A good friend and former sergeant forwarded me the attached article which I feel, that as leaders in your organization and students of leadership, you will appreciate. Here is a short synopsis.
Peter Drucker in The effective Executive, 1967, said, “It is the duty of the executive to remove ruthlessly anyone—and especially any manager—who consistently fails to perform with high distinction. To let such a man stay on corrupts the others. It is grossly unfair to the whole organization.” He was promoting this advice based upon the 1940’s Army standards of General George C. Marshall. Unfortunately, by the time Drucker was writing about this, the Army had lost this high standard. The attached Harvard Business Review highlights for us not only the importance of setting a high bar (for both the rank and file and for its executives) and equally if not more important, the need to remove those who do not meet the bar. It rightly states, “When standards are not rigorously upheld and inadequate performance is allowed to endure in leadership ranks, the effect is not only to rob an enterprise of some of its potential. It is to lose the standards themselves and let the most important capabilities of leadership succumb to atrophy.” Anyone who has studied leadership in their academic studies or for promotional purpose will recognize Peter Drucker as the originator of Management by Objectives (MBO).
The attached article touches on talent management/focusing on the right people in the right jobs as well as transformational leadership. It highlights that where relief of command was commonplace in WWII, it is now a rare event. In failing to fire generals, and here we could interject officers or supervisors and executive staff, accountability is undermined and leadership capabilities erode. The greater undermining and erosion occurring where there is selective removal or sanctioning of individuals based on where they sit in hierarchy of rank or friendship of the executive ranks. Or even worse, where they are removed and sanctioned for doing what their executive asked them to do. Marshall’s policy was considered strict and dynamic. However removals were not necessarily career-ending and as noted by Bernard Lewis for those that were able to adapt i.e., “the speed to recognize [their] mistakes and devise and apply means to correct them,” there was success.
In addition, the article addresses the danger and compromising effects of political considerations in accountability. By failing to remove effective leaders and or employees, or in allowing them to remain in place, then leaders are forced to do what needs to get done through what is commonly known as “micromanagement.” In our field, like in the Army, this undercuts effectiveness and the ability of small unit leaders (and patrol officers) to make decisions under fire. The article uses the My Lai massacre as an example of not only this but of an example of executive leaders covering-up their involvement in failures for their own self-benefit; rather than being and setting the example of accountability. And, as Barry McCaffery said, “Ceasing to behave like stewards of their profession, and more like keepers of a guild, taking care of their own.”
The article closes with the lingering cost of mediocrity. If we address accountability at the lower levels and fail to do so at our upper levels, or if the process by which leaders earn and keep their positions loses integrity the negative outcomes will be far-reaching. Highlighting, Gresham’s Law – bad leaders drive out good ones, and mediocrity can quickly become institutionalized. Lastly, it rightly comments, “when the mission of an enterprise is clear and placed front and center, the relative performance of leaders can be assessed objectively. The decision on whether an individual deserves high rank can be, as Drucker said, “ruthless—but yet the opposite of cruel”.
A friend rightly said, “Assessment is never ending.” We live up to the standards expected of us. If we are in leadership positions, and fail to meet those standards then you are relieved of duty (listen well executives - objective reasons and not promotion of a good old boy system to place your buddy in that position). And, at the same time be honest to yourself, if you find that you are not fit for the position then step down or ask for reassignment. As a patrolman or detective, if you fail to meet standards, then the only option is demotion and or termination. It is not sufficient to state that nobody told you that you would have to work shift work, or that you would have to work holidays, or that you do not find it fulfilling to have to issue traffic citations – the standards and expectations are these, so they must be met. If we intend to grow and improve, then each step in the ladder of life and career requires us to learn new skills and to build upon the ones that got us there because in the end what got you there will not necessarily get you to the next level.
Lawrence Lujan is a decorated field operations and training sergeant with 22-plus years of service to the El Paso, Texas Police Department. A longtime member of the EPPD SWAT team, he was a key player as team leader, lead firearms instructor and overall tactics instructor of that Unit. Sergeant Lujan brings a very unique set of skills to the law enforcement arena, and has a wide and varied background in leadership, firearms and operational tactics. Lawrence is also President of TCG-Tactical Consulting Group and Armory Industries LLC. He can be contacted at Lawrence.Lujan@gmail.com
Armando • Orale Sarge,
my thoughts exactly.
Michelle B • Yes, there is a great term known as "institutionalized misconduct" that comes to mind when these leaders are allowing their supervisors or administrators to continue to behave unethical which ultimately influences others and sets a precedence.
Sam T• This plagues agency constantly. Backbones are not issued when they get promoted, sadly. It's disheartening to the troops still doing the job, pencil pushing managers couldn't lead a starving mob to Mickey D's out of idol curiosity.
