Leadership: The Relationship of Command

Since my recent retirement, I have reflected back on my 25+ year career and I pause to think about the types of impact a leader can make in their organization. I have failed as a leader many times over the course of my career. I failed to achieve certain goals or measures or I have failed to handle situations correctly. But as you ascend the ranks and gather experience, you tend to start putting those failures in perspective as you learn from them. No one is immune from failure. As long as you learn something from it, that can be a valuable tool moving forward.  I believe that one of the true successes of any leader is their ability to connect with others in a meaningful way.

Now that can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, so let me explain. 

We have used the word Leadership quite frequently in the protection disciplines. Merriam-Webster defines Leadership as: “A position as a leader of a group, organization, etc.; The time when a person holds the position of leader; The power or ability to lead other people.”

While the aforementioned definition appears clear cut, the true concept of leadership is not, in this humble writer’s opinion, about the “natural ability of a leader” or the “attributes” of a leader. True leadership hinges on the foundation of establishing relationships with people. Relationships can come in many forms, but its importance when speaking about leadership cannot be underscored enough. To be a true leader in any organization, one must learn to build on a foundation of open communication and connection with superiors, peers and subordinates. 

Sounds easy enough right? Wrong. 

Connecting with people as a leader can be a difficult task, for a variety of reasons. Some people are more reserved, some people shy away from confrontation, and some leaders simply think leadership is just barking orders and telling people what to do. There is simply more to it than that. When you communicate with people, you should strive to connect with them in a meaningful way and be transparent. Lots of people use this term, but what exactly does that mean? In a leadership context it should mean that you present the good, the bad and the ugly with people you communicate with.  I have known several leaders over the years who only share the good with folks as they think that any negative information they share is a direct reflection upon them as a leader. In some cases that may be true. But I have found, especially with the troops, telling them all the above is appreciated, as they feel you trust them with the information you are giving them, good, bad or otherwise. As an example, in the past, I have had officers tell me they disagree with certain agency policies that come from our HQ. And from time to time I have told officers that I agree with them. But I also tell them that even though I may disagree, we still will follow said policy.  

It is equally important to have a positive relationship with your superiors. Sometimes this is not easy. I have found the best way to establish these type of relationships is when they are new. Having open and honest conversations with your boss may seem like a daunting task at times, but it will almost always pay dividends in the form of trust. In addition, if you are in a leadership role in your organization, your boss will depend on your counsel as a subject matter expert. If the information you provide is anything less than honest and open, you are doing your self and your boss a disservice. My belief is that building relationships with people should be a key attribute of any leader in law enforcement or corporate security nowadays. There are a variety of reasons for this, but mainly to have a collaborative network to share ideas with and to forge meaningful friendships and positive working relationships.

In summary, communication and relationships really go hand in hand. Ensuring you do your best to establish great relationships really hinges on how well you communicate your thoughts, feelings and emotions to those around you. When you make a genuine effort in this area, it will be noticeable and people will likely appreciate your efforts.