Two experts from the fields of policing and leadership have joined forces to produce a whitepaper to help educate leaders at all levels in the Police Force on the importance of moving away from traditional forms of leadership in favour of a more host-based approach. Download it via the link at the bottom of this page.
Dr Mark McKergow is an international leadership speaker and consultant. He is co-author of Host: Six new rules roles of engagement for teams, organisations, communities and movements (Solutions Books, 2014). Chris Miller is a crime and social justice consultant, and mentors recently released former prisoners in the community in north London. He served as a police officer for 32 years, reaching the rank of Assistant Chief Constable for Hertfordshire before retiring in 2011.
Mark and Chris decided to produce the whitepaper after the findings of a recent College of Policing Leadership Review were published and revealed that one of the main recommendations was to move away from ‘heroic leadership’ to a more team-based and engaging approach.
The College of Policing Leadership Review takes a wide-ranging look at leadership throughout the police forces of the UK. It contains 10 key points for progress. The first of these is about leadership culture – in particular the desirability of moving on from a heroic leader position. For example, section 5.2 says:
We heard that in a command orientated world there is a tendency to shift towards the ‘heroic’ model of leadership in which an individual acts as a figurehead and followers are there to ensure the leader’s will is carried out. We advocate more emphasis on a model in which leaders are there to ensure the success of their teams.
Taking command remains an essential part of the leadership repertoire, but the overuse of command as a leadership style risks disempowering those who are being commanded. Overuse poses an obstacle to the culture of candor and challenge that is necessary to succeed in the future context and it diminishes the qualities of personal resilience, creativity and risk taking that helps teams to develop in the good times and survive in the bad.
In the whitepaper, McKergow and Miller discuss the various issues surrounding leadership and policing and provide practical suggestions on how to move away from the traditional leadership styles that are simply not compatible with the evolving requirements of 21st Century police management.
Chris Miller says:
“We want to move forward from a heroic leadership style to one where the leader is responsible for their team’s success. There is a long-term challenge for the police force here – initial selection tends to test for heroic skills, whereas engagement and consensus-building become more important. The development of officers capable of such a shift is therefore even more vital given the prevailing promote-from-within culture. The paradigm of leading as a host offers an accessible yet rich and flexible notion to help leaders to quickly expand their skills and mindsets in this direction.
The need to be able to take command in an authoritative way is clear – the wider question is whether that is always the best thing to do, and how this option can sit within a wider coherent set of leadership behaviours.”
Mark McKergow adds:
“Modern leadership writing shows a broad distinction between ‘hero’ leaders who get results by authority, hard work and expertise, and post-heroic leaders who see their role as being about getting results though bringing others together in a way which allows maximum contribution from the others, not treating them as foot soldiers.
This is a journey of development and increasing awareness. Most people start out assuming that hero leadership is the way to do it – after all, the idea is woven through our culture, our movies and our stories. The police context reinforces this starting point. However, leaders who want to succeed at higher levels will need to learn to develop their style, to get the most out of others in terms of creative and constructive input, as well as hard work.”