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Creating a culture of leadership is your best recruitment and retention strategy

From offering leadership pathways to adapting your leadership style, here are key steps every law enforcement leader should consider

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The landscape of law enforcement continues to evolve year after year. In today’s climate, societal expectations of what is required of law enforcement professionals have significantly changed over the last decade. Similarly, the expectations of newer generations entering the workforce have also changed dramatically over the years.

Although these challenges are pervasive, there are some key steps law enforcement leaders can take to alleviate some of the lingering effects within their organizations.

Create a culture of leadership

Newer recruits have a desire and sometimes even an expectation of rising through the ranks at a rapid pace. Oftentimes, new recruits who come into an organization seeking rapid ascension are viewed as a challenge for law enforcement leaders. I would argue that this can also be viewed as an opportunity for increased organizational strength.

One of the things we have implemented in our organization is a leadership pathway program for individuals who desire to serve in formal leadership roles. These individuals are sent to a variety of supervisory training including a city-sponsored seven-week in-house leadership program, where participants receive training on leadership, followership, budgeting, human resources and leadership in crisis.

The feedback we have received from employees has been resoundingly positive. The implementation of this leadership pathway program has improved our organization’s retention and overall morale. If you have line-level employees thinking and acting like supervisors, then the operational strength of your organization will greatly improve. At the same time, you are mentoring and developing future leaders, which is the ultimate accomplishment for those in the leadership arena.

Police1 resource: Why agencies need an internal leadership training program

Adaptable leadership

There are many different leadership styles you can apply when leading an organization. In today’s climate, the most effective leaders are those who can navigate through the different leadership styles as needed by their organization and employees.

For example, in a crisis a leader may need to demonstrate their ability to effectively lead their organization through an authoritative leadership approach, this style however will not be as effective when deployed with the newer generations of employees in the long term.

My experience has been that the newer generation of employees enjoys coach and servant styles of leadership the most. The challenge is that other employees may benefit from a transformational, pacesetter style of leadership, so knowing not only your preferred leadership style but the various styles that exist and how to utilize them to benefit your organization is key.

Police1 resource: Why adaptive leadership is imperative for law enforcement


Intentional leadership

There is no substitute for being intentional about your leadership. Your staff members need to know that you are dialed in. As leaders, daily tasks are plentiful, and it can seem like there are not enough hours in the day. Even so, carving out time to demonstrate genuine care and concern for each employee will go a long way in retention.

Getting into the vehicle with a patrolman, spending time with your civilian staff, and getting to know more about all personnel both personally and professionally, will go a long way to putting you in a position to be more effective as a leader. Doing this will help you as you work toward helping them reach their professional goals.

Lastly, being intentional as a leader cultivates a family culture in a profession where lives are at stake daily.

Police1 resource: Which leadership style fits you best as a police leader?


Organizations that place a strong emphasis on leadership at all levels will be able to navigate through the many challenges that law enforcement agencies across the country face. Organizations that fail to invest in their leadership will ultimately struggle.

Being a modern 21st-century police agency requires a strong commitment from organizational leadership to continue to look for innovative solutions to navigate through emerging challenges. Building trust and legitimacy requires strong leadership and an unwavering commitment to develop others and ultimately take care of employees.

I often share with my leadership team, that anyone can hold a title, but it takes dedication and commitment to be a leader. I challenge them to deploy leadership that they can be proud of when they finish their journey. In leadership, legacies are written with every decision and action taken along the journey. What do you want your leadership legacy to be?

NEXT: The Leadership Beat: ‘We have created a family culture within the department’

Dr. Jonathan B. Flores is a law enforcement and city government professional with over 22 years of service. He serves as the Assistant City Manager and Chief of Police for the City of Alton, Texas.

Dr. Flores is a 2023 National Law Enforcement Hall of Fame Inductee and has received international, national and state-level recognition for his leadership.

He earned his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Trevecca Nazarene University in 2021, his Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in 2018, and his Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice from the University of Phoenix in 2017.