In Focus: ''crisis'' in police leadership?

Sergeant Gareth Stubbs has been seconded from Lancashire to work on our leadership review.


Having secured a secondment to the College on the Leadership Review Team, I quickly re-evaluated my motivation for leaving my comfort zone. Nothing like taking on a huge subject that affects the entirety of the service, is there?

I work on 24 hour Immediate Response usually, so working as a researcher was a huge step away from ‘normal’ life for me. The opportunity was a fantastic one, but as with all other reviews questions loomed as to our baseline; what exactly was wrong and what was there to fix?

Commentators often discuss a ‘Crisis in Leadership’ as if it were as simple to define as that. The phrase itself must make the current leaders wince, as they are working as hard as anyone.

What is it about current leadership that invites the word ‘crisis’ and how has that come about? Is it that the pervasive performance culture has created a particular style of leader that is less compatible with today’s needs?

Is it that service is under fire because it has been slow to change? Or is it something a little more intangible? Since starting the review, many people have said to me when I have asked the question about what is wrong with the ‘now’ of police leadership: ‘I can’t quite put my finger on it, it’s lots of little things.’

This – of course – does not establish a baseline.

Broad brush strokes and generalisations have abounded since the beginning. So discussions around a general move towards transformational leadership and away from transactional leadership have been discussed at length.

Yet such a shift would be seismic.

Situational leadership, command, and the ability to switch between styles has also been explored.

I believe, the 30+ year tenure means that replacing one style with another simply cannot be accomplished, and let’s be honest, is being exclusionary towards another particular style really the way forward?

Saying that we want one style of leadership instead of another immediately creates division within the service. I also believe that policing is such a broad church that all styles have their place within it.
So where does the future lie?

Being future focused has allowed the team to be a little more aspirational, but you have to know where you are to see how far you have to go.

Personally, I think the future lies in a system that allows greater flexibility of leadership and stops in its tracks the systems of box jumping and hoop navigating.  Round pegs, round holes is the future, with no wood shaving required.  The more people have had to change to fit into selection criteria, the more masks our leaders have had to wear.

Diversity is the key, so allowing a system and an attitude that appreciates and tolerates individual difference, whilst respecting operational credibility as a base, has to be the future. This is a diversity that values not just race, gender or sexuality, but a range of thought and feelings too. It makes sense that our future leaders must represent all points of the compass, and not just North as a default.

What we need to establish first is what does and doesn’t work in terms of culture, systems and processes. I am part of a team gathering evidence on this very point. It’s important to put forward recommendations that have some reality behind them. Once we have this information, the murky future should hopefully become that little bit clearer.

We are a passionately open team, so feel free to have your say and email us. I shall do all I can to help/discuss/debate/include/research your points of view.

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