The 22 leadership traits cops are looking for in their supervisors in 2022

Download our checklist to immediately improve your law enforcement leadership skills


By Police1 Staff

Police1’s second annual State of the Industry survey asked LEOs to share what their supervisor could do to be a better role model. Here’s a selection of quotes from survey respondents who represent departments of all sizes, types and locations. Any leader, regardless of rank or experience, can learn from these LEOs to be a better leader in 2022 and beyond.

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1. Acknowledge: “Put into writing when citizens call in or send thank-you notes. Written commendations are simple to do but carry a lot of weight for the recipient.”

2. Advocate: “Look out for your team like they are your own family. Give constructive criticism. Push them to become better people and officers. Go to bat for them when the shit hits the fan.”

3. Available: “I have a very supportive supervisor, but I have to seek feedback and sometimes go weeks without seeing or hearing from him as I work graveyards. It would be nice to hear from him on a weekly basis.”

4. Balance: “I essentially directly work for two supervisors of the same rank. They are opposites, which probably balances out well. One is more of a micro-manager who would be a better role model by ‘letting go’ a bit, while the other is hands-off almost to a fault and could improve by being a bit more involved.”

5. Care: “Invested interest in creating a positive work environment and increasing the quality of work-life for employees. Show interest in what the staff wants.”

6. Communicate: “Communicate in all directions - horizontally and vertically.”

7. Consistent: “Treat all team members with equity rather than unsubstantiated favoritism to some while ignoring and not rewarding those who consistently and effectively rise to the occasion.”

8. Critical thinker: “Understand that the status quo isn't always the best option, and that discretion exists for a reason. Not every call or incident is the same. Think critically and listen to officers when they explain their justification for making a decision rather than rushing to judgment because they didn't do things the way you would have done them.”

9. Decisive: “Be more decisive in the decision-making process or admit when you do not have an answer.”

10. Innovative: “Have an open mind toward new ideas, rather than the ‘we've always done it this way’ mindset.”

11. Learner: “Take a leadership class outside of law enforcement and learn what real leaders do to motivate and create cultures of commitment and loyalty.”

12. Listen: “Listen to suggestions from the ones on the street doing the job in reference to equipment, uniform standards, policy, etc.”

13. Manage by walking around: “Our supervisors are not on patrol very often, if at all. It would be beneficial for them to get out of the office and take calls with us.”

14. Open: “Share more information about what is going on in the agency and the direction the agency is headed.”

15. Personable: “Take the time to know peoples’ names. I’ve been at my place for 16 years and he still routinely calls me the wrong name.”

16. Praise: “He is quick to praise and slow to judge. Best supervisor I've ever had. He has also held me accountable more than any other supervisor I've worked for. At the end of any corrective action, we move forward and maintain a healthy working relationship.”

17. Represent: “Be in uniform occasionally, not just for media events. My supervisor (chief) is very diligent with wearing her uniform now and then. It makes me feel that she likes the ‘regular’ patrol guy. It also shows she is proud to be an officer.”

18. Respectful: “Speak to employees as humans and do not degrade officers who make a mistake. Even minor issues leave officers treated with verbal assaults and curses.”

19. Self-reflective: “Listen and work to fix the root cause of the low morale, which may require self-reflection of the command staff.”

20. Supportive: “Show more appreciation for the hard work that is being done on the streets. Acknowledge good work more rather than just criticize minor mistakes. Supervisors should be supporting our troops more in these trying times.”

21. Trusting: “Sometimes they are too hands-on and micro-manage. They could take a step back and allow subordinates to do their job, showing more trust in their abilities.”

22. Visible: “Be around the officers and spend time working beside them. That way you can see who does the work and build a rapport with everyone.”

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22 essential law enforcement leadership traits

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