What is Leadership?

Leadership Equals Influence

At it’s most basic, leadership is influencing people.  Every time we connect with someone we have an influence on them. Ideally we would like to influence people in a positive manner, however, leadership can be expressed as a negative influence. It has been said that Hitler was a great leader, however he was certainly a negative influence.  Whether we will be a positive or negative influence begins with who we are; our personal credibility.

Levels of Leadership

The U.S. Army discusses leadership in four levels.  The foundational level deals with who we are, our personal credibility, our character and competence. This is expressed in the BE-KNOW-DO paradigm. Because leadership is dependent on our level of knowledge and our actions, read competencies, it can be learned. This flies in the face of the belief that leaders are born, not made. For each succeeding level of the  model, our required levels of competence  increase while we maintain rock-solid character.

The next layer of leadership is direct leadership.  Here we find ourselves formally responsible for leading others.  This demands not only a good understanding of self but also those we wish to influence. We are responsible for providing others with purpose, direction and motivation. As members of an organization, whether it is our family or our business, we ensure compliance with standards and procedures. We influence group norms and build cohesion.  We motivate the individuals in our group.

Beyond the direct level is organizational leadership. The complexity of organizational leadership increases as we  must lead through others.  This requires excellent communication skills. We are responsible for the climate policies and direction of the organization. We establish policies, procedures and performance measures that are congruent with the organizational task.

Strategic leadership represents the final level. Communicating purpose, direction and motivation becomes even more complex.  Leaders face increasing uncertainty and complexity. They are responsible for the vision, values, purpose, and culture of the organization. Again, the necessary level of competence increases.

This paradigm of leadership is all-encompassing. It begins with personal excellence, establishing credibility through personal character and attributes.  The model acknowledges that leadership can be learned and that  each succeeding level of leadership requires new competencies.  At the higher levels of leadership, organizational success is determined through advanced leadership skills. These competencies include tactical and strategic planning, project management, and managing organizational environments.

These skills translate well into any organization. This site has primarily dealt with police leadership and management. While many in the police field would like to see themselves in an individual silo, the truth is that there is much to learn from the military and private sectors. In fact, given the difficulty of the police task and the current economic environment, survival may depend on active learning from these other sectors. While it is true the leading police personalities in a paramilitary environment is challenging, it is foolhardy and arrogant to believe that others do not face similar difficulties.

Focus on Leadership

In the future, the site will focus on leadership development. This will allow for a discussion of personal excellence and credibility which is foundational to any successful leader.  It will build on this foundation with practical application of the increased competencies required of direct, organizational, and strategic leaders. This general approach will prepare police leaders, and all leaders, for the challenges of the future.  We will delve deeply into the question; what is leadership?

Please comment on your view of the applicability of military and private sector leadership on the policing  profession.

 

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