MODERN LAW ENFORCEMENT LEADERSHIP
Modern law enforcement leaders use positive influence to motivate team members, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of the team. Years ago, as a rookie police officer in a small town, I was called to the station one day to pick up the chief. Once in the car, he stated bluntly that I did not issue enough traffic citations and was not worth my salt. He stopped short of saying I was worthless… but it was inferred. He went on to let me know he was going to ride along and show me how it was done. In other words, once he had pressured me into writing a few tickets, I could take him back to the office. After parking my 1981 Ford Fairmont at a location where the fishing was normally pretty good, I calibrated my Speedgun radar unit with a tuning fork and pointed it out the window. After a while, a car whizzed by traveling about 20 miles per hour over the speed limit. I would like to say that I roared out in pursuit… but I was driving a 1981 Ford Fairmont. And so, when I finally built up enough steam and caught up to the car, I pulled it over. After speaking with the driver, I returned to my patrol car with her license in hand. When the chief asked who the driver was, I showed him the license. He then said, “you can’t write her a ticket… she’s the bank vice-president’s wife.” I won’t bore you with the particulars of the brief debate that followed – suffice it to say, she didn’t get a ticket.
A few minutes later, we were back in our fishing spot, waiting for another careless motorist. It wasn’t long before we got a nibble – I watched as a car went by at 12 miles over the speed limit. The chief looked at me and asked, “aren’t you going after him?” I replied, “no sir… he’s not running as fast as Mrs. Banks (not her real name).” By the way, I was not being insolent with the chief.. that was just how I saw it. I felt it would be wrong to fillet a little fish after letting a big fish off the hook. I explained to the chief that from my point of view, the threshold had been raised – for the remainder of the day I planned to focus on speeders moving faster than the one released. The next day, I would reset and start over. Upon hearing my reasoning, the chief looked out the passenger side window, heaved a heavy sigh and said, “you’re hopeless… take me back to the office.” A year later, I had a new chief – one of four in my first six years on the job.
For the most part, leadership and management styles have changed since my rookie days. At that time, many organizations relied on strict command and control for decision-making and management. Effective leaders of today are team members, facilitators, coaches and mentors who reward employees for skills and results. Rather than a source of problems, they see people as a valuable resource. Modern employees are influenced more by a leader’s skills, knowledge, and abilities than their rank. While managers of the past relied on vertical communication and limited input, the best leaders of today communicate in all directions for input to ensure they are making well-informed decisions. By empowering employees to participate in decision-making, modern organizations are becoming more flexible and efficient. As a result, egocentric bosses are being replaced by people-centered leaders who view and treat employees as internal customers.
Kinicki, A. & Kreitner, R. (2008). Organizational behavior: Key concepts, skills, & best practices, 3rd edition. New York: McGraw-Hill