Are you Rankcentric?
May 7, 2013 By Maurice Brodeur
820 words – MR
Are you Rankcentric?
by Maurice Brodeur
It is very important to recognize the role of rank and leadership in policing but leaders also need to recognize that agencies hire some very smart people. It is always a mistake to not recognize and access the skills and intelligence of the people that surround us.
Leaders who refuse to reconsider decisions despite evidence from juniors that they are wrong are Rankcentric. They lack confidence and cannot accept credible information that calls their decision into question because they fear this would make them look weak.
I came up with the term Rankcentric for a retirement speech for my watch commander, who had confidence in himself as a leader and did not let rank get in the way. I could talk to him man to man on issues and not worry about miscommunication. I don’t mince words and can be passionate about issues – and he let me be me.
I valued this tremendously as I did not have to be afraid of venting. He wasn’t Rankcentric in that he was confident of his own standing as the “Boss” and therefore never threatened by my strong personality. He was also very adept at working with persons of higher rank and always said what needed to be said. He was a true leader who just happened to be a staff sergeant.
Being able to accept and use the skills and intelligence of the people around you makes you a more credible leader in their eyes. If you ask for their input and can allow yourself to justifiably change a decision based on it, the strength and confidence you exhibit will be noticed. Do not let your rank prevent you from making good decisions and limit your leadership in the eyes of your people!
It can be very hard to limit the natural tendency to try to be the expert in all things. Leaders feel that once promoted, we are automatically transformed by the magic wand of rank into an omniscient person. Unfortunately, this sets us up for failure. It is impossible to know everything and the smart people around us will know if we try to fool them. We then become the fool.
Another failure of the Rankcentric person is to not apologize to someone of lower rank when clearly an apology is needed. As a sergeant I have always thought that if I erred in my dealings with a subordinate, it is incumbent on me to apologize. We cannot use our rank as an excuse to not do the right thing when we make a mistake as it weakens our standing in front of our people. On the flip side of that coin, if we recognize our error and provide a heartfelt apology when it is needed, we become a better person and stronger leader in the eyes of our people.
Another Rankcentric trait is the lack of courtesy in responding back to emails or voicemails on contentious issues. Higher ranks often use this as a ploy to blow people off. Many subordinates, not wanting to rock the boat, will simply accept this as a non-approval and back down.
Several years ago I emailed the chief’s office about an invite from the mayor’s office to discuss and support a homeless initiative. No one responded and, realizing this was a ploy to hold me off, I went anyway and reported back on the meeting.
Amazingly enough, an infuriated inspector emailed back noting that they had not given me permission to attend. I replied respectfully that I had asked for permission and when they did not respond, I took this as an indication they didn’t care if I attended. Please do not ignore your people; this is highly disrespectful regardless of your rank.
If you are Rankcentric with the Millennial Generation, who are quickly becoming the backbone of our police services, you will certainly fail. This generation will question authority if they feel it is warranted and we, as leaders, need to listen and not take this personally.
Millennials are team-oriented – they grew up with play groups, team sports and other group activities. They are loyal, committed and want to be included and involved. One can see the benefits of these values and how a Rankcentric person who does not invite some open management in their leadership style will not be as effective as they could be.
At the end of the day, the decisions to be made on policing will always be done by the person with the highest rank. However, leadership fails when it does not take into account the ideas and opinions of subordinate officers. Leadership need not be deaf and blind to their contributions.
Utilizing all the experience and intelligence around us will not only allow us to make better and fuller decisions, it will permit us to do things as a team and make everyone a part of the experience.
Maurice Brodeur is a sergeant with the Edmonton Police Service and can be contacted at Maurice.Brodeur@edmontonpolice.ca .
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