Police Leadership: On Humility and the Dangers of Hubris

Leadership can be described as influencing others to meeting organizational objectives, mission and intent. Leaders do this by applying, living and breathing their personal attributes, such as, beliefs, values, ethics, knowledge and core competencies or skills. Humility, the ability to hold a modest or humble view of ones own importance is in my humble opinion one of these crucial traits. Humility helps a leader influence through an open mind and an understanding his or her way may not be the only way. This helps develop the relationships and the mutual trust necessary within an organization so that working together to achieve organizational goals and outcomes. Humility is an often forgotten or out and out neglected trait in policing.

Even though ones position as, manger, supervisor, Chief, Deputy Chief, Captain, Lieutenant, Sergeant provides authority to accomplish certain tasks for the organization, this power does not make them a leader. It gives them authority and makes them a boss and if ill prepared , ill trained, for leadership roles, this authority and the title of boss can all too often creates hubris, excessive pride or self-confidence. If not checked by the individual leader, "hubris" can manifest itself in overly autocratic practices such as, micro-management, lack of adaptability, risk aversion and unfair discipline. These practices associated with hubris create an unfair atmosphere and a prevailing feeling for frontline police officers that they are unsafe not only outside on the streets handling the dangerous crisis situations they must, it creates the feeling of being unsafe within their own station houses.

Bosses full of hubris creates friction in decision making because it creates the fear of discipline before the frontline officer even gets a call. What if? is the question always bouncing around the heads of those working under a boss full of hubris. This is problematic because the officers on the scene of a crisis end up thinking inward; What if I screw up?, What if my course of action does not work? What if despite my best efforts something out of my control causes a tragic outcome? What if etc., etc., etc.? when instead their focus should be outward on the situation and threats they face.

Leadership with humility differs in that it makes followers want to achieve high goals, because the trust that develops makes all feel safe inhouse so they can do the dangerous things they must, in their communities. If you are a leader practice humility. Keep open-minded and if hubris drives you daily...reflect on "is it really working for you and those under your influence or are you just getting out of them, what you ask for and not an once of effort more?

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

Stay Oriented!