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The Archetypal Mountie Speaks

Jan 30

You may have been wondering when I would weigh in on this situation of RCMP dysfunction.  Allow me to introduce my self.  (Members of the RCMP should remember me from the history portion of their drill classes).  My name is Samuel B. Steele; I was born in 1849 in what was known at the time as Upper Canada.  My father was a British sea captain who had been a hero in the Napoleonic Wars.  I was orphaned while still a young boy; then at 16 years of age I joined the militia and went off to fight the Fenians.  Four years later I travelled West as a private in the Red River expedition.  When the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) first mustered I was the third man to enlist.  People described me as strong, tough, and methodical planner.  I was thought to be courageous, shrewd, and had a sterling reputation for integrity.  In 1874 I was part of the Great March West, the NWMP’s historical march to what is now the province of Alberta.  I marched my men North to establish the first police presence at Fort Edmonton, and then on to Fort Saskatchewan.  During 30 years in policing I purged the West of American whiskey traders, policed the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, negotiated with Sitting Bull, and defeated Big Bear, bringing the second Riel Rebellion to a close.  In 1898 I was dispatched to the Yukon to establish a Canadian police presence during the Klondike Gold Rush.  I had only 13 men and together we cleaned up the saloons, gambling dens, and brothels of Dawson; we confiscated guns, stamped out cheating in the casinos, and stemmed a typhoid epidemic.  I will tell you with pride that in all my time in the Yukon, I never once found it necessary to discharge my sidearm.  (In 1900 I took a command in Lord Strathcona’s Horse Regiment and went off to the Boer War.  I died in 1919 after being decorated by King Edward VII).

So you might say I have an investment in what was to become the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

I’ve been sitting back observing the mess those who followed me have created in the RCMP.  I know that times were different when I was serving, but there have always been leaders and followers in any organization.  And no matter what century we are in, when a leader makes a worse mess out of an organization than it was when he got there – he’s not much of a leader.  Unfortunately, the RCMP has had to tolerate a long line of such imposters, right down to the present day.

I have a lot of time on my hands, where I am right now, and a very well stocked library.  I have busied myself by reading extensively in the area of leadership.  The term leadership is not easily defined.  You may recall I shared with you my military service so I am naturally drawn to the military definition.  The US Army defines leadership as “influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation, while operating to accomplish the mission and improve the organization”.  Do you think the present senior executive in the RCMP, including all the deputy and assistant commissioners across the country, meet this definition on all counts?

There are many theories of leadership each with its own critical elements, including: trait theory; behavioural theory; contingency theory; transformational leadership theory; and transactional leadership theory.  The US military, who has spent a great deal of time and money researching the topic, has synthesized the best of these models into the “Army Leadership Requirements Model” (ALRM).  One afternoon I skipped the canasta tournament and just for fun compared RCMP leadership to the ALRM.  Here’s the exercise.  I have left out military terminology and replaced it with police terminology; based upon the fact that the mandates are different.  And after each attribute and competency I ask you for your thoughts.  Please don’t hesitate to express them, I read this blog regularly.


What an RCMP leader is:

A Leader of Character

  • community values
  • empathy
  • police ethos (to serve and protect)

What do you think?  Do they embody the values of the community?  Put community first even ahead of the Force?  Are they willing to listen?  Willing to understand?  Are they all about “serving and protecting” exclusive of their own careers and the image of the Force?  Have they walked a mile in your boots?

A Leader With Presence

  • an executive bearing
  • physically fit
  • composed, confident
  • resilient

What do you think?  Do they look and carry themselves like senior executives of a police service?  Do they exercise self control with members and the public?  Can they “step up, fess up, and clean up” following a blunder?  Are they comfortable speaking to the membership and the public?  Are they dynamic, composed, sociable, and inspirational?

A Leader with Intellectual Capacity

  • mental agility
  • sound judgement
  • innovation
  • interpersonal tact
  • domain knowledge

What do you think?  Do they have the autonomy to think for themselves?  Or is someone pulling their strings?  Do they know what they’re talking about when it comes to leading a major organization like the RCMP?  Do you have any evidence of them being interpersonally tactless?  Do they come across as trustworthy experts?


