Arguably nothing is more powerful than a leader’s example. A study performed by UCLA found that the behavior most related to employee productivity was ‘modeling the way’ by their leadership. Kouzes and Posner tell us in their book, “The Leadership Challenge”, that there are five essential aspects to their behavior and actions that leaders need to be conscious about in their efforts to align shared values:
• Calendars---how you spend your time is a clear indicator as to where your priorities are. When I used to teach at the college level, I asked my students to list two of the most important things in their life. It could be relationships, activities, hobbies, etc. The second part of the exercise involved them telling me how much time that they spent each day towards these endeavors. As you might imagine, their actions did not always align with their values. What you do speaks loudly as to what you really value.
• Critical Incidents---as leaders, critical incidents provide us an opportunity to teach and impart valuable knowledge. I often hear commentary at retirement receptions about how a field training officer, senior detective or supervisor took the time to teach rather than to chastise a unit early in their career. Although these learning moments can’t be planned, they are moments in time that offer a leader the chance to improvise if they are on the look out for such opportunities.
• Stories, analogies, and metaphors---if done correctly, leadership examples are passed down through stories and organizational metaphors over time. Stories are easily understood and often long remembered. Our agency is infamous regarding stories that are passed down, whether it is from post to post or generation to generation. Research tells us that information is more quickly and accurately remembered when first presented in story form.
• Language---leaders understand and are attentive to language. They know the power of words. Questions are equally powerful and help focus attention on important issues. They illustrate where the agency is headed and what is important to the leader. From customer service to integrity to innovation, questions can provide the platform for daily organizational direction.
• Measurements---we’ve all heard that what gets measured is what gets done and it’s true. However, I believe it is one of the hardest transitions for a new supervisor to make. For whatever reason, there is a natural resistance by many leaders to hold those under their command accountable. Research has shown time and again that measurement and honest feedback are essential to increased performance and overall improvement.
History has demonstrated that there are three central themes in the values of highly successful, strong cultured organizations:
1. High standards of performance
2. A caring attitude towards people
3. A sense of uniqueness and pride
Sound familiar? As Kentucky State Police enters into its 65th year of service to the Commonwealth, we continue to work diligently towards practicing what we preach.