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Oct 31

Leadership is a hot issue within the Force and on this site. And as I spend my days reliving my experiences with examples of poor management and failed leadership within the Force, I also look to examples of what leadership means and what benchmarks and tools define and develop great leadership.

It is strikingly interesting that the issue of recruitment of ‘people’ vs ‘leaders’ appeared in a blog entry recently. Over the years, I’ve met 30-year constables and guys who have jumped the queue to sergeant and above in a little over a decade. I recognize that there are only so many positions to go around, there’s also some poor practice in terms who goes up the ladder and how it happens.

The prevailing wisdom is that leaders are largely made, not born. So, why not start the process of molding leaders when one is identified by merit-based evaluations and observations. That is step one. Step two is to develop a leadership program, in-house or otherwise, that cultivates this leadership factor.

But what does leadership look like beyond this point? I leave you all to imagine, if you will, what that looks like. The following points come courtesy of Warren Bennis, a scholar, organizational consultant and a pioneer in contemporary leadership studies.

Note that it does not say anything about needing a union to make things productive or for the workplace to be safe and fair. This draws the big lines, but the inside lines will follow whatever culture the big lines put forward. Put on your ‘imagine’ caps, kids, and blow your own minds with the potential that adherence to such principles could create for our RCMP? (Thoughts in parentheses are my own.)

  • At the heart of every Great Group is a shared dream. All Great Groups believe that they are on a mission from God, that they could change the world, make a dent in the universe.
  • They manage conflict by abandoning individual egos to the pursuit of the dream (the greater good vs greater evil).
  • They are protected from the “suits.” All Great Groups seem to have disdain for their corporate (or government) overseers and all are protected from them by a leader — not necessarily the leader who defines the dream.
  • They have a real or invented enemy. Even the most noble mission can be helped by an onerous opponent. (Wouldn’t it be great for everyone to feel free to focus on catching the bad guys and know that the system had their back and best interests in mind and at heart?)
  • They view themselves as winning underdogs. World-changing groups are usually populated by mavericks, people at the periphery of their disciplines. The sense of operating on the fringes gives them a don’t-count-me-out scrappiness that feeds their obsession (note “on the fringes” does not mean “outside the rules” or “above the law.”
  • Members pay a personal price. Membership in a Great Group isn’t a day job; it is a night and day job. Groups strike a Faustian bargain for the intensity and energy that they generate.
  • Great Groups make strong leaders. On one hand, they’re all non-hierarchical, open, and very egalitarian. Yet they all have strong leaders. That’s the paradox of group leadership. You cannot have a great leader without a Great Group. (It sure as hell is not an ‘old-boys-club mentality)
  • Great Groups are the product of meticulous recruiting.  Cherry-picking the right talent for a group means knowing what you need and being able to spot it in others. It also means understanding the chemistry of a group. You see the same thing in great coaches. They can place the right people in the right role. (And, yes, perhaps that means that a great Comm CAN be a civilian or someone outside of the Force, but it means the Serge-clad ego needs to disappear.)
  • Great Groups don’t know what’s supposed to be impossible.  That gives them the ability to do the impossible.
  • Great Groups are usually young. But Great Groups are also young in their spirit, ethos, and culture.
  • Real artists ship. Great Groups have to produce a tangible outcome external to themselves. Without something to show for their efforts, the most talented assemblage becomes little more than a social club or a therapy. (Sound like an org you know of?)

Bennis’ new rules for leaders also define common behavioural traits, traits not seen from a Comm in a long time (rumour has it Zacardelli was a master of long knives). In Bennis’ words –

  • Without exception, the leaders of Great Groups:
  • Provide direction and meaning. They remind people of what’s important and why their work makes a difference.
  • Generate and sustain trust. The group’s trust in itself — and its leadership — allows members to accept dissent and ride through the turbulence of the group process.
  • Display a bias toward action, risk taking, and curiosity. A sense of urgency — and a willingness to risk failure to achieve results — is at the heart of every Great Group.
  • Are purveyors of hope. Effective team leaders find both tangible and symbolic ways to demonstrate that the group can overcome the odds.

Imagine the possibilities… weep at the loss of potential for our current Force.

Jamie Hanlon


From → Leadership, Other, RCMP

  1. Calvin Lawrence permalink

    “Be an example to your men, in your duty and in private life. Never spare yourself, and let the troops see that you don’t in your endurance of fatigue and privation. Always be tactful and well-mannered and teach your subordinates to do the same. Avoid excessive sharpness or harshness of voice, which usually indicates the man who has shortcomings of his own to hide.”

  2. Bob Perry permalink

    There are many styles of leadership that can contribute to the overall success of an organization. Organizational power is not vested in the hierarchies, rank or power-based organizational structures, but lies within its most elemental component: its people. Leadership can occur at any level in the organization if it is allowed to be cultivated and thrive in a supportive environment.

    Individual leadership/management effectiveness is not predicated on personal expertise, but on fostering and engaging employee relationships in unleashing the creativity and ability to innovate, that lies within. At the core of leadership is the development of trust through developing and maintaining positive, interpersonal relationships.

    Max Depree (1997) notes that “a position of trust is not a lifetime sinecure” (p. 125); (sinecure – a job or position that provides a regular income but requires little or no work). He states that leaders must continually earn trust and that it cannot be bought, commanded or inherited (Depree, 1997).

    Any organization that consistently fails to treat employees with respect; build participative and collaborative relationships internally and externally; garner employee confidence, trust and loyalty; encourages, promotes and rewards innovation, creativity; embrace’s and develops employee-centric policies cannot fully realize the the potential of leadership that exists within.

    Does this sound like the organization you work for?


    Depree, M. (1997). Leading without power; Finding hope in serving community. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

  3. fokk jullenaaiers permalink

    What interesting terminology. I have to ask (but do so respectfully), who is it you’d have to battle?

    • Bob Perry permalink

      Hello Fokk – the phrase “follow into battle” is often utilized to signify that a one has implicit/explicit faith, trust and confidence in someones leadership ability/capacity that one would follow them into the darkest situations (e.g. “battle). From a leadership perspective it means you have garnered the trust, support, loyalty and confidence of your team.

  4. Anonymous permalink

    RCMP Leadership = ass-kissing, low culture, project inadequacies, lie and manipulate, generate superficial success metric criteria where you’ve failed but actually shape it to look like you’ve succeeded, get a large paycheque for not giving a shit about the subordinate level, when you’re bored sewer other peoples’ careers to project your personalized need for power and be more concerned about what pretty little tie you’re going to wear at the regimental dinner than the operations of your membership that actually do the work on any given day. The only value of the white-shirt mafia, is rolling up all those shirts into a roll of ass-wad I could use in the bathroom. Perhaps I could market it as 2-ply or 3-ply white shirts? I’ve made it personal….because they have made it personal.

    Note to RCMP Senior Management: “F–K YOU”.


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