It is time to stop measuring a leader’s effectiveness by measuring their actions and accomplishments, or lack thereof. For it is not their actions that best represent their success, it is the how their actions affect the behaviors of others. Let’s look at this by assessing police officers and police chiefs.
It goes without saying that a police officer’s job is extremely challenging. One minute they need to be the utmost representation of professionalism and respect and the next moment they can find themselves fighting for their life with a crack-fueled junkie in a dank, condemned building. Few professions have the swing of responsibilities that are assigned under the “serve” label of “to protect and serve”. Difficulties aside however, the job must get done and it must get done right.
Chiefs hold the ultimate responsibility for “getting the job done right”. Obviously they get the mission accomplished through the members of their department, and for that reason the job of chief can be the most difficult. They need to develop the members of their department to a degree where service-excellence is a behavioral norm. It doesn’t matter how technically competent a leader is, the number one job of a leader is influence.
For that reason it is not the leader’s behaviors that are the measure of effectiveness, it is the behavior of front-line officers, detectives, and civilian personnel that reflect the competent leader.
A chief must engage in communication and actions that influence every member of the agency toward ideal front-line behaviors. So, if behaviors occur by any member of the organization that are outside of the norm of appropriateness, the chief owns it. Now there will be chiefs who take exception to this thought process and will find ways to shift blame or rationalize how inappropriate front-line behaviors are not their fault.
But the best leaders:
- understand the real meaning of integrity and consistent behavioral influence
- engage in an endless process of taking responsibility, setting clear expectations, and proactively inspecting and affecting personnel behaviors
- know that they must succeed despite less than optimum resources and forces that work against a well-functioning workplace, such as a dysfunctional organizational culture.
It is the lack of direct control that can make the chief’s job so arduous; as is often stated: “if it was easy, everyone could do it”. Clearly, very few earn the right to serve as a chief of police. And once earned, it is then re-earned every minute of every day. It involves unpleasant work, such as suspending and terminating employees for their inappropriate behaviors, even if the employee is well-liked or a personal friend. It can be a constant uphill battle; but it is remarkably important work and it must be done right so that the ultimate recipients of service receive that level of professionalism that has earned us the right to be called “The Finest”.
The best chiefs take and keep their jobs to engage in ongoing influence for a driving cause; and that is why the simplest way to measure leader effectiveness is to assess the behaviors of the leader’s personnel.