There is a terrible cultural issue within law enforcement that few have talked about and we pull no punches in our Courageous Leadership Seminar. Leaders of all ranks like to brag about their “open door” policy. “My door is always open” they will say and the thought is that all ranks will just march right in that office to take issues to them. The problem is every time this issue is studied, the “open door” policy doesn’t work. It may feel good to say but does not accomplish much other than giving employees a chance to say “what they think their managers want to be told.”
Courageous Leaders take that “open door” policy and go to the door of those that they influence. Former Durham (NC) Police Chief Jose Lopez said it best when he told me that whenever he looked at his calendar and saw an open day, he found a police car to ride in and that is where the real discussions happen…..when you go to others and when you step into their environment.
The problem for law enforcement, especially for law enforcement management, is that we attribute work to being behind a desk and that is about as ridiculous as thinking a patrol officer is working if they sit behind the wheel of their car in a parking lot the entire shift. The truth is, working cops go to the community and find criminals while working managers (leaders) go to those around them, attend meetings, engage in the community and develop partnerships and very little of that will happen sitting behind a desk.
I know you have to check your e-mail and you have to type documents but it is 2018. That does not always require 8 hours of desk time and you probably could do any of that wherever your phone or laptop is.
Then again, I get it. I especially get it because I do not subscribe to being behind the desk is evidence of hard work. Probably because I was so used to seeing a previous boss literally mastering computer games but his reputation was hard work.
Because he was behind the desk silly!
It is time for law enforcement to embrace a new kind of leadership and it will not be easy. A few weeks ago, I started hearing the rumors that I was never around and while I wish this nonsense didn’t bother me, it does.
So I checked my vacation time for the year and it was just about where my peers were at. Some had more and some had less. In fact, I took the exact time off I had accumulated during the year so why were certain cowards saying I was never around?
Of course…..Because they think being behind a desk proves you work hard. It’s stupid and it’s not even logical but then again law enforcement can be status quo and I imagine in 1972 without computers and phones and technology that enables one to move around, the desk was the symbol of work.
Don’t get me wrong. Leaders, managers or anyone with a desk have to be there at times. There are meetings to attend, work flow that happens and accessibility at a common place is important but it is time for a new approach, for a new way and for real leaders to lead among their followers rather than behind a desk.
Travis Yates is the founder of the Courageous Leadership Institute. Find out how to become a Courageous Leader here.
What others are saying about “Courageous Leadership For Law Enforcement”
“This class is absolutely outstanding.” Nathan Mendes, California Narcotics Officers Association
“This class should be required for every single police officer in America.” Officer Jason Cummings, Claremore PD
“In my 12 year career, this was the best class I have ever taken on leadership.” Sergeant Josh Johnson
“The best presentation I have had in over 22 years in law enforcement.” Sgt. Michael Huber, McMinnville (OR) Police Department
“This is some of the best training I have attended in over 40 years of law enforcement.”
Scott Johnson, Chief of Police – Grand Rapids (MN) Police Department
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