What an RCMP leader does:


  • leads others
  • extends influence beyond the chain of command
  • leads by example
  • communicates

What do you think?  Do they lead you or push you from behind?  Are they widely respected for their leadership capabilities, outside their own portfolio?  Is it a case of “do as I say, not as I do”, or is there something there to look up to and emulate?  Do you feel that expressing yourself to them is a productive exercise?  Do you think they have a deep emotional attachment to you and the rest of the members?  Do they have a zero tolerance for injustice inside and outside the Force?


  • creates a positive environment
  • prepares self
  • develops others

What do you think?  Do you feel safe and supported in the office?  Do they spend as much time on your career development as their own?  Do they spend their time leading the organization or dabbling in (your) police work?  Are they there to ensure your success or to identify your “shortcomings” and sweep you out the back door?


  • gets results

What do you think?  Are your resources outstripped by the tasks you have to perform?  Can you match your municipal/provincial brothers and sisters in terms of results?  Are you still being asked to “do more with less”?  Are you spread too thin?  Are you getting sick trying to keep up?  Do they understand that you must be supported and cared for before you can produce the results?  No matter what the cost, do they take a stand for you?

Well there it is, a well respected model of leadership.  Does the RCMP’s senior executive measure up?  If you don’t have much experience of the senior executive, as a result of them being so far removed from the “shop floor”, include your line officers from inspector to chief superintendant.  What do you think?

In closing, just let me say that it seems to me that a leader’s ultimate mission, no matter whether an NCO or a commissioned officer, is to support and transform her supervisees and assist them to adapt to an ever-changing police universe.  I know the opportunity for this doesn’t exist anymore, but when I was leading a contingent of men I didn’t eat until my men had eaten and I didn’t sleep until I made sure they had slept.  Do you get the sense that today’s RCMP senior executives would do that for you, given the opportunity?  Now I’m no psychologist, but I would like to sign off with a quote from an American Army General who was thought to be a bit of a psychologist:

 “The test of a leader lies in the reaction and response of his followers.  He should not have to impose authority.  Bossiness in itself never made a leader.  He must make his influence felt by example and the instilling of confidence in his followers.  The greatness of a leader is measured by the achievements of the led.  This is the ultimate test of his effectiveness.”

–          General Omar Bradley

What do you think?

Samuel Steele
NWMP (deceased)

  1. DJ Motorcop permalink

    The RCMP has no future in policing communities. Their transfer policy makes it impossible to offer any community of 20,000 or more population a consistent community minded service. Members are transferred in lacking even the ability to navigate the streets and roads and no knowledge base of the criminal element. They are transferred out once they become masters of their domain and are replaced by a new member once again devoid of knowledge. I was a municipal police officer for 22 years until my force was absorbed by the RCMP, I served with before for 14 years! I watched the greater tri community area well served by 172 police officers suddenly have to make do with a loss of 45 positions. In the last 15 years a patrol section of 18 Constables per team on a four watch system has been shrunk to 13 members per team (on paper) all the while the community has experienced amazing growth both in population and in the business community. The seven man traffic section is down to three members due to lack of manpower. The once very visible mountain bike downtown patrol team has been disbanded due to lack of manpower. Sam Steele I salute you, you have pointed out that the emperor (Commissioner) is wearing no clothes. He is merely one more from the old boy school saying what Ottawa wants to hear, what members have stopped listening to and what will come back to haunt him!

  2. Anonymous permalink


    if your library doesn’t include General Rick Hillier’s book “Leadership”, I suggest that you add it. It will inspire and depress you at the same time. On one hand, seeing what a real leader could do lit a fire inside me. On the other hand, it was depressing to know what we DO have and to read what we have COULD have instead.

    The General speaks of the Force in his book and is obviously a supporter but makes candid assessment of our issues.

    My friend is a driver for General Hillier and got me an autographed copy of his book. After reading it I made the off hand comment to my friend that now that I hated my own bosses more than ever. Apparently, it is the General’s favourite comment!

    Frankly, I think that General Hillier should have replaced Elliott.


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