Leadership Spotlight

Create Your Own Outline

A stock image of a laptop, textbooks, and a notepad.

Leadership is one of the most talked about topics in the law enforcement profession. Plenty of people will go into extensive detail about how to handle any given situation and will elaborate about incidents in their lives that they claim to have handled expertly. These individuals usually mean well, and they pass along these leadership tips intending to mentor their fellow, usually younger, colleagues. However, when such mentees try to implement these leadership strategies as part of their own leadership style, they usually are not successful.

For several years, my agency gave an annual 100-question test for promotion.1 Individuals who performed best almost always created flashcards or outlines to help themselves study and freely gave those materials to others to help them prepare for the test as well. Officers who received the outlines and flash cards never did as well as those who created them. It was the process of reading every policy, deciding what they knew and did not know, and creating flashcards and outlines of the information they did not remember that helped them succeed.

So, the next year, after receiving several outlines and not performing so well, I finally took the time to create my own. I took all policies I possibly could need to know and outlined them. Then, I created my own flashcards from the outline I had made. When I was done, I did not create outlines for others, but instead taught classes for them on how to prepare outlines themselves. I finished in the top five on the promotion list that year. Interestingly, two of the people I had instructed on how to do the outlines scored better than me.

This example illustrates that we never will become truly successful leaders simply by receiving the “outline” from a leader who has been in the fire. Instead, we must look for opportunities for ourselves to be in that fire and learn from those experiences. We also must be willing to put in the hard work on our own, continuously educate ourselves, and draw our own conclusions about what will work for us and how to incorporate those lessons. Then, when successful, we can share with others the processes we went through, guiding them to create their own outlines.

Sergeant E.J. Diaz of the Tampa International Airport Police Department, a graduate of FBI National Academy Session 278, and E. Paul Bertrand, an instructor in the Leadership Education Unit at the FBI Academy and a retired supervisory special agent, prepared this Leadership Spotlight. Sergeant Diaz can be reached at kosdiaz@gmail.com and Mr. Bertrand at epbertrand@fbi.gov.


1 The narrative in this article is written from the perspective of Sergeant Diaz.