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Next-Gen Leadership: Mastering peer leadership in law enforcement

Should leadership styles change when leading peers?

In the fifth of a 10-part series titled “Next-Gen Leadership: Solutions for Today’s Police Supervisors,” Gene Reid, Ph.D., a seasoned police veteran and founder of Reid Training Solutions, tackles the nuanced topic of leading peers within the police force, such as friends or academy classmates.

Reid challenges viewers to consider whether their leadership approach should differ when leading peers versus traditional hierarchical leadership. He emphasizes the importance of reflecting on whether leaders work for their team or vice versa, setting the stage for a deeper exploration of effective leadership qualities.

The video delves into fundamental leadership principles — leading by example, effective communication and adding value to the team — which Reid argues should remain consistent, regardless of the composition of the group.

He stresses that these core actions build trust and create a cohesive and motivated team. Reid acknowledges the potential challenges of leading peers, including the need for potentially awkward conversations, but reinforces that adaptability in communication and consistent value contribution are key to maintaining trust and authority. This approach, he suggests, prepares leaders to handle direct confrontations and commands with confidence, particularly in high-pressure situations where peer pushback might occur.

Key learning points

  1. Effective leadership should be consistent whether one is leading peers or subordinates.
  2. Leading by example, clear communication and adding value are fundamental aspects of successful leadership.
  3. Leadership involves mutual service, where leaders should view their role as serving their team.
  4. Adapting communication strategies to individual team members’ strengths and weaknesses is crucial.
  5. Building trust through consistent leadership practices reduces resistance and increases team cohesion.

Questions for discussion

  1. How can leaders adapt their style when transitioning from leading subordinates to leading peers?
  2. What strategies can be employed to maintain authority without compromising relationships among peers?
  3. How can leaders effectively handle awkward conversations with peers while maintaining respect and authority?
  4. In what ways can leaders demonstrate their commitment to serving their team, regardless of the team’s composition?
  5. How can building trust preemptively mitigate potential challenges in crisis situations where direct orders are necessary?
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Gene Reid is a police sergeant for the New Castle County (Del.) Police Department. Gene is currently assigned to the Professional Standards Unit and is highly active with the department’s officer wellness initiatives. Before being promoted, Gene was assigned to the Criminal Investigations Unit for over six years.

Gene holds a Ph.D. in criminal justice, with a specific focus on stress management and resilience. Gene also has an MS in education and a BS in public safety administration. Gene is an avid fitness enthusiast who trains Jiu-Jitsu and has completed numerous triathlons, including Ironman Maryland.

He is the founder of Reid Training Solutions and recently published “Police Leadership Redefined - The EQ Advantage: Transforming Law Enforcement with Emotional Intelligence.”