Tips for New Leaders

Jun 4, 2021

Gold Sergeant Stripes

After working for the police department for a number of years, I had finally gotten promoted to Sergeant. My first day in my new rank was on a Saturday. With the promotion came a transfer to our busiest precinct. My new Lieutenant came in on that Saturday to welcome me, tell me his expectations, and introduce me to the shift. After roll call, the Lieutenant left for home, telling me, “I’m off the next two days. The other Sergeant is on vacation so you’ll be on your own for a few days. I’m sure you will be fine.”

It was a scary situation going from being one of the guys to being the guy who was in charge of ten other police officers. I was expected to have the answer to every question and expected to know how to deal with every situation. I had many years of Law Enforcement under my belt and as the day progressed, my confidence grew. I thought, “I can do this.” Thankfully, I had some great officers on that shift who really helped me to learn the things that I needed to learn.

Here are five things that I learned over my first few months as a new leader:

1. Be Yourself. Your people want to connect with you so make it easy for them. Trying to act like the leader that you are replacing is not going to work. People are drawn to authenticity. Don’t try to be someone that you are not. If you are not comfortable in your own skin, you are going to have a tough time of it. Insecurity breeds fear and fear breeds micromanaging. Everybody hates a micromanager, even other micromanagers! 

2. Share Your Vision. Communicate where you see your team, business, shift, or organization going. What is the journey going to look like? How long is it going to take to get there? What is it going to cost? Start sharing your vision sooner, rather than later. As I introduced myself to my new shift that first morning, I told my officers what I expected from them and what they could expect from me

3. Demonstrate Passion. Passion is infectious. When I get around someone who is passionate, I start to get excited about what they are excited about. A leader who is passionate about the vision is going to spark that passion in others.

4. Build a Team. One of the pieces of advice I received as a new police sergeant was to focus on helping your top performers. The natural tendency is to focus on your poor performers to try to help them get better. The reality is, in most cases, bottom dwellers stay on the bottom. You probably are not going to fix them. As a new Sergeant, I was blessed with a couple of excellent Corporals who went out of their way to help me succeed. Over the next year, I did everything I could to help prepare them for the next level and was thrilled to see both of them promoted to Sergeant.

5. Make Decisions. This is one of the primary roles of a leader. For a new leader, this can be scary. On my first day as a new Sergeant, I had to make several decisions. Decisiveness inspires confidence. We will lose the confidence of our people if we say, “I will need to run that one up the chain of command,” every time we have to make a decision. Certainly, there will be times we need to check with our boss before we make some decisions. Most of the time, though, we should make a decision and then stand by it. In so many cases, any decision is better than no decision.

What other tips would you offer to new leaders?

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