Sun Tzu Series Part 4: The Commander…Leadership in an Uncertain World! | Law Enforcement & Security Consulting

Next is the Commander. He must be smart, trustworthy, caring, brave, and strict. ~Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu describes the commanders traits with five words, smart, trustworthy, caring, brave and strict. These qualities in my view describe a persons character. A leader must possess the strength of character to insure he takes  all these qualities into consideration to be effective at inspiring others. In the law enforcement and security professions decisions need to be made at times rapidly in uncertain circumstances. Leadership is the main component of insuring a fluid decision making cycle. Leadership must reduce the friction through practicing these basic qualities Sun Tzu describes.

The intelligence of an individual leader and his ability to adapt that intelligence to the job at hand is a key component of leadership. Leading by example is a powerful tool and a leader must have the knowledge of his job to insure others will follow. Leaders must be constantly  learning and evolving to meet the changing, conventional and unconventional  threats we face. The leader must know how to communicate effectively, must understand the nature of conflict and how it unfolds.  The leader must understand strategy and tactics essential to detecting, avoiding, defusing and resolving conflict, if he is to reduce conflict and win, the dynamic encounters law enforcement  and security professionals respond to.  The law enforcement and security leader must know the rules of engagement, and the laws governing these rules, the risk stake involved in these encounters and still respond effectively. Another important component to a leaders knowledge is that Sun Tzu’s theories are based on winning without conflict. However law enforcement and security are in many cases responding to violent conflict already in progress with high emotion and violence. The leaders knowledge of strategy and tactics must take into consideration, de-escalation techniques, climate and positioning based on the environment. Decisions must be made as to which members on the team qualifies, and placed in the position, with the best chance to resolve the matter by first reducing and then resolving the situation without escalation of conflict, if possible. Leaders must also consider contingencies and prepare for a more dynamic response by positioning other members of the organization if escalation is necessary.

An important component to consider, of the leaders intelligence and knowledge is, not to mistake it for I “the leader” needs to be the best at and know everything. Not true, what you do need to know is who on the team is the best at , whatever method we are looking to employ, and have the strength of character along with the social and emotional intelligence to admit it to yourself. Then direct and inspire that person or persons to accomplish that particular task(s). The leader must swallow his/her EGO, do and share what he knows and delegate what he does not. This begins paving the way to trustworthiness.  

Trustworthy, to be honest and straight forward is one of the most important traits those being led respond to. If we as a leader fail to be honest ,we lose respect of those we lead and organizational productivity and overall mission is put in great jeopardy. People do not trust those who show lack of character and double talking. Say what you mean and mean what you say and then do it. If its a commendation, give it! If its a mistake made, even by yourself admit it and fix the problem, so the mistake, does not happen again. If a mistake warrants discipline…discipline face to face and be honest in discussing the failure and the punishment to be doled out.  It is amazing what people will accept in reward and in punishment  when they sense it comes from a fair and trustworthy leader.

Trustworthiness in a leader, leads to cohesion or “MUTUAL TRUST” which is the lubricant of a fluid, agile, learning organization.  Mutual trust takes place and shows itself in an organization where the leaders trust those frontline personnel to accomplish the mission and those frontline personnel trust they will be supported in completing the mission. Law Enforcement and security professionals often act alone with no leaders present on scene at the moment of decision. Developed “mutual trust” is paramount to ensuring unity and focus which leads to individual insight, imagination and initiative. It leads to optimal situational awareness and critical decision making, which in turn leads to appropriate action.  “If you would create something, you must be something.” ~Goethe

A leader must be caring, yes caring! Leaders often get positions of authority and forget this critical component. We must show we care about our people and their feelings if we are to inspire and create innovative people. By caring a leader should show an uncommon commitment to the organizational goals and the goals of individuals in the organization. We do this by creating the best people, through sharing information (COMMUNICATING, via WORDS AND ACTIONS) and training and educating our people so they can be effective on the street or frontlines. Caring for members of the organization is also shown through the two previously discussed traits intelligence and trustworthiness.

Sometimes despite our best intentions things go wrong in heated dynamic encounters faced by law enforcement and security professionals. All organizations face failure and mistakes but in our professions that mistake can mean the difference between life and death, human life and death. In these moments a leader must be brave and press on and face adversity. this involves risk. Mistakes, failure is often seen in only a bad light, but the true strategist, tactician and leader understands, more is learned from failure and that failure is part of chaotic dynamic encounters. It takes true strength of character and courage to advance and complete the mission despite adversity during and in the aftermath of an encounter.

Bravery, courage can be shown physically by facing physical challenges of an armed individual and resolving that threat accordingly. Courage also is internally, known as moral courage where you as a leader stand up for, support, your people in an effort to show the well meaning intent of your organization. It also means admitting mistakes and challenging others to learn from and adapt the lessons learned to future problems. In today’s climate where explicit answers are sought even for dynamic encounters that require implicit judgments’ in rapidly changing circumstances a leader must be brave and “dare what seem like the impossible” and face the adversity head on! “Who dares, wins” ~ British SAS motto

To accomplish our goals as an individual or organization, Sun Tzu says we as leaders must be strict. We must be willing to do what needs to be done. This includes a deep look into ourselves as leaders, a self assessment, to ensure were are indeed the best leader, we can be. We must be willing to lead even in unpleasant situations, after all that is when a true leader shows the stuff he/she is made of.  You must be there to lead and be seen taking charge in a variety of situations. This has a tremendous effect on  the focus of an organization. So get out in front and be in charge, suffer the hardships and assume the risks and share the victories and defeats. You will be amazed at how this affects the morale and overall unity and focus of an organization in meeting its goals.

Leadership is a key to effective decision making and the overall performance of individuals and hence the organization. People in an organization depend upon leaders, so we must commit ourselves to the leadership qualities Sun Tzu describes, and inspire  total commitment from others. Do not let lack of leadership be the friction in your organization, there is enough uncertainty, chaos and complexity and new information being processed in dynamic encounters to make decision making difficult enough. The will to win starts with the top. Take charge and be the leader you know, you can be.and build a thriving organizational culture!

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

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