Developing Critically Needed Leadership: A Podcast on Mission Command Building Trust and Cohesion

2017-08-17 18.36.51

Over the last 40 years efforts have been made to define the qualities deemed essential for a police leader. Developing such a definition is complicated by the fact that "police leadership" includes people with widely differing responsibilities. Police agencies range in size from those having a few part-time employees to those having thousands of officers. Yet the head of each is charged with leading. In many respects a police captain or lieutenant in a big city who has a large number of subordinates and a sizable community to police carries a much heavier responsibility than the chief of an agency having five or ten employees. Those filling middle management positions in large police agencies are very much part of the police leadership in this country. This is not to say that leading a small agency is a simple task. Small agencies have problems that differ in kind as well as magnitude from those of larger agencies.

Even among jurisdictions of equal size, however, widely different criteria have been employed in assessing police leadership. To some, police leadership connotes the ability to lead a group of officers under dangerous circumstances. A police commander who bravely takes charge of his officers and under threat of gunfire, rescues and individual being held hostage often is viewed as epitomizing the highest leadership qualities. To others leadership connotes the ability to achieve a high level of operating efficiency.

The fact is many police agencies have long suffered from grossly incompetent leadership. Why? because most police agencies have worked hard to standardize organizational structures and their strategy, operations and tactics based off models that work in one city or one part of town and all too often fail in another. This requires and understanding that problems come in different sizes and shapes, that their is a spectrum of complexity that ranges from structured, technical and linear to adaptive, ill-structured and non-linear. The one thing missing when we try to standardize complex problems is...Context. We forget that situations matter and hence how we lead matters!

Back in 1976 the IACP completed a study (Many more Police Leadership Studies since, which brings up another problem common to policing study, after study, after study with very little implementation, WE CAN AND MUST DO BETTER) where opinions were solicited from 1,665 individuals who were at the time chief executives of police agencies and from 806 individual's to who these police executives report:

The firmest conclusions of the study were also the broadest; all candidates for a police leadership position should have integrity, honesty, good judgement, and common sense. With less consensus, the study recommended that an appointing authority consider such qualities as flexible and open-mindedness, alertness and intelligence, patience and self-control, energy and initiative, and courage and self-confidence. The study also recommended that consideration be given to people who demonstrated the ability to: motivate personnel, develop subordinates into effective teams, relate to the community, organize personnel and their functions effectively; administer internal discipline, and establish and communicate objectives and priorities.

What type of leadership, what type of command culture is required that builds competence in those leading while at the same time makes frontline police officers more effective and safe?

Well, 40 plus years ago the IACP seemed to identify the key traits necessary to focus on and create a leadership and command culture of decision making based on vision, delegation, professional competence, and trust. Police leadership requires adaptive leaders, thinking leaders, leading thinking officers. It requires a command leadership style through vision and trust.

Some of my fellow authors of Mission Command: The Who, What, Where, When and Why An Anthology got together with Task Force Gryphon and created this outstanding 2 hour podcast on the topic of mission command.

Mission Command culture is based on the premise that organizations make better decisions faster when they develop better people. If you want to mitigate the risks of uncertainty, then you need resiliency, creativity, critical reasoning, and adaptability. Organizations thrive that develop and curate a culture and structure of professional mastery. Because the people thrive. This podcast and our book provides the tools to do this. Steve Webber, Daniel Markert and Chad Foster did a fantastic job on the podcast and every police leader will find the conversation of great value.

Stay Oriented!