Supervising Winners

We are under assault. Pure and simple, law enforcement is experiencing an upswing of violence against it not seen since the 1970s. Our brothers and sisters are being shot and killed and we must examine everything in our arsenal to turn the tide and keep our people safe from harm and leadership must be at the fore. Leaders and leadership--that's what I'm talking about, not managers (yes--you noticed the disdain when I wrote the word).

According to the book High-Risk Training by Gary Ward the term "leadership" comes from mariners of old:

"A leadership would be sent ahead just over the horizon of the ocean where the mast could still be seen. The job of the leadership was to monitor weather, watch for landfall, and be on the lookout for shoals and enemy fleets. The rest of the armada would watch the mast of the leadership. As it changed course, they too, the followships, would alter course to match the leadership."
"The right to lead must be earned, not at the expense of followers but with their help, input, and expertise. Some may have sailed the waters before, or be excellent at reading the weather and the water (the trends of the future). Most certainly, they should best know the capabilities of their own ships to withstand the course to the future....A followship is gained by being technically competent to plot a course, communicating the mission and the whys, and standing up for the followship."

To lead the way from the front by being tactically and technically proficient, to plot the course and direct followers and to take care of the troops, that is the responsibility of supervision. Whether they take-up that responsibility and execute that mission is what separates leaders from supervisors/managers.

Supervisory Types and Officer Safety

Just like the vast number of personality types in the officer ranks, there are supervisor types, and some are more conducive than others to officer safety and survival. These types can reside in one individual and in terms of the positive types, they should.

Negative Types

  • The enabler--From vehicle pursuits, communicating with citizens to use of force, this supervisor will find no fault regardless of the conduct of the troops. Kickin' ass and takin' names is the focus even if it's accomplished by poor or dangerous tactics.
  • The control freak--"Don't do anything without clearing it through me." The control freak disapproves of individual decision making and discretion. The result is that they get their wish developing indecisive officers that don't do anything.
  • The Micro-Manager--Stand there, do this, do that...the micro-manager is afraid to delegate any responsibility or decision making. Lack of free-thinking, self-sustaining officers is the result who are then unable or incapable of taking care of things on their own.
  • Sgt. Schultz--Just like the "Hogan's Hero's" character, "I know nothing. I see nothing." These lazy supervisors and there "don't get involved in anything" comments result in low productivity but also results in officers taking action without letting anyone know.
  • The Know-It-All--With a loud comment of "they can't teach me anything" the know-it-all proclaims that they are so perfect in their skills and knowledge base that they can't learn anything. The result is the use of outdated and dangerous tactics and techniques.
  • Lt. My Rank Serves Me--The three fundamental roles of leadership are: 1) Take care of the troops, 2) Take care of the troops, and 3) Take care of the troops. But the emphasis in LE today is that the troops exist to take care of the officers and that the only important thing is getting the next promotion.
  • Sgt. No Decision--Not making a decision is a decision, but frequently supervisors are paranoid of making a decision (might get sued, don't you know...) that they would rather time pass with nothing being done than proactively doing anything.

Positive Types

  • The Coach--The coach stands back and offers advice or criticism with the end goal of improved performance. If everyone operates in a tactically sound manner, then everyone is safer and the coach is interested in everyone winning.
  • The Leader--You'll always know where to look for the leader...he or she will be at the front. The leader sets the example in work ethic and in safety compliance.
  • The Mentor--The supervisor everyone want to be when they grow up, this type of supervisor serves as an example for the way to operate as an officer and how to supervise once promoted.
  • The Trainer--Always looking for a better and safer way, the trainer insists that lessons can be learned from the outcome of every situation good and bad. Every supervisor is a trainer or should be.
  • The Dutch Uncle--There is a way to chew subordinate's ass, put your arm around them, walk them away from everyone and in a calm voice ask, "What the hell were you thinking?" And then, "How can we improve this performance?"
demand a higher work standard in quantity, quality and safety

These types of supervisors are indeed leaders, loved and admired by the troops for all the right reasons. In order to lead, you must know yourself and know your troops. Without knowing who you are and without self-confidence and positive self-image, how can you lead others?

Make no mistake--the leaders of men are oftentimes not encouraged by administrations. Many times because of their focus on taking care of the troops, they'll get a "loose cannon," "not a team player," or "maverick" reputation. So be it, the leader sleeps peacefully in his or her bed at night because of the nobleness of their mission--to take care of his men.

To lead winners during violent encounters, throughout the police job and even in life, you must study leadership, read and research, develop your personal skills as well as your inter-personal skills, you must demand the best from your officers and from yourself, you must delegate, and then trust your people to do the task well. Ultimately the troops must know that the reason you do everything and hold them to such a high standard is because you care about them. Then when they are standing victorious after having faced down death or serious injury, you clap them on the back and say, "Well done!" Because you genuinely care about them, and they know it, and you are indeed their leader--that will be worth more than any commendation.