One of the concerns I consistently hear from law enforcement professionals across North America is that we have a "leadership void" in the profession. As a profession we seem to have a shortage of what Richard Rierson (Dose of Leadership podcast) refers to as "Calm, Confident, Consistent and Courageous" leaders. Your mission as a trainer is to find ways to Fill the Void.
The first step in filling the leadership void is to create a culture of leadership in your agency. For too many agencies leadership is a course (or series of courses) you have to take in order to get promoted or get into a specialty unit. Once you complete the course, and tick off that box, you are never required to apply any of the skills taught in the course. There is no discussion after the course about what you learned and how you are applying those skills. In organizations where leadership is a culture there is a consistent language and philosophy woven through the entire agency. In my Dare to Be Great: The Leadership Challenge workshops I talk a lot about the importance of culture and provide leaders with some simple tools to start building that culture.
I recently interviewed Ron Wallace for the Excellence in Training Academy (use the code eitblog to get the first month free). Ron is the former President of International Operations for UPS, a highly successful entrepreneur and businessman and for the past 12 years has been a law enforcement officer in Georgia. Ron is also the author of the great leadership book Leadership Lessons From a UPS Driver: Delivering a Culture of We, Not Me.
The book is about creating a great organizational culture and one of the things he says about culture is, "To be truly effective, a company's culture has to dwell in the hearts and minds of the people charged with delivering its mission. They have to live and breathe their culture every day. It can't be reduced to some slogans plastered on a wall or a mission statement mounted in some nice picture frame."
As a trainer you are charged with helping to build that culture of leadership and ensuring it dwells in the hearts and minds of the people in your agency. Below are 7 strategies on building a culture of leadership in your agency:
- Create a consistent language that forms the foundation of the leadership culture. What I recommend in my Dare to Be Great leadership workshops is two questions and three rules. The two Questions are: What's Important Now? and What's the right thing to do? The three rules come from Pete Carroll's Win Forever philosophy and they are: 1. Always protect the team. 2. No whining, no complaining, no excuses. 3. Be early. These questions and rules can be woven into decision making and discussions at all levels of the organization from the Chief to the patrol officers regardless of whether you are discussing budgets, personnel issues or tactical planning and debriefs.
- Help people understand that leadership can be learned. There is an age old debate about whether leaders are born or made. I am not sure if anyone is born a leader, but what I do know from studying leadership is that leadership can be learned. This has been demonstrated repeatedly thought history by great leaders who learned how to lead. Leadership is a journey, not an end state.
- Develop and deliver great leadership training at all levels of your organization and weave leadership into every element of training in your agency. Ensure your patrol officers/deputies/troopers/constables understand they are all in a position to lead and receive leadership training. Patrol officers are the face of your agency and are in command and control of 95% of all the calls they will ever handle in the field. People judge your agency, and the entire profession, based on their interactions with the men and women on the front lines.
- Give front line supervisors the skills to be effective leaders before they get promoted, then continue to provide them with ongoing leadership training. First line supervisors can build and enhance the culture of an organization, or they can destroy it. Too often agencies make the mistake of confusing leadership with rank, position and title. Putting someone in a leadership position does not make them a leader. Set people up for success by training them before putting them in leadership positions.
- Work with the executive and command level staff in your agency to help them embrace the importance of developing a culture of leadership. Let them know that you are there to support them and their vision for the agency. An Us vs. Them mentality between the frontline officers and management will only serve to destroy the culture and hurt everyone in the agency.
- Work to get promoted and seek formal leadership positions in your agency. A few years ago at an ILEETA conference Jeff Chudwin, who at the time was the Chief of Police in Olympia Fields, IL, issued this challenge in his class, "For those of you are continually bashing management, get promoted, become management and change things." I know a number of great trainers who have gone on to achieve command and executive positions in their agencies and use their training skills and experience to positively impact their agency and the profession.
- Model courageous leadership. As a trainer you are one of the most influential leaders in your agency. The people in your organization are watching you. If you have the courage to lead, you will inspire others to do so.
We cannot just sit around and lament the lack of courageous leadership in our profession. You need to do something about it. A a trainer you are in a position of influence in your agency. You are an influence professional and leader. It starts with you being the change you want to see in your agency.
Now more than ever the profession needs you to take action and Fill the Void.
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Helping grow courageous law enforcement leaders. - The Excellence in Training Academy - Where trainers come to grow. Join the Community of trainers committed to the pursuit of excellence in and through training. Use the code eitblog to get the first month free.
Interested in hosting an Excellence in Training Seminar? Contact to me at email@example.com and we can work together to determine what will best suit your needs.