Being a law enforcement officer is more than just a job. It’s an identity and a lifestyle, and for most people on the force, it’s also an opportunity to positively influence the community and do good.
Being a law enforcement officer is also a deeply rewarding career with great benefits and economic security. However, in a rapidly changing social and political climate, it’s also a challenging position. The increasing number of active shooter cases and police ambushes have made it one of the toughest jobs in the country.
Being a successful law enforcement officer requires exceptional leadership skills that allow individuals to navigate a bureaucratic minefield, connect with a wide range of demographics—both within the community and the policing agencies—and effectively serve the public.
Becoming a law enforcement leader is a continuous learning curve that requires individuals to possess key character traits. These traits need to be consistently developed and improved upon to ensure effective law enforcement leadership.
Let’s look at these traits in detail:
A Clear Vision
Having an intelligent vision for the future of your unit is the first step toward becoming an effective leader within the law enforcement field.
Your unit needs to have a clear understanding of the direction they’re headed in and the goals they need to meet. These goals must also align with your vision for the sustained success of the entire law enforcement department.
As a leader, you must be able to identify the challenges your agency is facing in the present, and those that it is likely to face in the future. You must also realize the full potential of your unit in terms of resource allocation, data sharing, and important policing concepts to enhance its capabilities.
A good law enforcement leader should be able to inspire others in their unit by helping them understand their vision and motivating them to see it to fruition. They must also be able to communicate effectively and express empathy with the officers on the force to develop deep bonds with their unit.
A leader should also serve as a motivator; their own actions and strict adherence to moral and ethical principles cannot be taken lightly.
A true leader will always hold themselves accountable to their superiors, as well as to members of their unit.
They must not consider their actions to be above the law and are expected to continuously strive to maximize outcomes. They must work toward exceeding expectations and have to take complete responsibility for all actions and failures.
Leadership taking accountability is a great motivator for members of the unit, and fosters an environment of sustained productivity.
A leader must take on the challenges of the job with eagerness, instead of trying to ignore or avoid them. They must also exhibit the stamina and energy that are necessary to lead the unit effectively and ensure sustained excellence throughout the department.
Successful law enforcement officers always share their unit’s success and recognize their accomplishments as a combined effort of the entire workforce.
Officers who are focused on getting praised for their work and taking all the credit for the success of their unit lose respect and support and are no longer entrusted to lead.
The best leaders understand the importance of working as a team and know that all members must be credited for a win.
A humble law enforcement leader will make sure their superiors and subordinates are given due credit to ensure the recognition of the entire unit as an influential and effective component of the policing agency!
Effective Leadership Styles
Certain leadership styles have been recognized as critical in law enforcement. These include:
Situational leadership refers to the ability to assess a situation and all the available information. A leader must be able to recognize the right people and resources for each specific mission to ensure its success.
The nature of police work is quite dynamic and high-risk which is why it’s important for a leader to effectively navigate dangerous and ever-evolving circumstances.
They should also have the ability to take in information rapidly and make appropriate decisions in high-pressure situations.
A transformational leader focuses on ensuring and encouraging others’ success. They inspire and excite their followers by helping them develop a clear vision of their future. Their main purpose is to create a positive and valuable change, with the end goal of transforming subordinates into leaders in the future.
Transformational leaders are positive change agents and work toward fostering collaboration—both internally and externally. They strive to boost morale and help other officers deal with problems such as mistrust, animosity, and criticism.
They also recognize the strengths of their subordinates, highlight their achievements, and provide opportunities for growth!
Tap into Your Potential as A Law Enforcement Leader!
According to Ronald Regan,
“There are no limits to what you can accomplish, so long as you don’t care who gets the credit.”
If you possess the traits that make a successful law enforcement commander and have a passion to drive others toward excellence, you might have a bright future within the policing agency.
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