Jan. 31, 2019 | View as webpage


Many of us in the new year commit to being a better version of ourselves. For some, that means eating healthier, getting more sleep or finally reading the latest best-selling book on leadership. Making 2019 the year you finally earn that promotion you’ve been eyeing may also be on your list.

The path to career success in law enforcement can be fraught with challenges, as you strive to perfect your interview skills, improve your professional network and develop your abilities as a leader. While there are many factors in promotion over which you have no control, there are some things you can focus on and develop. In this month’s Leadership Briefing, Chief Joel Shults, Ed.D., lists six steps to self-development that will not only lead to career success, but also to true leadership.

Also in this briefing, Chief Robert R. Rielage discusses how chiefs need to take care of themselves so they can take care of their people.

What one piece of advice proved invaluable as you developed your police leadership career? Email nancy.perry@policeone.com.

Nancy Perry
Editor-in-Chief, Police1

In this issue:

By Chief Joel F. Shults

It was early in my career that I decided I wanted to be the boss. I was frustrated (and envious) when I saw others moving up in rank seemingly by sheer luck. A sudden vacancy, preferential treatment and being in the right place at the right time seemed to have more influence on the opportunity for advancement than did enthusiasm, hard work and preparation for advancement.

While there are many factors in promotion over which you have no control, here are some things you can focus on and develop, with the hope that rank may follow:

Be consistently excellent all the time

It’s tempting to ask yourself who cares and who’s watching. The answer is you do and you never know. Whether you get recognized or not, being true to your best version of yourself and the high calling of public service creates habits of performance that will serve you well. An attitude of high performance only when there is an audience, only when you’re in the mood, or only when a call is particularly interesting will create a habit of sporadic performance and lack of dependability.

Take initiative

That doesn’t always mean pushing your own ideas. If you’re passionate about a program idea for improvement, don’t automatically expect support and encouragement. A more diplomatic approach is to participate fully in initiatives being promoted by existing leadership. Watch how those efforts unfold, how subordinates adapt and how leadership navigates the change. If you’re going to learn from failure or success, let it be someone else’s first.

Focus on others

Calculate the balance between self-preservation and self-promotion, but the purest leadership is serving others. As a practical matter, the person you ignore or use today might be in a position to help or hinder you in the future. Sometimes leadership is pulling others up, lifting others up, or walking next to them. If you want to play the chess game of manipulating others to your advantage you may achieve positional success, but you’ll never achieve respect.

Cultivate the present

It’s tempting to want to jump through the hoops and check off the boxes to promotion. If you get a detective assignment on the way to your dream job of being a patrol sergeant, make the most of it even if investigations is not your passion. There is no knowledge lost in police work, so learn all you can in whatever assignment you get.

Be your own best coach

There may be a time when you are offered an assignment or position that you feel you are not ready for. There is likely more career peril in turning down an opportunity than there is in finding you don’t like it or aren’t good at it. There are more people who don’t care or who don’t want you to succeed than are cheerleaders, so be your own best encourager and find others to cheer you on.

Frequently engage in reflection

The five points already offered can help you measure your attitude toward your career and advancement. Even if you disagree with the suggestions it can be a starting point for discussion with yourself and trusted peers. Keep your self-talk positive, avoiding rumination on the opinions of others or your perceived shortcomings. Constant criticism of the man in the mirror is not productive; honest self-evaluation is.

The truth is that honest hard work and self-improvement is not just the path to positional success – it is the path to true leadership regardless of your rank.

Career development resources for law enforcement leaders:

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By Robert Rielage, CFO, EFO, FIFireE

There are a number of studies, programs and videos on the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on all of us in public safety. For the first time, police officer suicides in the United States have exceeded line of duty deaths, which is also the case in firefighters. The cumulative effects of handling emergencies are among the leading causes of PTSD in first responders.

Recently, in a span of a few hours, personnel from one station in our department responded to both a non-breathing infant and a police officer who was struck while directing traffic. Neither patient survived.

We as chiefs know to look for a change in mood or attitude in our members after a traumatic call, and to take the time to talk to personnel to see how folks are coping. For those showing some signs of delayed stress, we have help available to cope with the issues – employee assistance programs or chaplains – or just plain listening to the responder who needs to vent his or her frustrations, fears and grief over an emergency response.

Police officer LODD was ‘one of our own’

The LODD of the police officer and the death of the infant on the same night, worked by the same crew of firefighter/paramedics was especially troubling. The police officer had not only worked for our jurisdiction for over 15 years, he had also served as a fire explorer and firefighter/EMT with our department before crossing over to law enforcement. He was known by virtually every member of the fire department.

As the funeral arrangements unfolded, my concern was whether the police chief and his senior officers had any signs of extended stress. Each one of them was putting in exhausting hours, being present at every shift change and helping the family make arrangements. He and his lieutenants were there for their police officers, but what about them? That brought me to the question, “Who is there to counsel the chief?”

Not too many years ago, I was shocked to learn of a young fire chief who took his own life. We had met by chance at a fire conference, and his department was one I had the privilege to serve with while I was in the Air Force assigned to a nearby air base. After his death, I spoke with another member of his fire department and asked if there had ever been any signs indicating his stress or a breaking point? There had been none. So in retrospect, I began to wonder, is the chief supposed to be so stoic that nothing is supposed to affect him or her?

Find a confidant who understands public safety stress

What is the solution? I’m certainly not an expert, but it seems to me that every chief or senior officer needs a confidant – someone they trust explicitly – to share their trials, concerns, triumphs and failures with without judgment, who is capable of sage advice when the situation calls for it.

Who is that person for you? It could be your spouse, a close friend, another chief, a chaplain, clergy member or a trained professional counselor – anyone you unequivocally trust who also understands the stressors of public safety. That person needs to be your barometer who can observe, frankly discuss and advise you.

I’ve had several such mentors, confidants and advisors during my career, and at the same time, I’ve been the person others have come to on several occasions. Talking things through when you need to clear your head of doubts or fears is one of the best ways to avoid PTSD, but – equally as important – is to continue your solid leadership in a department that looks to you for guidance.

How to prioritize mental and emotional wellness for you and your officers:

Be Advised …

3. Live from SHOT Show 2019. Check out the newest firearms, protective equipment and tactical accessories for law enforcement on display last week at SHOT Show, the largest event of its kind in the world.

2. Walking the beat. The Policing Matters podcast hosts, Doug Wyllie and Jim Dudley, outline why mounted, bike and foot patrols are key strategies for connecting cops with communities.

1. Where have all the cops gone? ICYMI, NPR recently published a comprehensive report on the police recruitment crisis and the increasing number of police departments “poaching” cops from each other.

Share this Briefing

You are welcome to share the Police1 Leadership Briefing. Forward this email to your command staff, supervisors and patrol officers; print and post in the roll call room; add a link to your department’s website; or reprint in your organization or regional police association newsletter.

Got a leadership tip, management question, commercial use inquiry, or an article idea? Send me an email, nancy.perry@praetoriandigital.com.

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