Teaching Leadership


“In a world desperately in need of leadership the only style that works is Servant Leadership!” – Ken Blanchard

I have had the distinct pleasure of teaching what I call “Quality Leadership” to an upper division group of criminal justice majors. As it is a new course in the curriculum, we are essentially building it together as a project.

What makes this approach different is that I taught a course like this in the 80’s and 90’s to officers on my department and also to a number of police officers across the U.S. in a 3-day course which was sponsored by the IACP.

So what’s different? A lot. After reviewing the workbook I used then, surveying current corporate literature on the subject, and updating the workbook two years ago, I find that I am more focused today on the relational aspects of leadership — in short, building and strengthening throughout a leader’s career his or her emotional intelligence.

I have been impressed by the work of Simon Sinek and recently ran into Ken Blanchard of The One Minute Manager fame who shared more wisdom. Today, after many decades as a management consultant, Blanchard emphatically states, “In a world desperately in need of leadership the only style that works is Servant Leadership!” Sinek makes the same conclusion when he talks about why leaders eat last (a fond takeaway from my years in the Marines!).

unknown-1Throughout my study and life experience some eternal truths have arisen and it centers around the powerful and radical idea of Servant Leadership.

  • Servant Leaders take care of those whom they are privileged to lead.
  • Servant Leaders are committed to the growth and success of others.
  • Servant Leaders have a high level of emotional intelligence.
  • Being smart is nice, but being relationally competent (having emotional intelligence) is more important.

I have talked about my leadership library in the past. But I want to stress again the importance of leaders, and those who wish to be, must have a central reading list, a library, on the subject of leadership.

For me, I follow the Harvard Business Review (especially their publications called “Must-Reads;” especially those addressing Leadership, Change Management, and Emotional Intelligence.

Currently (2012), retired U.S. Navy Captain David Marquet contributed greatly to what I call the New Leadership in his book, Turn the Ship Around: A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders. If the New Leadership can be practiced aboard a nuclear submarine it can be done anywhere, anytime, by anyone.

While W. Edwards Deming (Out of the Crisis and Mary Walton’s The Deming Management Method) may seem old (how Japan found quality and finally we did, too, thanks to Deming) it true wisdom in looking at work as a system which can be improved whether it is product or service. Also, the important role workers have in diagnosing problems and improving that which they do — whether steel workers or cops! (I had the privilege years ago of sitting at the feet of Dr Deming during his Saturday talks at the University Club in Washington, D.C. before he died. It changed my life.)

On my shelf is also John Kotter’s Leading Change, Jim Collins’ Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t, and Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization.

You would also find Robert Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership, and Dr. Tom Gordon’s Leader Effectiveness Training as foundational pieces with Deming’s book.

However, most cops want to read something about how this relates to police (“What do business, corporate or military experiences have to do with what we do?”) so I will recommend Jim Isenberg’s Police Leadership in a Democracy: Conversations With America’s Police Chiefs, the chapter on Organization Change in the 7th edition of Novak’s, et. al. Police and Society, Herman Goldstein’s Policing a Free Society (especially Chapter 12, “Effecting Change: An Overview,” and, of course, my recent book Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve our Nation’s Police.

Being a leader today is not only being well-read with regard to national and world events, keeping on eye on what’s going on in the world, and being aware of potential challenges for those who police our nation, but engaging in it — being in the dusty and stressful area of being a leader.

It has been well-noted today that one’s emotional intelligence is far more important to a leader’s success and effectiveness than a person’s I.Q. We can do little to get smarter, but we can do a lot to improve how we relate to and work with others. At the end of the shift, that’s what counts not only for police officers in their interactions with citizens, but also how police leaders interact. relate and, yes, serve their officers.

imagesThis means being well-read and informed. Strengthening your emotional intelligence. And then DOING IT — PRACTICING LEADERSHIP.

Here’s some questions to get you focussed on the business of the New Leadership:

  1. Are you regularly doing self-reflection on your leadership skills?
  2. Do you regularly meet with those whom you lead to ask and listen as to how you and the team are doing?
  3. Are you working on your active listening skills?
  4. Are you the example of who you think you are? 
  5. Do you really “walk your talk?” How do you know?
  6. Is your leadership more about others and less about you?
  7. Are you keeping yourself mentally, physically, spiritually, and morally healthy? What are your measures for each?

You may wish to assess your emotional intelligence in order to get an idea of the areas in which you may need to strengthen.

  • A short (and free online assessment) is available HERE.
  • A longer (and at a cost of $9.95) is this assessment that will take about an hour to complete and will give you a detailed printout of your strengths and weaknesses HERE.

Here’s another good addition to your library from Prof. Gary Cordner: The Future of Policing: A Practical Guide for Police Managers and Leaders, authored by Joe Schafer et al. (CRC Press, 2012).


  1. Hi David — another book that I think merits consideration is The Future of Policing: A Practical Guide for Police Managers and Leaders, authored by Joe Schafer et al. (CRC Press, 2012). It’s largely a product of the police futurists group and its companion FBI Police Futures Working Group. It emphasizes EI and servant leadership and, among other things, points to the tendency toward egocentric police leaders replete with entourage, name dropping, blame shifting, and publicity craving but distinctly short on humility. I also really like this essay by the UK’s Mark Kilgallon: https://blog.oup.com/2015/07/good-policing-leader/



  2. This is outstanding stuff David! Quality management/leadership provide exceptional insight and foundational principles for us today, especially in the wake of “union” concerns.
    Emotional intelligence is now part of our curriculum at Northwestern’s SPSC. You’ll find some compelling applications of this in the work of Jack Enter, 2015.
    I’d like to sit-in on your class soon.


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