Are you a Leader or are you Leading?

Let me ask you a question.  How often do you bitch in your lineups, squad rooms, patrol cars, ambulances, engines, etc. about your Powers That Be?  Have you just resigned yourself to thinking that things won’t/can’t improve?  Do you feel relegated to slugging through your day?

How’s that working out for you?

Sure, we can lay the proverbial blame for the current state of affairs at the feet of our supervisors, our chiefs, our politicians.  But, at the end of the day, doesn’t our current circumstance fall at our own feet?  How can we preach taking responsibility out one side of our mouths and complain out the other?

Don’t get me wrong, I fall victim to GroupThink just like anyone else when a good round of “Let’s blame ____” comes around.  Cops love to complain.  There’s a class section covering it in the Academy.  Sadly, it solves nothing and only digs the lousy morale hole deeper.

Negotiation for Leaders: Final Exercise for CadetsSo, what can we do to fix it?  If you’re a PTB, you can change the culture pretty simply (at least from my point of view) and if you’re one of the worker bees the answer is even easier.  You can lead from the middle.

In preparation for launching my new business (to be announced soon!), I’ve been reading quite a bit of late.  I’ve devoured Jon Acuff’s Start, Michael Hyatt’s Platform and Simon Sinek’s Start with Why.

All of these books are great for the business world…but they also apply to law enforcement.  One of the themes within these books is the concept of Leadership.  In the chapter entitled “The Emergence of Trust”, Sinek has this to say about leading:

Leading is not the same as being the leader.  Being the leader means you hold the highest rank, either by earning it, good fortune or navigating internal politics.  Leading, however, means that others willingly follow you – not because they have to, not because they are paid to, but because they want to.  Those who lead are able to do so because those who follow trust that the decisions made at the top have the best interest of the group at heart.  In turn, those who trust work hard because they feel like they are working for something bigger than themselves.

There are some pretty key points in that brief snippet.  How many leaders do you know that got to that position on merit?  Is that number greater or smaller than the ones that played the political game?  How many of your leaders are making decisions at the top that truly have the best interest of the group at heart?  Hell, how many of them are even asking your opinion?

If you find yourself in a leadership position, you must establish trust in your people.  Without it, their following is merely compulsory and disingenuous at best.  How do you establish that trust?  How about the old favorites:

  1. Lead by example
  2. Avoid impropriety
  3. Don’t be a hypocrite
  4. Make the effort to see things from the perspective of those you lead

If you find yourself as one of the masses, there is no reason you can’t lead from the middle.  You can exhibit the exact same trust-establishing techniques listed above.  The advantages?

  1. The PTB will take note
  2. Your co-workers will look at you as a leader
  3. You will foster trust on both sides of the coin
  4. Self-satisfaction

I don’t want to sound too esoteric here, but your environment truly is the product of your attitude.  If your feet hit the floor and you dread the day ahead of you, you’re going to find it difficult to enjoy what you’re doing.  If you are in a leadership position and dread those you lead, perhaps taking a look at your leadership could help turn the tide.

What is one thing you can do starting today to start leading with intentionality and purpose?  Leave a comment below and share your strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

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2 thoughts on “Are you a Leader or are you Leading?

  1. Sounds like motherhood, too. Guess I gotta start getting up in the morning with a good attitude. Crap.