Leadership Spotlight

Leadership Legacies: Reflections on Retiring

After a rewarding and gratifying 25-year career as a special agent with the FBI, I recently retired to redirect my energy toward family matters. The conclusion of my employment with the FBI gave me the opportunity to look back at my career to determine the traits, behaviors, and qualities of successful leaders that I interacted with in law enforcement, with the goal of then applying these characteristics in my personal life.

I recalled that true leaders, for the most part, are individuals who show genuine concern and compassion for their people. I do not believe anyone learns this from reading books on leadership or law enforcement. Authentic care about people comes from someone’s upbringing, religion, schooling, and experiences.

I remembered that actual leaders want to help their people handle difficult cases and matters and are not satisfied with simply maintaining the status quo. These leaders sincerely understand the mission and goals of their organization and aggressively pursue these objectives by active involvement in achieving results. They do not micromanage the professionals who work for them. Instead, notable leaders offer guidance and mentoring when appropriate and allow their folks the independence to fail and learn from these failures when necessary.

I reaped the most productive leadership lessons during my observation and interaction of two-way dimensional conversations with my supervisor. Natural leaders will take suggestions, ponder alternate courses of action offered by team members, and not feel insulted if their proposal is not adopted. Bona fide leaders sometimes are an actual follower and member of their group. Leadership can be accomplished effectively by not always being in control of every decision in every matter.

While the aforementioned leadership qualities will suit me well in my personal life, the most important reflection I have upon retirement is that I always strive to serve the public with compassion and fairness, with a rigorous obedience to the rule of law. It was not monetary awards, promotions, case closings, or statistical accomplishments that made my career satisfying. Rather, my career was fulfilling simply by consistently adhering to the above noted values. I will strive to maintain the same dedication to duty and sound ethical and moral principles upon the conclusion of my career as when I started my journey as a special agent.

Mr. Doug Merel prepared this Leadership Spotlight after his retirement as an instructor in the Leadership Development Institute at the FBI Academy.