A leader is a motivator, coach, disciplinarian, mentor, encourager, restrainer, teacher, evaluator, team builder and role model. Successful leaders have the wisdom to assess the situation and determine the correct role or combination of roles needed for the moment. The priorities of our varied responsibilities can change in a moment, depending on the circumstances we face.
Example 1: I was working a special plain-clothes juvenile assignment. We had just completed the investigation of a gang-related incident and had some discretionary time. We decided to work on the auto-theft problem plaguing our area of the city. One evening, we headed for a notorious drop spot near Evergreen playground. We staked out near the basketball court and sat in our plain car sipping hot cups of coffee. Less than 20 minutes had gone by when three teenagers slowly drove by in a new Chevy. A kid in the back seat leaned out the window and yelled at some guys shooting baskets, Hey guys, GTA!
Under his breath, my partner said, Thank you.
We both threw our remaining coffee out the windows and the paper cups into the back seat. I pulled slowly from our partially concealed parking spot and began following the Chevy. Our system confirmed the teens were indeed driving a recently stolen car. Two blocks later, they stopped at a red light. I pulled alongside. My partner held his badge out the window, illuminated it with his flashlight and stated, [We re] police officers. Pull the car to the curb across the street when the light changes to green.
The driver gave a startled look and put the pedal to the metal. The car accelerated dangerously through the intersection. I flipped on our emergency equipment and began pursuit. My partner picked up the radio mic and broadcast, 4J9, we are in pursuit.
Our radio operator responded. All units on all frequencies stand by. 4J9 is in pursuit. 4J9 your location.
Soon, we were in the City Terrace area of East Los Angeles. The winding road through the foothills made driving perilous. The driver was not a skilled driver. He was going too fast for the curves. My partner had just uttered the words, Watch it, Bob. They re going to crash, when the car swerved out of control, hit a power pole, rolled over and careened over a 200' embankment.
After radioing the status of the pursuit and requesting emergency equipment, we ran to the side of the road expecting the worst. The vehicle teetered on one side, supported by a stanchion cable from the power pole. The hillside was steep. The pole was creaking under the weight of the car. If the pole broke or the cable loosened from the car, it would roll down the embankment.
Suddenly, our role changed. At first, our primary task was to arrest some car thieves. Now our overriding responsibility was to rescue three young people in serious peril.
We borrowed a water hose from a nearby house and were able to pull all three boys from the dangling wreckage, none of them had suffered serious injury. We later booked them for Grand Theft Auto.
A leader must also assume different roles depending on the circumstances.
Example 2: Consider the following scenario. As a supervisor, you recently appropriately initiated disciplinary action on one of your team members for failing to follow your department s guidelines for the collection and processing of evidence. His negligence resulted in the dismissal of an important criminal prosecution. Today, you received productivity data that reveals this same officer achieved a high level of goal accomplishments this past quarter. Now you re conducting the roll call assignment, briefing and inspection session. The same officer shows up two minutes late.
Which one of your responsibilities toward that officer should take highest priority? Should your priority be disciplinarian or encourager? Depending on his total profile, you may want to take this opportunity to commend him for his achievements before his peers, rather than reprimand him for being late. Prioritizing your encourager role at this point could send a powerful message. The officer, as well as the entire assembly, will see that you recognize his accomplishments as well as having dealt sternly with his prior negligence. They will all learn that there is hope for a balanced view of their work and even recovery when you have failed. You will have properly prioritized your various leadership responsibilities On Point.