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9 leadership trends law enforcement should embrace in 2023

Every day must begin with the question: “What can I do for my people?”

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By Police1 Staff

In last year’s “What Cops Want” survey, the overriding request from patrol officers was that they want their supervisors and leaders to care about them. If there is one factor that will be critical to your success as a police leader in 2023, it will be showing your people just how much you care about their job satisfaction, their safety and their overall well-being. With this in mind, we asked law enforcement leaders which leadership trends will have the most impact on policing in 2023. Many of the themes below match what our survey respondents requested.

  1. Authenticity: I would say the most important trend is rather old school and not trendy at all but unfortunately has been in short supply over the years. I say the most important thing for leaders in our profession is to be their authentic self. The public is hungry for authentic leadership and your staff is hungry for it also, so give it to them. — Booker Hodges, chief, Bloomington Police Department, Minnesota

    Resource: How do you become a better police leader?

  2. Compassion: As you build your leadership resilience, keep this in mind. Striving for excellence is not perfection. Perfectionism steeped in fear is self-limiting and self-deceptive. Build strength around your feelings about shame, worthiness and readiness for your leadership role by learning to view yourself with compassion and forgiveness and here you will also find the compassion needed for those you lead. — Jonni Redick, assistant chief (ret.), California Highway Patrol

    Resource: Why perfectionism makes leadership more difficult

  3. Emotion: The most important leadership concept for new police leaders is emotional intelligence. Leaders should be able to perceive, use, understand and manage their emotions and the emotions of others. Incorporating emotional information into decision-making will help leaders be more effective and better prepared to lead their teams. Lyons Hale, captain and leader of Louisiana’s statewide crisis negotiation team

    Resource: How emotional intelligence benefits officers both on and off duty

  4. Mentoring: Following mass attrition, departments are younger and largely more inexperienced than ever. This goes from the officer level, all the way up the chain at each rank. Leaders need to lean into hands-on coaching and demonstrative example. We can develop appropriately with steadfast engagement and active participation. Eric Tung, sergeant, Washington State

    Resource: The importance of mentoring in law enforcement

  5. Motivation: The challenge for 2023 will be true leadership, not mere management of problems. That means motivating police officers to keep fire in the belly, light in the eyes, mission-focused vision, and passion for doing good. Every day must begin with the question: “What can I do for my people?” — Joel Shults, chief of Police (ret.)

    Resource: Why increasing officer morale should be a priority for every police leader

  6. Positivity: Chase joy down like a fleeing felon; capture it and extend it to those under your charge. Our profession is replete with daily tragedy, both internal and external. It should be our edict to lead officers away from the abyss toward a place where they enjoy their profession, the people on their team, and the mission. Lt. Brian Churchill, watch commander, LAPD

    Resource: Staying positive is a discipline

  7. Support: The most important leadership qualities I saw develop in 2022 that I hope to see expand across the country in 2023, was the display of support and selfless promotion by chiefs and leaders for their troops. More chiefs are showing public support for their officers in the news media, the community and social media, exhibiting their outstanding efforts in innovation and policing. I think about Chula Vista (California) Police Chief Roxana Kennedy showing her people who implement the agency’s drone and Live911 system, Chief Roger Schei, of Pocatello, Idaho who embraces his officers’ acts of heroism, working out in the gym and in the community with them, and Las Vegas Director of Public Safety Jason Potts on bringing accolades for his officers who use technology and evidence-based best practices to reduce crime. Jim Dudley, deputy chief (ret.), San Francisco PD

    Resource: Building leadership capital with your cops and your community

  8. Teaching: In 2023, I hope that leaders will embrace the idea that leadership is a skill that can be taught and improved upon with deliberate action and continual learning. There is a belief that leaders are born, not made. While some desirable traits may be intrinsic, the more important aspects of leadership can absolutely be taught – and should be. Throwing officers into new leadership roles without sufficient training is a recipe for disaster that can plague a department. After all, all problems faced by an agency are leadership problems. — Mark Kollar, special agent supervisor for a state criminal investigative agency

    Resource: A guide to law enforcement leadership training and graduate degree programs

  9. Transformation: I think the most important leadership trend going into 2023 is the need for “leading change.” If leaders are not accepting of the 24/7 change cycle and helping their people in adapting and contributing to it, they will fail. Change won’t go away and fighting it is unproductive. Lead the change and stay ahead of the curve. Chris D. Lewis, former commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police

    Resource: 5 steps to begin leading transformational change in your agency

Bonus content: operational trends

  • Bucking convention: In 2023, law enforcement leaders need to expand their horizons as it relates to recruitment and retention. Doing things because “they have always been done this way” is no longer going to be effective as law enforcement evolves and we are hiring a younger generation. The utilization of social media trends can be a vital tool in recruiting and has been extremely successful within my department. Finding alternative means of incentivizing employment can certainly help with retention. The incentives do not have to be monetary, they can come in the form of something else that is deemed valuable to the staff. It is time for all leaders to embrace the progression and evolution of law enforcement in order to continue to make it the noblest profession. — LJ Roscoe, chief, Goose Creek Police Department, South Carolina

    Resource: How to fix police hiring today

  • Virtualization: 2023 will continue to see an acceleration of the digital transformation, from OpenAI and other machine learning technologies, augmented reality opportunities, and the ways 5G (and 6G) will boost the emergence of the Internet of Things. Coupled with this will be the need to upskill police officers and staff and embrace the virtualization of their work. This will have to be accomplished amid the backdrop of the economy – with inflation, the cost of doing business and recessionary impacts on revenue for local governments. — Bob Harrison, chief of police (ret), RAND Corporation researcher

    Resource: How LAPD leaders are integrating wireless and fiber with legacy information systems