This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Inspirational leadership & the new Police & Crime Commissioners

On Friday 5 October from 12pm to 2pm, the Guardian are hosting a live web discussion whether the elected PCCs can improve police morale at a time of privatisation, cuts and perceived political bias. (Do join in! I will be taking part.) (UPDATE: Please note that this has been shifted by the Guardian from the original date of Thursday as that date clashed with the funeral of PC Fiona Bone.)

This got me thinking about what attributes a PCC will need to have to inspire the police (and others within their influence) towards improved morale and even greater results. So, last night, on the train off to see the Beach Boys at the Royal Albert Hall, I mapped out this list:

First and foremost, the PCC will need to show total respect for the work that police officers and staff do and the people that they are. Any hint that the PCC regards him or herself as being above other people is to be avoided... (yes, you know what I am referencing).

In my experience as a leadership development adviser, lesson 101 for leaders is have a crystal clear vision. People may not always agree with that vision but they at least know what direction is being taken. Uncertainty about direction is big downer. (I have written before about what makes for a good vision.)

Given the political nature of the job, I think it will be vital for the elected PCCs to engage in 'worthy politics' which might be best defined as not petty, point-scoring party politics. Nobody (least of all people in the police service, I suspect) is inspired by politicians who only seem to want do down the opposition or leap in front of the press camera at any given moment.

If there is one thing that I know that really frustrates police officers and staff is not having the equipment to do their jobs effectively, efficiently and safely. PCCs will boost morale if they arrive with a clear commitment to ensure adequate kit. Any PCC who thinks they can save money by not doing so does not really understand policing.

People in all organisations like to see their leaders being held to account. Whatever the PCC can do make their challenges (and support) to their Chief Constable open, transparent and accessible will boost morale.

That said, an inspirational PCC will always challenge constructively and remember that giving feedback often says more about the person giving it than it does the person on the receiving end. Having the wit to ask good questions, especially ones that have come from either side of the front line (ie from victims too) will be essential.

A PCC will boost morale by just doing one simple thing: listening. Sadly, in my view, too many politicians (of all hues) spend too much of their time in broadcast mode and seem unable / unwilling to answer straight questions... or even just hear what people have got to say. Listening is good and will help. Being available and accessible is good and will help.

Police culture has a lot to do with ACTION! (Sometimes with not enough circumspection and reflection, I would add!) And so to boost morale, the PCC will need to be seen as a person of action. I am not advocating some sort of manic inititiativitis (the police service already has enough of that) but I am saying that if a PCC gets to be known for always being at HQ, this will not go down well. Remember, police officers notice where cars go and where they park...

An inspirational PCC will understand that it is their job to earn respect not demand it... and certainly not create symbols (such as chains of office) to impose respect upon people.

Be funny and occasionally self deprecating. A PCC who cannot make people laugh or who is so pompous as they are unable to laugh at themselves will not do wonders for staff morale. Humour slices through reserve and opposition in a way that often rational debate cannot.

I think we have seen great examples of emotionally intelligent leadership from CC Peter Fahy and ACC Garry Shewan (of Greater Manchester Police) in the last couple of weeks after the murder of two young police officers. They were both rock solid but able to show emotion and understand how much emotion there was around. A good PCC will be able to do the same and will understand that the work of the police service (and the wider justice agencies) is often filled with highly charged emotion. Unfeeling steel automatons need not apply: PCCs must not be 'robocops'.

And finally, in my view, PCCs will need to practice ethical and authentic leadership that is marbled with integrity and clear values. If a PCC is perceived as saying one thing but doing (or deciding) another, this will damage morale. If a PCC uses principles like a drunk uses a lamppost (for occasional support rather than illumination for the journey), this will not work. One of things that police officers and staff are very good at, is spotting charlatans.

But what do you think? You are welcome to comment below and/or join the Guardian debate next Thursday.


  1. Anonymous28/9/12 11:29

    Another excellent post, Jon - my only suggestion would be to put "listening" somewhat higher up the list!

    1. I take your point, but in my view they are all essential!

    2. and thanks for the feedback - much appreciated

  2. Anonymous4/10/12 10:04

    CC Fahey is a nice bloke BUT his decision to speak from the pulpit at a Police Funeral and make what were effectively political points about an armed police service demonstrates that even skilled police managers don't always get it right.

  3. I cannot find any reports of what you have highlighted. All I have found are moving tributes and poignant photographs of the funeral: