I would be surprised if someone reading this thought to themselves, “Servant leadership? What?” Most leaders have a working knowledge of what servant leadership is. The idea is simple: lead by serving, right? Make them love you; then make them feel they owe you. Its freaking genius! (evil laugh). Right? NO! Law enforcement needs good leadership right now, more so than ever. It is time for the good leaders to stand up and start leading! As John Belushi would say after breaking a beer bottle over his head, “Who’s with me?”Without trying to get too deep with the concept, servant leadership is a way of living and not a manipulation style of management or a way to try and make everyone love you. In fact, at times it calls for frank, honest conversations, or it might mean reassigning people, demoting people, or in the worst cases, letting people go. We have all worked with the “me-monsters,” gossips, or someone so disgruntled that they talk despairingly about the mission or the organization constantly. They can poison the well of the whole team, affecting morale. We are not serving anyone by failing to address these individuals, and in fact we are causing harm to those in the organization who do want to contribute, those we need to lead and who want to be led. Worse yet even - have you ever seen this one? Reassigning a disgruntled employee to a coveted assignment or task force just to remove them from a particular unit or division? It happened to me, and it devastated me as a young officer.
Servant leadership is not easy, and it is very difficult to fake. Not to get too preachy, but the Bible is full of examples of servant leadership like Jesus washing the feet of the disciples and then telling them straight up, this is an example of what you should be doing to others. There is also Paul telling the church at Philippi (Philippians 2:3), “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Yep, the Bible has a lot to say about servant leadership, but so does Mahatma Ghandi for that matter who said, “Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served.”
Five Attributes of a Servant Leader:
- Value – Find the value in members of your team. Search for it. Get out of the office, and visit with your team daily. Catch them doing something right. And when you can, defer discipline for learning opportunities or teachable moments.
- Humility – Promote others over yourself, putting them first, giving them credit, and letting them be center, not you. A lot of careers have ended when leaders began serving themselves rather than others.
- Listen – Practice being a good listener, a solid sounding board for members of your team.
- Trust - You are putting yourself out there as the example, essentially training them in not just how to do their job but how to treat others. You are being watched. Give your team opportunities to make decisions. Encourage creativity and allow them to succeed and fail.
- Care – As a servant leader, you must sincerely care for your team. Do you know the name of their spouses, kids, birthdays, or important events coming up in their lives?
5(a). Read (See what I did there? It is still just 5 essential attributes) – There is a ton of information out there that you can consume on servant leadership. No need to reinvent the wheel, and you can avoid mistakes by learning about mistakes already made.
There you have it. The list could be a lot longer, and there are other attributes you might throw in there instead of mine. I believe that you can learn to be a good leader. There are some who are natural leaders, but through knowledge, trial, and error, you can achieve skills that you are not necessarily born with. Right now, law enforcement needs some good leaders. Go be one.