Revolutionizing Policing through Servant-Leadership and Quality Management

Article excerpt

The focus of the last 10 years of an emerging law enforcement leader's career has focused on working, studying, and preparing for a top leadership position. This individual has passed the rigors of testing for sergeant, lieutenant, commander, or deputy chief. The leader has graduated from a prestigious law enforcement leadership school such as the FBI National Academy, and may have completed a baccalaureate or graduate degree. That professional now competes for and obtains the position of police chief, sheriff, or director.


When this executive enters the door of the new agency, whether it has 10 or several hundred employees, the leader learns that staff morale is low, trust levels between ranks in the organization and with the community are low, financial support from elected officials is in jeopardy, and crime fighting and crime prevention practices are second-rate. The new senior manager's shiny collar brass suddenly feels very heavy. How does the new leader resolve the dilemma between the opportunities presented by the newly gained power and authority with the discouraging reality of skepticism and widespread apathy within the agency? Further, the new top manager knows the community and local government leaders depend on the agency to deliver excellent services soon. Where does the leader begin?


Law enforcement agency executives are accountable to their political leaders, their communities, and their employees for inspiring leadership and effective management. In today's demanding social and political environment, the executives will fail if they do not meet those demands. Established leaders of newly selected administrators face the same challenge: serve the needs of their primary constituencies or fail.

Success requires enlightened leadership practices. (1) Many researchers have argued that personal leadership behavior is the area the law enforcement leader has the most control over. (2) Next, the executive consciously can select the finest management systems required to implement quality services. Finally, the top manager must provide the specific skills training and education to qualify and empower frontline staff to deliver exceptional policing services. Once employees experience the satisfaction of their own success, they yearn for more. Experience has shown that when community members and elected officials witness excellence in law enforcement practices, high levels of trust and support will follow soon.



Transitioning an agency to an internally and externally effective workplace is an important task leaders must undertake. How do leaders guarantee that frontline staff and first-line supervisors have the same mission and behavioral values as the chief executive? More so, how does that top manager ensure all employees are competent in the skills needed to identify and analyze community problems and produce innovative solutions?

Executives must create a department where employees are excited to come to work, zealous about getting mission-driven results, and empowered to take skilled initiative. This workplace is a law enforcement agency where constant learning and improvement exemplify agency culture. This special organization is rich with frontline employees cherishing the philosophy of teamwork, information-sharing, problem solving, and mutual accountability.

Top policing leaders should embrace the principles of servant-leadership, employ quality management (QM) practices, and teach staff members the disciplines required for such service delivery. Servant-leadership inspires trust and cooperation inside and outside the organization. Next, when executives and their top management teams commit to the methodologies of QM, long-term effectiveness can be maximized. Finally, the executive must establish a continuous learning culture where the skills required for delivering QM services are institutionalized. …