Law enforcement organizations are constantly adapting, whether making the switch between fighting cybercrime and maintaining public safety, or adjusting their services to meet new demands. They are also faced with delivering public service for the future while combatting impending threats. In such a changing landscape, there is a significant impact on law enforcement’s most valuable asset—its leaders. With many of law enforcement’s current leaders eligible for retirement around the same time, the need to instil the cultural attributes required for a new wave of leaders is becoming a priority.
Accenture research reveals that the paradigm for effective leadership across all industries is changing to a more collaborative model—more than 90 percent of human resources (HR) executives surveyed believe that next-generation leaders will be working more collectively in the future.
Irrespective of rank or length of service, working together in operational teams is fundamental to law enforcement, but working as a leadership team is not always a natural tendency. In fact, leadership is often perceived to be part of the “administrative” function—undesirable for many who joined to actively fight crime.
In an era of cost containment and increasing mission productivity, strong, collaborative leadership can help make the best use of limited resources while increasing employee engagement. In short, law enforcement can benefit from promoting diverse leadership approaches to change the way officers currently behave, think and operate—and better prepare the next generation of leaders.
Rising expectations on policing services need to be tempered by austerity measures. In the United Kingdom, budgetary cuts are highlighting the need for serious reform, with ex-Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens’ review in November 2013 noting the importance of professionalizing and motivating the workforce and building a stronger framework of standards and accountability. Implications include:
• Readiness for change is as important as the desire for it
• Understanding the impact of digital technologies demands constant attention
• Responding to the changing nature of crime requires increased leadership capabilities despite uncertainties and scarce resources.
Leadership can flourish when officers seek and respect a diversity of thought. As borderless crime continues to grow, applying collaborative practices to leadership approaches—just as in operations—could be critical.
Leadership should be structured and incentivized across all levels to create accountability, to support sweeping changes and relieve performance pressure. Leadership is a powerful vehicle to engage each policing employee—law enforcement officers and staff alike—in the process of collaborating to support the mission, with those employees shaping their personal futures and that of the organizations they serve.
A collaborative approach to leadership development can be sized to fit any organization and budget. In many respects, effective leadership not only fosters open, honest communications around expectations and performance, but also helps to improve employee engagement and deliver public service for the future.