Adaptive Leadership Handbook, Reviewed [by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]

5 star review: Outstanding Book-Handbook for Leaders

Adaptive Leadership Handbook: :Law Enforcement & Security by Fred Leland & Don Vandergriff

The Adaptive Leadership Handbook is an unusual book. It is a work about thinking for men and women of action. It is an argument about learning for people whose professional life is governed by their training. Finally, it is a call for dynamic reflection for those accustomed to following proper procedure. The authors have written a guide to reinventing an organization’s institutional epistemology, the “cognitive culture” in which high stakes decisions are made, how challenges are met and the standards by which outcomes are judged. They are well qualified to make their case:

Fred Leland, a police lieutenant, former sheriff’s deputy and Marine “….is the Founder and Principal Trainer of LESC: Law Enforcement & Security Consulting and a certified instructor. He specializes in homeland security exercise and evaluation programs (HSEEP), red teaming, ongoing deadly action (active shootings), handling dynamic and violent encounters, recognizing the signs and signals of danger(body language), police operational art, use of force, and decision making under pressure. He develops leaders with the adaptive leadership methodology. His focus is translating theory to practice and facilitating training workshops to law enforcement, military, public and private, campus and university security professionals, in an effort to continually improve officer safety and effectiveness.”

Don Vandergriff is a retired Army major, military consultant, a nationally regarded trainer on leadership development and adaptive decision game methodology, well-regarded author on military affairs whose works include Raising the Bar (required reading at West Point), The Path to Victory and Manning the Future Legions of the United States. For much of the past year Don has been working in Afghanistan, teaching some of what the book is preaching.

I have also had the pleasure of seeing both authors presenting and conducting exercises at Boyd & Beyond conferences and can recommend them strongly. On to the review….

First of all, who is the intended audience for Adaptive Leadership Handbook? Who would benefit from reading it?

1. Any law enforcement personnel at any level – Federal, State, county or municipal. The book has been written with the perspective and problems of their field in mind.

2. Security professionals, private or public, who provide supplementary or complementary services to law enforcement, public safety, government agencies, corporations or individuals

3. First responders other than law enforcement

4. Military personnel who will be engaged in humanitarian relief deployments or constabulary duties among foreign civilian populations in conflict zones or National Guardsmen who might be assigned to disaster relief or civil disorder operations at home.

5. Academics and journalists who study law enforcement and security issues or MOOTW, FID and COIN

6. Anyone struggling to reconcile ongoing development of a genuinely professional culture within a bureaucratic-political context

As a reviewer, I fall primarily into categories 6 and 5, so in terms of details, as an outsider, reading the book for me was also a window into the world of professional policing and procedure, especially in terms of making good tactical decisions in real life situations. While for a police officer the authors are discussing familiar scenarios that go to the heart of the law enforcement profession’s work on the street, for me these were illuminating vignettes. Police facing uncooperative or indecisive or mentally ill suspects, active shooter scenarios, the traffic stop gone bad, possible suicidal individuals and intoxicated parties to a domestic dispute are among the examples used to illustrate how officers can adapt tactically or suffer the consequences if they fail to do so. Each scenario is analyzed with a view not just to alternative tactics but alternative ways to think differently to respond more effectively.

Drawing on thinkers as diverse as Gary Klein, John Boyd, Clausewitz, John Poole, Sid Heal , Hans von Seeckt, Paul Van Riper, Sun Tzu and Heraclitus, the thrust of Adaptive Leadership Handbook is the authors attempt to bring police officers beyond the culture of ingrained procedure and rote training methods who react to situations into oriented, intuitive decision-makers and learning, thinking, reflective professionals. A shift of tactical mentality from “Go get him” to “Set him up to get him with an adaptive response” A variety of methods are advocated to be used regularly in order to cultivate adaptive leaders – After Action Reviews (AAR), Tactical Decision Games (TDG), Decision Making Critique (DMC) free play exercises, fingerspitzengefuhl, reading body language and pattern recognition. Some examples:

Read the rest of this great review over at Zenpundit