Leadership: Unity versus Uniformity

Seems a sense of humor and personality are not desirable characteristics in a supervisor.

Seems a sense of humor and personality are not desirable characteristics in a supervisor.

In 2012, I was peer-pressured into taking a promotional exam with my agency. At least that’s what I told myself when I took the silly thing. I passed it, but finished so far down in the ranking (to my hind-sighted joy), I never even got an interview with the Man. Not a day goes by when I don’t thank the good Lord I didn’t make the cut.

Get off the bike to supervise other people? The hell, you say. Besides, it seems three administrators I’ve never met before in my life and haven’t seen since didn’t like my amusing choice of tie.

Whatever. If you’ve got a stick embedded that far inside of you, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t get along anyway.

The sad part is I’d make a damn good supervisor. I just don’t want the job. That doesn’t mean, however, I don’t have valuable insight to offer into what fostering leadership and teamwork in my fellow police officers can look like.

I’ve been a follower of Michael Hyatt for about 18 months now. If you don’t know the name, do yourself a favor and start getting familiar. On top of reading one of the best books on platform building I’ve ever read, entitled appropriately enough Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, he is also one of the foremost thought leaders in the leadership world.

On August 6, 2014, his podcast, This is Your Life, released an episode called “How to Create Team Alignment”. I found the episode packed to the gills with incredible leadership information that I’ve never seen implemented in the world of law enforcement.

We are doing ourselves a disservice in that regard.

After listening to the episode, I wanted to share with you some of the main thoughts.

First, let’s talk about the difference between uniformity and unity. Uniformity is simply all of us wearing the same outfit. It’s where the term “uniform” comes from for crying out loud.

Unity, on the other hand? Unity is a whole other beast.

Have you ever worked as a part of a team where unity ruled the day?

It is the responsibility of the leadership to encourage that unity. It is not achieved on accident.

Before I tell you about the three levels of unity Hyatt talks about in his podcast, let me explain something about leadership. When I say leadership, I am not referring specifically to your Chief or your Sheriff. I am not referring to your Captain or your Lieutenant. Hell, I don’t necessarily mean your front-line supervisor. You are a leader on your shift. You can lead your team, whether by example or with purpose. All of those ranks above you should certainly be doing all they can to foment the kind of unity we are talking about, but never look up in disdain when they aren’t.  Start with you.

Here are the three levels of unity:

  • Acceptance – All too often, this is about the extent of unity in police work. The Powers That Be give an order and you are obligated to tow the line. I would argue acceptance is the poor leader’s stable diet. There is acquiescence, but rest assured people aren’t committed to whatever vision the PTB has cast.
  • Agreement – This is when people are on your side. The directive is passed on and the troops support it. Perhaps you’ve done a better job of explaining the why behind it or you’re just that magnetic of a leader that people gravitate to you. Basically, though, folks have bought in to your point of view. The problem comes when others start to talk about the potential downsides (outside of a meeting, for example) or worse…purposefully being negative in either a blatant attempt to cause disunity or a myopic attempt to momentarily make themselves feel better by tearing the leadership down. Those in agreement can be swayed by these detractors.
  • Alignment – Alignment is the goal. Alignment comes when your team is fully committed to the plan laid out. The key difference between Alignment and Agreement is this: Those that align with you aren’t required to always agree with you.

One of the things I love about listening/reading Hyatt is taking his ideas and applying them not only to the entrepreneurial side of my life, but to the law enforcement side as well. That last point about gaining alignment where agreement doesn’t always exist is a challenging one in law enforcement.

Why?

One word: Ego. There is so much ego inside of us cops, it’s amazing there is room for anything else. We train from day one we are always right. We do the right things for the right reasons because we have right on our side!

If it isn’t ego, it’s politics. God forbid we stop humping the leg of the rank above us and sycophantically repeating “That’s a great idea, sir!” Now, I realize this is not unique to law enforcement, but it is certainly quite the petri dish in which to watch things play out.

So, as a leader, how can we go deeper than simple acceptance? How can we garner agreement and nurture alignment?

Next week, I’ll post Hyatt’s strategy to accomplish that goal!

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 “Leadership: Unity versus Uniformity

  1. Hyatt sounds like a very interesting read / listen and well worth looking up. Very much looking forward to your next post.
    And by the way based on that tie alone the job should have been yours. What were they thinking?