You are the Chief

Who Me?

As a newly minted Lieutenant working the midnight shift I was on a chaotic job in a neighboring section when one of the citizens engaged in an angry, and obviously alcohol fueled, tirade directed  at the Captain who was responsible for the city that evening.  Yelling profanity from his window and referring repeatedly to the Captain as a#%hole, the citizen finally elicited the response; “That’s Captain A#%hole to you.”  Of course the gentleman then announced loudly that he was going to call the Chief the next day and the Captain informed him, “As far as your concerned, I am the f#%king Chief of Police.”

The Lesson

While the Captain’s response, although humorous, would likely be considered less than ideal,  the lesson in that exchange is an important one.  In almost every situation in which you are engaged, you literally are the Chief of Police.  It is highly unlikely that the Chief is going to show up on your scene and take control or for that matter make his or her presence known at your roll call.  The practical impact of the Chief on your day-to-day is zero, zip, nada.  We are in command of our personal actions and the impact that we have on the community.  This realization is critical in achieving our potential.

This describes the concept of ‘locus of control’.  Our perception of who is in command of our fate – is it within us or outside of us.  Far too often in our profession we place our locus of control outside of ourselves and leave our fate to others who we most often refer to as, ‘They’.  They did this and they did that and what stupid thing will they do next?  Even as a senior member of the command staff I heard similar comments being made around the table and I would regularly remind people (including myself) that, “We are They“.

The Buck Stops Here

To achieve our potential we have to take command and responsibility for our actions,  developing our own careers and developing the people we are responsible for in the chain of command.  We even have a responsibility, as good followers, to help develop our bosses.  It is easy to place the responsibility on ‘They’ – but we need to constantly remind ourselves that We are They – any other mindset makes us victims.

Individually we need to place our locus of control within ourselves. While we will not make every decision that effects us:  we absolutely control how we react to those decisions and whether we realistically examine their impact on our day-to-day. In all cases we need to identify opportunities and adopt a positive, proactive path forward.  Nothing that happens outside of ourselves relieves us of the responsibility for our actions or the promises we have made to our communities or our co-workers.

As direct leaders we need to acknowledge that, as far as our people are concerned, we are the Chief.  Our example  – as both followers and leaders, and the performance expectations that we set are much more important to our people than anything a distant leader might do.  Leadership is a privilege and a responsibility to others.  If we, as the focal leader, set an example of placing our locus of control  on ‘They’ we set ourselves, our people and our organizations up for failure.

Organizational leaders need to remember our days working the midnight shift when our world centered on the nameless, faceless ‘They’ who controlled our fate.  We need to take steps to communicate the purpose and motivation behind our decisions and to become more than some mysterious star chamber to our people.  We need to develop junior leaders and encourage them to take initiative and responsibility for accomplishing the mission.  As always, we are primarily responsible for setting the example.

Path Forward

An online search for locus of control will locate many free (anonymous) questionnaires you can take to see where you have placed your locus of control.  There is a great book, short but exactly on point, I recommend in the Guardian’s Bookshelf called The Question Behind the Question.  Everyone should read this book and apply its principles.  Above all, remember – You are the Chief of Police.

As always, THANK YOU for your service and BE SAFE!

Please comment on your thoughts regarding ways you have taken control of your career.

 

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