability to get on the same page and understand where they are and where they are going. Absent the intemperate leader having people strong enough to deliver bad news to them, the intemperate leader begins to believe their hype, leading to more and more hubris. Hubris lives in the over-confident and leads to its own problems. Psychologist Linda Sapadin (2009) identified three major faults that create overly confident people. These are as follows:
- They surround themselves with those who are beholden to them, ultimately reinforcing their arrogance.
- They don’t pay attention to those who disagree with them, often labeling them as incompetent.
- When given feedback, they often blame external causes; i.e.- it was the other guy’s fault.
Hubris is best defeated by being grateful for those you lead and being deliberate in your humility. As you consistently remind yourself to thank the contributions of others, you continuously build a sense of connection, team, and confidence in others (Stallard, Pankau, & Stallard, 2015). Another option for those who might struggle with being intemperate is to not rush your trajectory. The goal to great leadership is to be skilled enough to help your organization in crises and build a vision for the future. Without a good base of knowledge, skill, and an understanding of the issues of the past, how can you be expected to know where to go?
Egos can be good catalysts for action, but if overgrown, it can lead to arrogance and organizational blindness. Humility is the key to keeping things light in the workplace, getting others to trust and believe in your ability to lead them, and the base of a good character. Being self-absorbed is a lonely road, and while the road might lead you to your goals, you’ll have no one to share them with.
Gallo, A. (2015). How to respond when someone takes credit for your work. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2015/04/how-to-respond-when-someone-takes-credit-for-your-work
Kellerman, B. (2004). Bad leadership: What it is, how it happens, why it matters. Harvard Business Review Press.
Johnson, C. (2012). Meeting the ethical challenges of leadership: Casting light or shadow. 4thEdition. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.
Sapadin, L. (2009). Much confidence, little competence. Retrieved from, https://trans4mind.com/counterpoint/index-goals-life-coaching/sapadin6.shtml
Stallard, M., Pankau, J., & Stallard, K. (2015). Connection culture: the competitive advantage of shared identity, empathy, and understanding at work. Alexandria, VA: ATD Press.
Van Vugt, M. (2006). Evolutionary origins of leadership and followership. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10, 354–371.