Leadership Spotlight 

Successful Leadership Training 

Leading is hard. Not because leadership behaviors and concepts are hard to execute but because the resistance to those behaviors and concepts is strong. We return from leadership training seminars with notes and binders full of guidance on how to “articulate a vision,” to “think outside the box,” and to “be innovative.” This inspires us to think and act in a new and original manner for both personal and organizational enhancement. However, sometimes, rather than being encouraged to develop new ideas and try new solutions, we in law enforcement are placed under tremendous pressure to do the job as it always has been done—to “not rock the boat.” Often, both our superiors and subordinates actively resist change.

To make leadership training worthwhile, an organizational entity must create a culture that fosters leadership development. Individuals are not leaders merely by virtue of the job or position held. They are true leaders only if genuine leadership behaviors are exhibited. That requires personal commitment from the top of the law enforcement organization. Truly effective law enforcement senior executives commit to the development of their leaders by identifying those in the organization who have strong potential and then by taking the time to personally coach them. Rather than waiting for volunteers, they actively recruit. These senior managers recognize the power that evolves from actively developing their own internal leadership system and personally coaching their subordinates at all levels throughout the organization. In particular, senior law enforcement executives can create and foster a progressive organizational leadership environment by devoting their time to discussions with employees that emphasize the significant and important concepts learned from recently attended training. These new concepts and ideas then may be actively incorporated and employed as a foundation for both the continued development of the individual officer and the creation of innovations for the organization. The more senior commanders develop the ability and willingness to personally engage talented subordinates to develop new concepts and put them into practice, the better off the entire organization becomes.

The cultural change required to ensure that law enforcement leadership training will succeed begins when the entire organization recognizes that those officers in the top management positions have the privilege of serving the public and are accountable for the responsibility they have accepted. To this end, they must exhibit and ensure continuity of organizational leadership behaviors.

Special Agent Scott W. Olson, a squad supervisor in the FBI’s New York office, prepared this Leadership Spotlight.