The Twelve Leadership Principles: A Summary





  1. Improve SYSTEMS and examine processes before blaming people
  2. Have a CUSTOMER orientation and focus toward employees and citizens.
  3. Believe that the best way to improve the quality of work or service is to ASK and LISTEN to employees who are doing the work.
  4. Be committed to the PROBLEM-SOLVING process; use it and let DATA, not emotions, drive decisions.


  1. Be a FACILITATOR and COACH. Develop an OPEN atmosphere that encourages providing and accepting FEEDBACK
  2. Encourage CREATIVITY through RISK-TAKING and be tolerant of honest MISTAKES.
  3. Avoid top-down, POWER-ORIENTED decision-making whenever possible.
  4. Manage on the BEHAVIOR of 95% of employees and not on the 5% who cause problems. Deal with the 5% PROMPTLY and FAIRLY.


  1. Believe in, foster and support TEAMWORK
  2. With teamwork, develop with employees agreed-upon GOALS and a PLAN to achieve them.
  3. Seek employees INPUT before you make key decisions.
  4. Strive to develop mutual RESPECT and TRUST among employees; DRIVE OUT FEAR.

[These principles were developed in the 1980s when I was chief of police in Madison, Wisc. Through the years they have continued to be on the forefront of leadership training and development. In my new book, Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police , I describe the steps that were taken to transform of a police department and what it will take to improve all our nation’s police. And guess what? I all begins with a leader. ]

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About improvingpolice

I served over 20 years as the chief of police in Madison (WI), four years as chief of the Burnsville (MN) Police Department, and before that as a police officer in Edina (MN) and the City of Minneapolis. I hold graduate degrees from the University of Minnesota and Edgewood College in Madison. I have written many articles over my years as a police leader calling for police improvement (for example, How To Rate Your Local Police, and with my wife, Sabine, Quality Policing: The Madison Experience). After retiring from the police department, I answered a call to ministry, attended seminary, and was ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church. At the present time, I serve a small church in North Lake (WI), east of Madison. Sabine and I have nine adult children, eleven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She is also a retired police officer and we both continue active lives.

5 Responses to “The Twelve Leadership Principles: A Summary”


  1. You Deserve Excellence in Policing! | improving police - September 10, 2014

    […] In short, practice the “Principles of Quality Leadership.”  […]

  2. Courage to Work Together? | improving police - September 30, 2014

    […] of the ways leaders show courage is to starting practicing the “Twelve Principles of Quality Leadership.” When leaders embrace the new leadership they quickly learn that being open, listening to the men […]

  3. The Road Ahead | improving police - December 6, 2014

    […] The road ahead must develop the intellectual abilities of our nation’s police officers and teach them a modern, collaborative, and non-coercive leadership  style (see Quality Leadership). […]

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