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Searching for your next police leader? Look for those that ASPIRE

ASPIRE compares potential candidates against characteristics most often identified with effective leadership

One of the greatest challenges facing our law enforcement organizations is that the responsibilities and expectations that we place on leaders has far outpaced the processes we use to identify those best suited for leadership positions. Certainly, recruiting the right people into our organizations is important, but selecting those to be next in line for leading those recruits is key to maintaining strong organizations.

For lack of a better method, we often return to the age-old process of a relevant skills assessment test and an interview or two when new leaders are selected. While these evaluation systems have their place, the process of developing and selecting leaders should be more dynamic and better reflect the traits that we hope our leaders possess.

One method of identifying those with the requisite traits needed for effective leadership is the ASPIRE method. ASPIRE provides insight into the leadership development and selection process by comparing those potential candidates against a set of characteristics that are most often identified with effective leadership: Attitude, Skills, Passion, Initiative, Resilience, and Experience.

Leadership reflects attitude, and those with the best attitude often make the best leaders. Every organization has a certain percentage of members whose attitude is not only undesirable, it borders on being toxic.

A leader’s role is to influence the work environment and the people within their work unit in a positive way. Leaders need to inspire, motivate, and provide support for others, sometimes at the expense of their own interests.

Someone whose general attitude is negative, self-centered, or arrogant will never achieve their full potential as a leader. Leadership positions are vital to our organizations, and are too important to waste on bad or uneven attitudes.

This includes not only the basic skills of law enforcement, but also the set of skills that helps leaders succeed in their positions. Do they have the requisite “people skills” needed to effectively communicate with others? Do they have the active listening skills necessary to build rapport, understanding, and trust with those that they interact with?

Most importantly, do they have the diplomacy skills necessary to deal with difficult personalities and difficult situations?

Often overlooked, passion is a key element for a leader. If you have ever seen or been around a passionate leader, you know the impact that they have on those within their circle of influence. Passion produces energy, and passionate leaders ignite that energy in others.

Passionate leaders bring intensity, focus, and enthusiasm to the table. Leaders with passion are infectious and their influence is impactful. They build great teams with their vision, and they inspire others to develop their own passion and fulfill their own potential.

Leaders pursue opportunities, or, when those opportunities don’t exist, they create them. Leaders don’t sit back and wait for someone to give them a leadership opportunity, always looking from the outside. They take the initiative and open their own doors.

It has been said that successful people somehow manage to be in the right place at the right time. That is not a coincidence. It takes initiative and effort to put yourself in the right position to seize those opportunities, and sometimes it takes creativity to build a door where only a window existed.

Every person in a leadership position encounters roadblocks at some point in time, both professionally and in their personal leadership development. The best leaders find a way to persevere. Leaders understand that not every promotion happens and not every assignment is given to them.

Rather than looking outward when this happens, they look inward. They don’t focus on things they can’t control, they focus on things they can improve.

There is no substitute for experience, right? Well, it’s important to remember that the value of experience doesn’t come from the experience itself, but rather from the knowledge and wisdom gained through that experience.

The best leaders don’t just learn not to make the same mistake twice, they analyze each and every experience from the perspective of their decisions and the positive or negative impact that they had on others. They then apply that knowledge to the next situation.

Like all subjective evaluations, the ASPIRE method requires a careful and honest application in order to achieve the best possible results. Whether done formally or informally, ASPIRE can help you identify those within your organization that have those intangible leadership qualities necessary to help lead your organization into the future.

Barry Reynolds is an author, speaker and public safety consultant specializing in police policy and leadership issues. He is the former founder and director of The Center for Excellence in Public Safety Leadership, and Associate Professor of Criminal Justice. In addition to 31 years of experience as a law enforcement officer and supervisor, Barry also served with the Wisconsin Department of Justice as the Senior Training Officer for career development and leadership. He is a columnist on law enforcement management and leadership issues, and regular presenter at state and national conferences. Barry holds a degree in Business, and a Master of Science in Management.