Sent: Monday, October 15, 2012 10:28
To: Lujan, Lawrence
Subject: Re: Leadership and Accountability
Hey Mr. Lawrence I like your assessment. I read Peter Drucker a long time ago, I adhered to his Management by Walking Around idea it served me well throughout my career. You mentioned two things which ring true but is not and can not be understood by certain people in management and leadership positions. The Army system of leadership and mediocrity, all those that went through war especially the Greatest Generation in WW II well understood leadership and what it meant to accomplish the mission. At the cost of their own lives they accomplished the mission so that others could live, these same people came back and taught those values to the next generation but, as in the Bible, it depended on where the seed fell if it was to grow and flourish or die in the rocks. Those in leadership roles today have no idea what any of this means because they don't understand what leadership means other then what is written and the written word pales in comparison to the actions of a real leader. The other word that caught my eye was mediocrity, it was in the assessment of the commission to study the Rampart Investigation at LAPD. They stated that mediocrity was the thread that ran throughout the Department that fostered this type of corruption. Leaders today don't know what mediocrity is, they believe they are already performing at a very high level because of Assigned Power and not True Leadership. The adage, if they are in leadership positions they must be leaders and thus they must be great leaders if this position was given to them, rings true with these people. This is a great topic which I'm sure we could discuss at length for hours. Thanks for the article and stimulating my brain.
Michelle B • Thanks for joining Langley! I see our next generation of law enforcement have great challenges just as much as it is challenging to apply some form of succession training. What happens to those in LE that we hear of being a policeman for 18 years and then get popped for child porn? What in the world is going on here?? Is there an answer to provide a form of "reminder" training into reassuring that tenure should not allow us to be untouchable?
Langley M, LCC • If you look at the real numbers, you will see that most 'bad cops' are weeded out quickly. If you add up the news stories about veteran cops going bad, you will find it comprises a very low percentage of career police officers. These things grab headlines because they are anomolies and sell ad space. I don't think they are epidemic, or even close. They are always troubling, however, because we are viewed through the eyes of stereotyping as a homogenous group -- a double-edged sword. We dislike bad cops far more than anyone else, but you wouldn't know it reading the news.
I think the biggest problem facing us is the loss of respect in our society for authority figures of all kinds. In my opinion, this begins with parents who befriend their children instead of parenting them. Parents are the ultimate authority figure in a child's life. When they are reduced to 'friend' status they earn the right to be treated as peers. Kids do not always respect their peers, nor do they routinely treat them well.
This lack of general respect does seem to be epidemic, and I do not see an end in sight. It creeps into law enforcement from both sides. We see increased attacks (verbal and physical) on law enforcement officers from the public, and increased challenging of supervision from within. When leadership is challenged from within for good cause, that is healthy. When it is challenged merely to be disruptive, or from some misguided sense of entitlement, then it becomes a problem.
Sent: Friday, October 26, 2012 12:28 AM
To: Lujan, Lawrence
Subject: RE: Leadership and Accountability
I had to take some studies similar to the ones you and XXX mentioned below, when I got promoted to Staff Sergeant in the Sgt. Major Academy in the Marine Corp, ( many years ago of course). I agree, even though in the old days, (Old for the new officers, not so for me), though we did not have the book learning they do now, we had to prove every day of our probation that we were worthy of being a police officer. We got no special privileges, and were made to meet the standard every day without fail, or get out. No upper brass came to our rescue, no one told the lt.s and sgts. To take it easy we need the bodies, they were turned lose on us and we had to prove we were worthy of the job in every aspect, not just some of it. I think in the year I was on probation I only spoke to a sergeant 3 maybe 4 times, and that was only because they spoke to me first. You got in on some of that also. Even after probation we had to continue on that track. It seems that later to many officers that were just mediocre, but well read, got through, past the test and got promoted and changed things from being a proud, worthy officer that had proven themselves, to just well we need the bodies, any body will do, and we will not worry about the effect it has on the department or the citizens in the future. We have some even now, we work around some every day, both officers and supervisors. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying that education is not important on this job, as a matter of fact it is probably as important as anything we learn to do on this job. I think we are trying to get back to the other now, but it will take a while because it has taken awhile to get it messed up. I am not going to be around long enough to see it happen but you and some others will be. It makes me worry some times what is going to happen when everyone is gone and only the Me Generation, the XXX generation take everything over. Keep the faith, it will take time, but it can happen.
Thank you to all that responded. I will close with this. For accountability to truly become a part of the individuals character and career, it has to start at the beginning, as a rookie. It can’t only begin when one becomes a part of the executive staff or promotes. By that time, there have been far too many years where the person has been held unaccountable. Accountability, ethics and character have to be there from day one.
From: Reveles ,J
Sent: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 4:32 PM
To: Lujan, Lawrence
Subject: RE: "leadership and accountability"
Thank you Lawrence...Remember it is all our jobs (supervisors) to look out for and mentor those younger officers we come in contact with. Either with direct lessons or by example. You are one of those currently tasked and interested in doing just that. Without supervisors like you we will lose those lessons learned by our generation of officer to the up and coming generation of officers. We have to work to making the job as safe (both politically and tactically) for those who will be left behind to lead.
The way I see it, my family, your family will be affected by those left behind to serve and protect their communities. As public servants, we owe it to our families and citizenry to continue serving in any way possible, even if passing on lessons learned or learned about.