Have You Thought About Why You Choose To Lead?

In his great book "Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action" Simon Sinek inspires leaders to look into the WHY they chose to lead. He talks about how important it is to start with the question WHY. He says many start with what they do. WHAT: Every single organization on the planet knows WHAT they do. Some people know HOW they do WHAT they do. But WHY? Very few people can articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. He then asks some critical questions I do not think many of us have thought about often enough:

  • Why do you get out of bed every morning?
  • Why are you excited to go to work?
  • When people ask you what you love to do, what is your response?
  • What do you tell people you are really great at doing?
  • "I am driven by the need to_________”
The dangerous and uncertain world in which we live demands innovative thinking from the police officers in general, and from the police leadership in particular, to support the efforts of officers to acquire the necessary skills to succeed. This is best accomplished in an atmosphere that welcomes independent thinking and encourages spirited professional debate. Officers will need a greater variety of skills and a wider breadth of knowledge to meet the challenges they confront, both in problem solving and in fighting crime. WHY we do, what we do, matters!

Describing the relationship between leaders and frontline officers’ as that of “teacher and developer” asserts that police officers should conclude their service to the community “far better men and woman physically, mentally, and morally than they were when they started. To accomplish this task successfully a constant effort must be made by all supervisors to fill each day with useful and interesting instruction and enthusiastic interaction for the officers. This effort must be intelligent and not mechanical, the object being not only to do away with idleness, but to train and cultivate the bodies, the minds, and the spirit of our officers.

Leadership is not a “one size fits all” – every Supervisor leads with an individual style based on his unique personality. This actually helps make us all, better because we are or should always be looking at things from different perspectives opening up greater insights into whatever problems we may face and adapting better and with more innovative tactics and actions in solving them. WHY? Because we understand there are options when dealing with adaptive challenges so prevalent in policing.

Development of those we lead is a big piece of what we as leaders do or should be doing. Training and facilitation of learning must provide the material for all to improve themselves without constraining them to a single, narrow style. Training must shift from training law enforcement officers how to apply solutions and enforce standards to teaching officers how to frame problems and solve them. This is where we can all help each other out if each and every one of us continually diagnosing our efforts and identifying areas we may need development in.

Leadership cannot be considered in the absence of a moral element. Leading must include the ethics of the leader and those that follow. Those ethics affect the leadership process. Our ethos (values) and our ethics are vital to the three pillars of leadership; communicate, understand and decide. In short what you say has got to be backed by action.

This gets back to the WHY did we choose to lead question, as well as, some of the attributes we discussed in the past at this blog; strength of character, social skills, honesty, integrity, adaptable, learner, teacher and critical and creative decision maker and how they effect those we lead and our efforts to continually improve. Get Better!

The WHY we choose to lead and the attributes associated with leadership, matter. The WHY matters in our efforts to develop men and woman in our profession and ourselves. It helps in developing common outlook so important to successful operations that deal with conflict or crisis.

The WHY we choose to lead has a great impact on leadership and appreciation and command and influence at the street level.

"Leadership implies the art of inspiring people to enthusiastically take action toward the achievement of uncommon goals. Appreciation refers to the recognition of worth or value, clear perception, understanding, comprehension, discernment, etc." ~Chet Richards

Why is leadership and appreciation important? The simple answer is that they permit people to: Operate inside opponents’ OODA loops. Create organizations that can operate inside opponents’ OODA loops. Evolve organizations that become continually better at operating inside opponents’ OODA loops. This can all be done if the organization posses a common outlook. From Boyd' Patterns of Conflict (slide 74)

"A common outlook possessed by “a body of officers” represents a unifying theme that can be used to simultaneously encourage subordinate initiative yet realize superior intent."


Without a common outlook superiors cannot give subordinates freedom-of-action and maintain coherency of ongoing action. Leadership requires people to stick with you through thick and thin. Leadership Is the ability to rally people not for a single event, but for years. There are only two ways to influence human behavior. You can manipulate it or you can inspire it. "Manipulations lead to transactions not loyalty." Your WHY matters! By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your position exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning?And WHY should anyone care?
My WHY is to challenge the status quo and continuously improve, developing adaptability and execution, while inspiring others influenced by my leadership.

Have you thought about WHY you chose to lead? Is the WHY about more than you? If not, WHY not?

Stay Oriented!