Leadership Spotlight

Leadership Lessons from Home 

By Paul Bertrand and Jeff Brouwer
Stock image of a father and son sitting on a boulder outside.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

-John Maxwell

People find becoming a parent life changing. Although, perhaps, overwhelmed, proud new moms and dads immediately and voluntarily accept the responsibility. At first they focus on ensuring the safety, security, and health of the child. But, parents’ concerns grow as the youngster does. Within a seemingly short time, moms and dads begin to shift their attention to helping the children say their first words and take their first steps. Then, in the blink of an eye, the focus changes as the child heads off to school, makes friends, and gets involved in activities outside of the house. During these years parents support the youngster by serving in a variety of roles, such as teacher, taxicab driver, and disciplinarian. And moms’ and dads’ attention shifts yet again as their children begin high school, grow more independent, start driving, and start making decisions affecting their own lives. The proud, yet still concerned, parents continue providing the love and support that started many years earlier. This relationship, albeit ever changing and evolving, offers lessons for the workplace, as well.

A patrol sergeant, although surly at first glance, was a well-respected leader. Those in his charge would do anything for him without question. He understood people and had a unique and powerful analogy to express his thoughts on leadership. “Just as parents care for their children, we must care for our officers. Just as parents make sure their children have clothes to wear and proper supplies for school and sports, we must ensure our officers have the proper uniforms, equipment, and vehicles to keep them safe. Just as parents make sure that their children attend school to learn what they need to succeed in life, we must ensure we give our officers the appropriate training and developmental experiences they need to be successful. Just as parents try to create a positive environment for their children that makes them feel valued and encourages them to develop personal goals and higher aspirations in life, we must create a positive work atmosphere that values our officers and supports their personal development. Just as parents, with heavy hearts, discipline their children to correct bad behavior, we, too, must hold our officers accountable to appropriate standards of conduct.”

Leadership is multifaceted. It is fluid, dynamic, and contextual. Clearly, the appropriate leadership behavior in one situation may not necessarily apply to the next. But, once in a while a simple analogy goes a long way in debunking the complexities of leadership. So it was with this sergeant’s advice.

Special Agent Paul Bertrand, an instructor in the Center for Police Leadership and Ethics at the FBI Academy, and Lieutenant Jeff Brouwer of the Newport Beach, California, Police Department prepared this Leadership Spotlight.