Blue Line


September 19, 2014  By PeterLegge

Leadership was absolutely paramount for former Vancouver and Victoria police chief Jamie Graham. I got to know Graham as a member of the Vancouver Police Foundation board of trustees and would like to share his top leadership lessons.

  1. Character is everything; it’s the only real present you can give yourself.

  2. If you’re involved in bad or illegal behaviour or live a risky lifestyle, bad things are going to happen to you.

  3. Be punctual. Don’t ever be late for anything. I’d rather wait a few minutes because I was early than arrive late.

  4. Have fun in your command and with your command staff. This job should have some humour. While you should go at a breakneck pace, bring some humour to the workplace. Try to take leave when you have earned it: spend time with your family.

  5. Surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not too seriously.

  6. As a police chief (or executive), if you don’t say to yourself, “I don’t need this bull&%$# anymore!” at least once a month/week (if you do it daily, get another job!) on the way home, you are probably not passionate enough about your work.

  7. Never create a culture that blames the other guy.

  8. Leaders cannot always be loved by everyone. Being responsible means people don’t like you sometimes, so you just have to piss people off now and then.

  9. Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions. Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity. You’ll avoid the tough decisions and confronting the people who need to be confronted. By procrastinating on the tough choices, you’ll simply ensure that the only people you upset are your most creative and productive. Remember, everyone is watching, especially when someone is in trouble. Right or wrong, make a decision!

  10. People who say, “whatever,” “don’t worry about it” or “chill out” when talking with me about issues are in for a rude awakening.

  11. The day your people stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership. Be graceful, strong and show courage and confidence.

  12. Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers who can cut through argument, debate and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand. Get advice from your people and then make a decision. Right or wrong, just make the decision.

  13. The Benz axiom (a forensic pathologist who I heard lecture at a homicide conference): If you think that something seems weird, strange, bizarre or kinky – then it probably is. This guy made a million dollars and wrote a book on this theory!

  14. Be positive; have a glass half-full attitude. No one wants to work for a pessimist. Count your blessings. You got this job because you are valuable and you have something going for you.

  15. Never quit. Your turn will come. (Remember the frog half eaten by the big blue heron, arms wrapped around, choking the bird’s neck – never give up).

  16. Attitude is everything. If your people don’t want to run from home to their car in the morning because they are thrilled to get to work, the problem is you. Get them excited about things.

  17. Don’t wait for your ship to come in, swim out to it. Don’t hide from success or be shy in seeking a promotion or getting ahead. When you’re ready to quit, you’re probably closer than you think.

  18. “If you want to build a ship, do not focus on the workers to gather the wood and tools, assign duties, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach your people to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” They’ll build you a ship and fight to be with you on it.

  19. Education, school and literacy are everything. Just have a look at Korea.


Peter Legge, O.B.C. is Chairman/CEO of Canada Wide Media Limited, a $30-million publishing company based in Vancouver with a staff of 140. He is the author of 16 books and considered one of North America’s top 20 speakers.

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