Adjacent to this article is another that accompanies it written by Lt. Jim Glennon (Ret) and titled, “Leading By GPS”.   Feel free to read either one first, but I encourage you to read them in one setting.


Bad leaders (a/k/a ‘bosses’) are the bane of good cops everywhere.  Working for a worthless supervisor affects two groups of cops.   First, are those cops who are questionable in their performance and style.  They are encouraged, seeing their own kind in a position of authority.  Second, are those on the crew who have been called to the job by a higher power, who are cops to their core.  They become irritated and frustrated beyond my ability to fully describe their horrid bosses.

I speak from firsthand experience.  I had an LT at one time named Barry.  He didn’t deserve to carry a badge, much less supervise a crew of cops. It was a mystery across the agency as to how he kept his job – much less how he ever got promoted.  These are the kinds of guys who are a scar to law enforcement.

Then, there are the true leaders.  These are the supervisors for whom I would do anything.   We could count on them to show up at hot calls.  They didn’t micro-manage.  They let us do our jobs.  If a true leader changed to a different crew, many of the guys would try to follow.

Where do the good guys come from?  Were they born that way?  Did they go to special training to acquire these skills?


We have all been exposed to a variety of materials and people who teach personal habits that contribute to a person’s individual success in life.  Here are a few examples of concepts put forth:

  • A person should set goals and objectives which are clear and that can be articulated verbally or in print. Ideally, goals should be made for all of the major areas of life: family relationships, financial, career and spiritual.  It is critical that each goal can actually be achieved.
  • A successful person will have a plan laid out showing how each goal will be met. It is important that specific achievement milestones be placed along the way.
  • Track your own progress – be honest with yourself – so that you know where you are meeting the objectives and where extra work is needed.
  • When something goes off the rails, success depends on you being honest with yourself. Take action to determine what should have been done differently and what specific corrective steps you will take go get back on track.

All of these traits describe people who are making a difference in all walks of life – not just law enforcement.


If you look around a crew of cops who regularly work together, there is probably one cop who is different from the others – in a positive way.  He is of the same rank (e.g. patrolman) as everyone else.  But, you can discern by the way the others treat and talk to him that they hold him in high regard.

This is the person whom I would encourage new cops to imitate.  At some point, he will probably become the sergeant and maybe further.  And, he will be a leader rather than just a boss who supervises his crew by watching the GPS computer screen on his desk.  (See accompanying article for further on this.)

Back in the olden days – before computers and cell phones – you could identify the ‘stand-outs’  simply by listening to the radio traffic.  [Yes, there WAS life before cell phones and computers.]

The “different” guy is the one the others on the crew would go to for:

  • Help remembering how to get to an obscure address in the city.
  • Assistance remembering which statute to use to charge a suspect with an obscure, seldom-seen crime.
  • When you couldn’t figure out how to use the latest computer-based report form.

This guy is the shift answer-man.  He can frequently seen sidled-up to another unit answering a question or providing assistance.

This character had already learned how to lead himself.   Others see him as a great resource.  They are drawn to him like moths to a flame.


As you contemplate being a good leader, I want to pause for a moment to speak to some traits which are almost never found in a good leader.

A good leader is NOT:

  • Impatient – with himself or with others. He allows events to take their natural course while still ensuring completion.  He views a mistake as a learning experience – the FIRST time it happens.
  • This guy is not condescending. He has no need to impress others by bragging about himself.
  • This person is not arrogant. He avoids the “holier-than-thou” attitude that we often encounter in poor supervisors.  This guy never makes you feel stupid for asking a question.


 The self-leader treats others with as much respect as is possible.  As we all know, certain subjects that we encounter deny us the ability to give them very much respect, at all.  Whether arresting a suspect or talking with a fellow-officer, the self-leader is rarely short on giving respect.

This person is a good listener.

He is honest, to a fault.

He is constantly striving for self-improvement.  If you’ve seen him stripped-down in the locker room, it’s clearly evident that he attends to his eating habits and respects the value of hitting the gym regularly.

When a fellow officer asks for help to accomplish a task, this officer is most likely to show how it’s done rather than just telling about it.

A self-leader is generally humble.  They are genuine; there is nothing fake here.  He’s the kind of guy you would be happy to have date your daughter or your sister.

This officer has tremendous empathy skills (not to be confused with sympathy).  He is able to put himself in the shoes of others.

He is enthusiastic about work and life, in general.

This is the guy you go to when you left your flashlight in your locker.  He probably has an extra that’s already charged and ready to lend.

His behavior makes it clear that he believes that your crew succeeds as a team.  He knows that good cop work is NOT solo act.


If you’re lucky, you’ve worked with him.  He lives the creed of The Brotherhood every day.

He can disagree and argue with others on an issue.  He can walk away and still be friends.   Also, he isn’t a tight-ass.  The crew is sure to include him in any after-work or day-off activities they may share because they want him there.

If you are on a call with him and a fistfight breaks out, you and he will have the same number of bruises when it’s over.   He’s in it with his brothers to the end.


The self-leaders are the ones who become the supervisors who you and I would follow to Hell and back.  They have prepared themselves for the job throughout their career.  They are the leaders we respect and love.

This officer is a star performer.  He would never say that about himself, but others will say it about him loud and clear.

He won’t be a supervisor who monitors his crew via a computer screen on his desk in the office.  Nope.  He will quietly watch, and more importantly assist his crew, out on the street, at their sides.

He knows that he can only succeed when the officers on his crew succeed.  God bless the great leaders among us.

So, it is up to you.  Before you have any stripes or bars, is the time to set your course.  Whether you choose later on to promote and be responsible for others is unimportant right now.  Today’s concern is being the best leader you can be.   That insures you will also be the best cop you can be.  Both you and your brothers deserve nothing less.

At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.


Please remember to read the accompanying article, “Leading by GPS.”


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