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What I learned from completing the FBI LEEDA trilogy

Trilogy graduates earn college credit as well as network with other leaders in law enforcement

By Steve Pratt

In 1991, a group of FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar graduates and SSA Robert McCarthy established FBI LEEDA to promote network building and leadership education for police leaders unable to attend the FBI National Academy.

The vision of FBI LEEDA is, “To be the premier executive law enforcement continuing education provider for police leaders in small to mid-sized departments across the United States and beyond.”

The value of that vision is imperative for our profession because the lion’s share of officers who serve our communities work for small to midsize police agencies that may not be able to provide the same police training opportunities for personnel as larger agencies.


The FBI LEEDA Trilogy consists of the Supervisor Leadership Institute, Command Leadership Institute and the Executive Leadership Institute courses. Each course is 4½ days long. A person wanting to attend the training does not need to attend the courses in a specific order.

A benefit of being a Trilogy graduate from FBI LEEDA is the association’s relationship with six colleges or universities. A Trilogy graduate can earn college credit by completing the three courses. In addition, you have the opportunity to develop relationships with others who have a desire to learn how as police leaders we can help develop the people who work with and for us.


I learned a lot from each course, but FBI LEEDA’s “big four” leadership concepts stood out to me:

  • Heart set
  • Mindset
  • Skillset
  • Toolset.

1. Heart set

Heart set is our “why,” our reasons for being, how we see others and how we practice the art of policing.

Do we practice what Sir Robert Peel taught us in his Peelian Principles, or do we practice the iron fist? Do we extend grace or zero tolerance for everyone?

2. Mindset

Mindset covers:

  • Commitment: Developing a foundation of leadership and an unwavering commitment to lead and perform.
  • Accountability: First-line supervisors/leaders must take on the role of ownership in which they personally commit. Never assume that others are responsible.
  • Performance: Leaders must talk about and demonstrate that they are constantly striving to make their performances better.
  • Vision: Leaders must embrace opportunities and avoid risk.

3. Skillset

Our skillset is the combination of training, physical skills, knowledge and experience in how we perform our duties. A police leader’s skill set should include:

  • Communication: All forms.
  • Motivation: Self-motivation and generational.
  • Positivity: A hopeful and optimistic outlook.
  • Creativity: Multi-dimensional thinking.
  • Feedback: An insatiable thirst for constructive criticism.
  • Commitment: Modeling core values starting with our “why.”
  • Flexibility: Managing in a VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) world.

4. Tool Set

Our toolset is the combination of all the skills we have acquired that aid our performance as police leaders. Some examples could be having the ability to have difficult conversations, conduct performance evaluations and implement department policy.

additional leadership training covered during fbi leeda

It is just as important for leaders to focus on “blind spots” as it is the “big four.”

Our blind spots are no more than future choices we have not yet made. What this requires on our part is two things: in-depth introspection and having the courage to ask both our superiors and subordinates to help us identify our blind spots.

What we might learn from identifying our blind spots is what I consider was the biggest “nugget” from all three courses: understanding how we overcome natural human tendencies and identifying our non-negotiables.

The class was asked: What are your non-negotiables? The instructors asked students to identify lines in the sand we would not cross.

If we really feel strongly about our non-negotiables, the instructors asked the class, what are you willing to sacrifice or lose for your non-negotiable? Are you willing to miss the next promotion or assignment? Are you willing to lose favor with your boss? Our natural human tendency is for self-survival, which can run counter to the true traits of leadership and against our non-negotiables. Understanding how to combat that tendency is a key component of ethical leadership.

A plus with courses like FBI LEEDA is the classroom interaction, even if it occurs virtually. You have the opportunity to hear differing viewpoints that show most of us are experiencing the same issues. Click here to learn more about FBI LEEDA.

Thank you to all my mentors: Major Dirk Vangieson, USMC Retired, William (Bill) Westfall, Dr. George Thompson and Chief David Boggs, to name a few.

NEXT: What I learned from attending the FBI National Academy

About the author

Steve Pratt retired as a patrol sergeant with the Springfield (Missouri) Police Department in 2017 after 23½ years of service. Prior to his service in law enforcement, Steve served 9½ years in the United States Marine Corps. Steve has been a law enforcement trainer since 1996 and has an Associate of Science degree from Drury University. Steve is an original member of ILEETA. He has completed the IACP Leadership of Police Organizations course, FBI LEEDA Trilogy and numerous other certifications. Steve is currently the Assistant Academy Director of the Drury University Law Enforcement Academy in Springfield, Missouri.