What has happened to the leadership in law enforcement? I hear this question from officers around the nation in a consistent fashion.
This is a theme that demands an answer. We cannot condemn all departments across the country as having inadequate leadership, but we can analyze ourselves and ascertain if we are doing everything we can to incorporate good leadership within our realm of responsibility.
To incorporate a culture, one must start at the bottom and work his way up.
The law enforcement profession has historically placed the burden of leadership on senior officers, waiting for years of experience to be met before allowing their resumes to include any leadership training. An officer has had to wait for the new identity of supervisor, sergeant or lieutenant before being eligible to attend leadership classes, seminars and conferences.
I challenge law enforcement administrations to task new officers with leadership awareness as opposed to just senior officers. Do not get caught up in the mentality that young officers should “know” they should have leadership.
I have been introducing the concept of grooming leaders from the beginning, starting with cadets. I break down the concept of leadership with the definition and how it is applicable to everyday life, including the workplace. The concept is for the young officer to understand what the meaning of leadership is and that it does not mean a title or how many stripes an officer has on his sleeves.
Leadership is defined as a person who enlists the aid and support of others to accomplish a common task. Does this not pertain to everyone in law enforcement?
Leadership is the foundation of what we do as cops from day one. While on a scene, who is looked upon to provide leadership? Answer: The officers. It does not matter if they have months on the job or years. From doctors and lawyers to young children, people look upon the officers for leadership, but yet we wait to give our officers “formal” leadership training toward the end of their careers.
I don’t want to be misunderstood. I am not talking about management, but leadership. The person who guides or directs a group is a leader. Management is administration and merely oversees personnel.
Empower the young officers to accept challenge and encourage leadership from the start. Create a culture of leadership with the line officer, and this will create a stronger team.
Remember: Leadership is action, not position. Always have a vision and be positive — everything else will fall into place.
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