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A Patient Leader is a Successful Leader

Written by Adkins, Art

The demands placed on law enforcement in our society today have increased dramatically over the past few years. Using consumer technology, we are analyzed from every conceivable angle.  Citizens and our superiors are glued to Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) statistics to determine if crime is up or down, which, in many instances, can substantially impact the quality of life in a neighborhood. 

Politicians responding to the needs of their constituents often use police as a tool to accomplish tasks we would have never addressed 30 years ago. Societal changes and needs have forever shaped and will continue to dictate how we police.

Supervisors tasked with handling this diverse workload become frazzled and impatient. In their desire to achieve the results of the agency or a superior, they lose their patience and become irate because the job is taking longer than anticipated or is not being accomplished due to an ineffective plan. They have deviated from the path of leadership success and have succumbed to pressure, which has rendered them ineffective.  

When I encounter such an atmosphere, I pull the supervisor aside and remind him/her patience is a virtue. The French proverb, “Rome was not made all in one day,” applies to the task facing them. If they have lost their patience to deal with a situation, they have actually lost their ‘team.’ Their team is the men and women who comprise their squad. Agencies may be housed in buildings, but they consist of people. It takes a team to solve the problems confronting most police agencies today, not flow charts or crime maps. Technology can assist, but it is people who perform.

One of the major senior police management issues is developing successful strategies to combat crime. Leadership from a team perspective is absolutely crucial for overall success and this is the most difficult area encountered by mid-level supervisors. Sergeants and lieutenants often do not realize that if they present the problem at hand to their team, establish the goal to be achieved, give guidance and direction, and then step back, the final product will be better than anything they could have possibly imagined. The fear of letting go by any supervisor is often deep rooted.  Time plays a role in this decision-making progress.

Why is this so difficult? When supervisors step back, they feel they are losing control, but actually they achieve a stronger position. By allowing the team to assist with the problem solving, they are empowering them to take charge. By taking charge, ownership develops and solutions the supervisor may not have considered rise to the top. Stepping back is not giving up control. In reality, the reverse occurs! 

To implement a leadership strategy like this requires patience. The supervisor cannot get angry if it appears the plan is not developing as fast as he/she would like. Simple questioning, not micromanaging, can often help shed light on why there is not an immediate solution. If the team sees the supervisor supporting them and being patient as they work to achieve the objective, they often redouble their efforts to succeed. Trust placed in others generates tremendous rewards!

Developing patience to trust and empower subordinates can be difficult, especially in our highly charged society. The benefit is remarkable. By empowering the team, you create a group of problem solvers. By introducing a sustainable program of problem solving through empowerment, the entire team becomes problem solvers and handles minor issues, freeing the supervisor to focus on higher priorities. 

Where this has been successfully implemented, agencies now operate with increased effectiveness and morale is high. When developing your Leadership Ops Plan, be sure to include patience as a key leadership tool. Patience wins every time.

 

Art Adkins is a lieutenant on the Gainesville, Fla. Police Department. A 33-year veteran of law enforcement, he also served on the Ft. Lauderdale PD and the LAPD. Adkins has spent the majority of his career as a supervisor and is the author and lecturer of “Leadership Basics:  Conquering the Seven Deadly Sins.” He can be reached at www.theleadershipbasics.com.


Published in Law and Order, Jul 2014

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