way to think about how to be a better leader is to think about who was a good
leader for you. A useful exercise in improving your leadership skills,
especially in the area of being firm, fair, and consistent with discipline, is
to take a pen and make a list of the traits, behaviors, characteristics, and
even the eccentricities of the best bosses you ever worked for.
just consider your previous law enforcement bosses for this list. Go back
through every job you ever held and consider how you were treated, led, taught,
praised, disciplined, and communicated to by your direct supervisors. Some
current bosses say their best boss was their first sergeant, or their best
experience was in a fast-food job, or while working for a family-owned
business, or that their best boss was when they were in the military.
course, this list is not complete until you consider the dark side. If one side
of your page contains what was so good about certain bosses, the other side
must describe the truly horrible bosses for whom you worked, and how you
survived their alleged leadership skills.
I use this Best Boss-Worst Boss exercise in the police supervision classes that
I teach, I get quite a range of interesting replies. On the Best Boss list, the
participants write traits like, “great listener, mentored me, treated everyone
fairly, used lots of praise, kept the group informed about issues, went to bat
for us with senior management, gave out assignments fairly, taught me how to do
my job better, gave me the freedom to learn and make mistakes, caught me doing
things right, and was always available but didn’t micromanage me.”
the Worst Boss list, I often see comments like, “alcoholic, liar, screamer,
slept at his desk, stole money from me, timed my bathroom breaks, took credit
for my ideas, couldn’t or didn’t want to communicate, was never satisfied with
my work, never praised me or anyone else, never taught me anything, seemed
bothered when I asked questions, didn’t make eye contact with me, threw us down
and blamed us in front of senior management, gone all the time, micromanaged
me.” If you look at your list side by side, you can say that many of the Best
Boss characteristics are the opposite of the worst boss characteristics, and
context of these work situations is a part of the comparison as well. You may
have been exposed to a lot of yelling in the military, since that is a big part
of the basic training environment. Some people thrive under that kind of
treatment; other people not so much. What some employees think of as a
micromanager might simply be a boss that sets the performance and behavior bars
high and demands results. What some employees label past bosses as missing
managers, might simply mean that they gave every employee the freedom to do
their jobs without too much unnecessary over-the-shoulder scrutiny, thereby
expressing confidence in their people.
you consider the items on your Best Boss – Worst Boss list, ask yourself these
questions: “Do my employees ever make their own lists? Do they compare me to
the best boss or the worst boss they ever had in their careers? Do they talk
with each other about my leadership style?” The answers are: yes, yes, and yes.
list-making process can be eye-opening. What are the traits and behaviors you
need to do more of and which ones should you stop doing? What are the things
that the best bosses in your career did that you want to emulate and which ones
from the worst bosses do you want to avoid?
When it comes to supervising, leading and disciplining your people,
which list do you want to end up on?
Steve Albrecht worked for the San Diego Police
Department. His books include Contact
& Cover (C.C. Thomas); Streetwork; Surviving Street Patrol; and Tactical Perfection for Street
Cops (all for Paladin Press). He can be reached