New Leadership for a New Police

UnknownIt is going to take a new and improved leadership that is collaborative and respectful to move our police forward. The old “my way or the highway” won’t work. Coercion is out. Teaming is in.

This is because in order to move forward police will have to be clear, creative thinkers, committed to working with people rather than against them. And that’s where community-oriented policing comes in — real community-oriented policing — police and community together.

But for that to happen, a new leadership style must emerge. We knew that years ago when we decided that in order for us to go forward and achieve excellence, we must do it together — with rank and file officers and with the community we served.

In response, we developed a new leadership way we called “Quality Leadership.” Here is an abbreviated description and some questions you can ask yourself about it. And if you want more, there is a workbook that will help you.


1. Believe in, foster, and support teamwork. Teamwork is working together—working to solve crimes and conduct investigations, as well as to resolve problems that arise at work or in the community… We should try to do our work with teams whenever possible.

  • Where are you working in teams?
  • Where are areas both within your department and within the community that more teamwork could be employed?

2. Be committed to the problem-solving process; use it and let data, not emotions, drive decisions. Use the problem-solving process: Identify the nature and scope of the problem, seek a number of alternatives that will solve the problem, choose the most effective alternative, implement the chosen alternative, follow up on its implementation (correct, if necessary, to make it better). Too often we use our emotions or feelings to choose a course of action… Using data will help our decision-making because we will be able to answer that extremely crucial question: How do we know this is true?

  • How often do you systematically use the classic “problem-solving method?”
  • How often is data used to demonstrate progress and to make important decisions?
  • What are areas in your work that should always use the problem-solving method?

3. Seek employees’ input before you make key decisions. This is a commitment to ask your employees about what the key decisions are in the workplace. They may be staffing levels, assignments, transfers, or taking time off. Whatever they may be, they are things that the employees feel are decisions on key matters—not things you or I think. The commitment is to ask before these decisions are made. It does not mean that you have to do what your employees believe you should do… When employee input is requested, it should be clear at the beginning of the process how the decision will be made and who will make it.

  • What constitutes a “key decision” among your employees?
  • Before decisions are made, is everyone clear on how the decision will be made and who will make it?

4. Believe that the best way to improve the quality of work or service is to ask and listen to employees who are doing the work. As leaders we don’t do the front-line work. We depend on others to do the job of responding directly to the customers, the citizens of our city. It has been a long time since most of us have performed this job. Therefore, we depend on the men and women who do this job to tell us what they need to do get the job done. As bosses, one of the most fundamental things we can do for our employees is to ask them what they need and listen to what they have to say. Listening is the difficult part for those of us who have spent years learning how to tell people what to do… Employees want bosses who are willing to listen, and we need employees who will honestly tell us about what’s going on.

  • How would you rate yourself on your listening ability?
  • When was the last time you asked your employees what they needed to do a better job?
  • What would others say who work for you about your leadership?

5. Strive to develop mutual respect and trust among employees. How do we develop respect and trust in the workplace? One of the keys is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. People want to be respected and trusted. Bosses who show respect and trust have respected and trusted employees. We must come to the workplace with the basic belief that our employees deserve respect and can be trusted—that’s why we hired them in the first place… We must all be committed to driving fear out of our workplace.

  • In what ways are you demonstrating trust to your employees?
  • What do you think the fear-level is in your workplace?
  • How are you going to drive that fear out?

6. Have a customer orientation and focus toward employees and citizens. A customer orientation and focus means that we listen to our customers. Customers may be citizens, elected officials, employees, or interest groups. As supervisors and managers, we have as direct customers our employees, who provide service to their customers, the citizens and taxpayers… In this new era of community policing, listening to the customer is a vital part of the job… Today, people want to be heard and participate.

  • Do you view your employees as customers?
  • What about citizens?
  • Why not?

7. Manage the behavior of 95 percent of employees and not the 5 percent who cause problems. Deal with the 5 percent promptly and fairly. This is a fundamental principle regarding people. It should help us to look at how we view our employees. Do we believe that they can be trusted, are mature adults, and want to do a good job? Or do we believe that they are untrustworthy, immature, and want to avoid work?… We believe 95 percent of our employees fall into the first group and 5 percent or fewer fall into the second group. For too long, the actions of the 5 percent have dictated the rules and policies and how the organization is run. We believe that the actions of the 5 percent shouldn’t dictate how the rest of the employees are treated in the workplace… We have all heard a great deal about the need for consistency and fairness in the disciplinary process. Being fair is more important.

  • Why is it important to understand the 95/5 rule?
  • What is the difference between leading based on the 95% rather than the 5% who cause problems?
  • What happens when you lead on how the 5% behaves?

8. Improve systems and examine processes before placing blame on people. Continually monitor the systems you are responsible for to enhance them and, ultimately, the quality of the output. Leaders have responsibility for the performance of systems—this is creative and valuable work. In the past, we have emphasized that the job of a leader was to watch over, maintain, and inspect systems. No more. A leader’s job today is to enrich these systems—continually, incessantly, and forever.

  • Do you see your work as a system?
  • What are some ways you can enrich and improve that work system?

9. Avoid top-down power-oriented decision-making whenever possible. We should avoid the use of coercive power whenever possible. When we use it we should remember that we all pay a cost in its exercise—giver and receiver. The finest decisions are those in which we all participate and concur. The next are those decisions in which everyone is asked for their input before something is decided. Of course, we will have occasional no discussion decisions in our work. When we do, we should make a commitment to our employees that we agree to critique those decisions whenever possible.

  • What happens when coercion is used in your workplace?
  • How can work be less coercive?
  • What happens when it is?

10. Encourage creativity through risk-taking, and be tolerant of honest mistakes. We will never get creativity and innovation from our employees when we tell them they cannot make mistakes. All that we know about people tells us that creativity is chilled and repressed in such an environment. It isn’t easy to accept honest mistakes. The price we pay for zero defects, however, is zero creativity.

  • No work system exists without people making mistakes. How are mistakes handled in your workplace?
  • Why does the expectation of demanding no mistakes lead to little or no creativity or forward progress?

11. Be a facilitator and coach. Develop an open atmosphere that encourages providing and accepting feedback. A leader’s job today is different. It is challenging and gives us opportunities for personal growth because it offers so many new options. Being an effective quality leader means being a coach, a teacher, student, role model, and, most significant, a champion of the new philosophy. We are in the business of helping people develop and experience personal growth… Our employees’ goal is to deliver a quality service to our citizens by being responsive and sensitive to those citizens’ needs. We can model this behavior by being responsive and sensitive to our employees’ needs. All this can only be accomplished in an atmosphere of trust, honesty, and openness.

  • Why does the workplace today need leaders who coach and facilitate?
  • What are the things you are doing to help your employees grow?
  • What are you doing to maintain an atmosphere at work of trust, honesty and openness?

12. Use teamwork to develop agreed-upon goals with employees, and a plan to achieve them. This principle tries to capture the importance of progress and moving forward as a team. We plan where we are going and establish agreed-upon ways to achieve that goal with input from and discussion with our employees. We help create a vision. Our job is then to align that vision with our practices. We can do that by coaching our employees toward excellence—not by trying to control them.

  • What is your work vision, who knows about it?
  • Why are goals and a vision important?
  • How have you developed agreed-upon work goals?
  • How will they be measured?


[From The New Quality Leadership Workbook for Police (2015). To self-analyze and improve your leadership style, order it HERE.]


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