A Little Advice for a New Sergeant

We see, hear and read a lot about “leadership” in this profession but the term tends to be overused and badly abused. So many people confuse being “in charge” with being a leader. Just because you hold rank doesn’t mean you’re fit to lead, but...

Taking the Right Risks:  In his training class “The Winning Mind” Dave Smith talks about “No-Men” and “The Law of Delay.”  It is so much easier for a police supervisor, especially a new one, to say “no” to a new idea, a new concept, or a new general order than it is to say “yes.”  By saying “no,” risk is eliminated; and if we keep doing things “the way we’ve always done them” we can’t be blamed when the new idea turns out to be a lousy one.  In police work we are always trying to minimize and manage physical and legal risk, but make sure you challenge yourself to take some administrative risks.  And don’t fall into the trap of “information paralysis” where you just keep analyzing an issue or an idea but never actually make a decision.  There is always going to be more data to be gathered, but true leaders are decisive and willing to get out of their comfort zone to benefit the organization.

Admitting Your Own Mistakes: Many supervisors hate to admit that they’ve made a mistake; they often view it as a weakness and hope that if they ignore (or deny) an error or a wrong-doing on their part, everyone else will too.  It’s incredibly hard to say “I’m wrong” or “I’m sorry” when you’re the boss, but the impact it has on a team is enormous.  Everyone makes mistakes, but in police work our errors can be costly, embarrassing, or even deadly, so we have a tendency to do anything to avoid admitting them.  If you are able to face your own shortcomings or screw ups with honesty and humility, you’ll help your personnel learn to do the same.  As a leader, it’s your job to not only admit a mistake, but you also have to help others deal with theirs.   Most of our errors can be used as teaching tools and most of our mistakes can be rectified.  They key to dealing with errors is to fix them, learn from them and then move on.

Learn to Coach:  Sergeants (and all supervisors) should see themselves not as “bosses” but as “on-scene coaches.”  It’s not your job to find people doing things wrong or telling them exactly what to do, it’s your job to coach them how to do things right.  Sometimes you need to lead your team, sometimes you need to push them out in front of you and pick up the slack from behind.  In one situation you may be their leader, but in another you may find yourself in the role of “cheerleader,” motivating them to go that extra mile.  Be flexible, be compassionate, set high standards for yourself and your people, and go out there and enjoy the best job in the agency.  Congratulations Sarge!


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