Re-Imagine the Way We Lead!

August Iphone 064

I know. I know another term, another name, and another buzzword, for leadership, just what we need, right? Wrong! What we need in the law enforcement and security professions is a method of leadership that works and works well. What we need is a leadership method that speaks to our character and getting things done. What we need is a leadership methodology that lets us as individuals and organizations focus on the things that need doing, on building and inspiring the cohesive environment necessary to complete the organizational mission.

John Boyd said the ingredients needed to pursue a unifying vision, vitality and growth in an organization are, Insight, the ability to peer into and discern the inner nature or workings of things. Initiative, the internal drive to think and take action without being urged. Adaptability or the power to adjust or change in order to cope with new or unforeseen circumstances. Harmony, the power to perceive or create interaction of apparently disconnected events or entities in a connected way.

To work towards this vision and reach it together we need a leadership method that emboldens rapid decision making and agility. Adaptive leadership methodology will get your organization there. Adaptive Leadership is a term my good friend Don Vandergriff coined for his book Raising the Bar Creating and Nurturing Adaptability to Deal with the Changing Face of War. Raising the Bar is a book that defines organizational culture, leadership and training methods to develop and inspire learning organizations. The book was written with the United States Army in mind, but its message, speaks to and sets the foundation for those individuals and organizations wanting to do more as leaders than just find and document failures in those they work with, but instead remove those failures.

“The aim of leadership is not merely to find and record failures in men, but to remove the causes of failure.” ~ W. Edwards Deming

Leadership is the process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective, and directs his or her organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent. Leaders do this through communication, and personal attributes such as ethics, values, knowledge and skills. Outstanding leaders, lead by example and insure that example is set to a high standard. The goal of this is to provide mission, direction and inspiration to accomplish organizational goals.

Leaders also must practice fairness. They commend work that is praise worthy and educate, coach and train failures in an effort to fix the causes of failure. If this education and refinement fails due to a poor attitude, on the part of the person who failed and that person refuses or makes no effort to change, then discipline becomes necessary. This discipline is done above the board and face to face with the person. I make this point because all too often recognition of a job well done is not seen for what it is or, its simply thought of as “he or she was just doing their job.” Failure is seen as a “must do something about this type of situation and disciplining the person involved in the situation seems all too often the focus, a letter in a file or a suspension. There is no balance! The problems continue and we wonder why?

This lack of balance seems to those parts of the organization to be unfair, morale issues begin to show themselves and productivity dwindles. A more detrimental component to this lack of balance and fairness that shows itself is in the decision making realm. People in the organization stop making decisions and look for direction from above, when the answer and actions to be taken are clear. This is not because they think you “the leader” has the answers, it because they want whatever answer to the problem to come from you. No headaches if you make the call! Also decisions are slowed down to the point any opportunity to gain advantage is lost. In the law enforcement and security realms the decision that was not made could mean the difference between life and death or cause great embarrassment to and liability on the organization.

Adaptive leadership is the answer to this in my view because its premise is about adapting to circumstances, whether on the street in the heat of a dynamic encounter or in looking for productivity and accomplishment of organizational objectives. No two people are the same and no two circumstances are the same so we must adapt.

As leaders we must adapt to the situation or we lose our control. Control in the adaptive leadership methodology is not about discipline only. It’s not about micro-management. It’s about developing and nurturing an environment of getting things done because we all have a common goal and are inspired to reach that goal.

Adaptive leadership is not free-reign anything goes leadership climate either. You do have command, but control is through inspiration, direction and responsibility not; do this, do that, no I told you this, hardcore discipline only style frequently seen today.

Adaptive leadership is about setting high standards and high levels of professionalism. Adaptive leadership is about making the extra effort (it will take extra effort) to create and nurture an initiative driven environment.

Responsibility is the key. We hold ourselves and each other accountable to the high standards we set. How? Through training, constant exploration and learning as well as refinement and continuous improvement through critiques and after action reviews. If you create an environment where the people truly participate, you don't need control. People take joy in responsibility, they know what needs to be done, and they do it. The more trust developed the more people will devote themselves, to the organizational cause, on a voluntary basis, a willing basis, the fewer hierarchs and control mechanisms you need. Trust me this is not free reign leadership, it is leadership that understands the need to develop and inspire its people.

Re-imagine a change in our organizational culture that emboldens how we lead those we work with, a culture that breeds, through inspiration and values the type of organization where things get done in innovative and creative ways of solving problems. Because we provide the ongoing training, education and learning, and provide the tools necessary, to give everyone in our organizations the advantage to reach the goals we set.

Re-imagine: A culture of innovation is typified by an environment within which every single person in the organization is invested in the organization’s success and feels a responsibility to implement new and better ways to achieve organizational objectives. People are encouraged to try alternative paths, test ideas to the point of failure, and learn from the experience.

Experimentation and prudent risk-taking are admired and encouraged. Experimentation is not a destination to be reached, but an unending process of trial, feedback, learning, renewal and experimentation again. The organization as a whole is agile, ready to learn, continually changing and improving. It is fast, flexible and never prepared to say: “We have finished getting better.” Innovative organizations depend less on forecasting, planning and control and more on scanning, agility and feedback. Innovative organizations embrace uncertainty, recognizing that an uncertain future potentially holds as many opportunities as it does threats. ~Brig. Gen. David Fastabend and Robert Simpson define in the article “Adapt or Die”