From the book’s Forward:
“In the 1980s, the Madison Police Department began to move from being just a good police department to one that envisioned being a world leader. I had been the chief for almost ten years. My early years were not easy and were marked by a considerable amount of conflict between the rank and file and myself. I was brought into the organization at the end of 1972 as a change agent. Not everyone was eager to change.
“In the midst of feeling that I had survived my first ten years, I nevertheless knew things could be better within the organization although we had received high marks in our orientation to the community and in diversifying the organization. Through a series of learnings on my part – both formal and informal — I knew more changes had to be made and this transformation would have to begin with me.
“Upon my return from a three-month sabbatical, I started thinking about leadership—my leadership. Couldn’t I do better? I needed to find out. And the optimum way to find out was to ask those whom I was responsible for leading.
“After talking with my wife, Sabine, who was very familiar with the workings of the department, she suggested I hold a number of employee meetings in which I would be there not to talk, but to listen [and not get defensive; at the time it was a negative trait that I struggled with as a leader!]. I did so and asked each and every member of the department in these groups what they thought the biggest problem facing the department was. The answer was clear, direct, and unanimous—me. I was the problem, along with a lack of communication department-wide. Those small group meetings with every employee of the department were brutal, but absolutely necessary. If I had not done it, I never would have seen my vision come to fruition. And without this scanning and listening to employees, the changes I implemented never would have lasted beyond my tenure.
“At the time I considered changing my leadership style, I had to ask myself what it was that I expected from those with whom I work. I knew that I wanted to work with people who were competent and worthy of my respect. I wanted work that was interesting and challenging. I wanted to work for leaders who listened to my ideas, recognized me when I did good work and kept me informed about what was going on. And I wanted to be able to grow and develop in my job.
“I have to admit that these work expectations were rarely met by leaders on the departments in which I served as an entry-level officer. This was due to a coercive, top- down management style within the organizations themselves.
“When I personally asked the members of my own department regarding the kind of leader that would help them in their work, they described the very same things. They wanted to work for leaders who:
- Respected them.
- Cared about them.
- Had confidence in their ability to do their jobs.
- Trusted them.
- Spent time with them.
“They also said that those leaders needed to be:
- Competent (knew their job).
- Champions (walked their talk).
- Fixers and improvers.
- Visible and involved.
- Willing to take risks and initiate action.
- In touch with them, understanding, and giving support.
- Open about what was going on.
“When I started to understand what I was being told, I realized that I must be the first person to be this kind of leader – to change myself and how I acted. Then, I had to help other leaders in the department to do the same thing. I knew that we were all creatures of habit, and that changing to this new way wasn’t going to be easy—it would take time and would require a lot of training, patience, and hands-on coaching. It would also be, at times, painful…
“I need to clearly say that these changes were not easy for any of us. We all had, over the years, found comfort in the old leadership model. When I began as a leader, I made a lot of mistakes—but I kept on trying to get it right. I expected the same from others. I came to learn this about organizational change: it should never be imposed from the boss to the workers, but rather from the inside out—that is, after listening, input and study from within the organization. While everyone may not agree with the final direction taken, they need to understand why it is being taken. And once the change is internalized within the department, it can be introduced to the community.
“What I began to see is that if I change myself—that is, walk my own talk, or practice what I preach—I teach in a most significant and lasting way. I became the lesson I wanted to teach. In order to do it myself, however, I had to clearly explain, specifically, what I was talking about, why the new approach was necessary for our future, how we would begin to practice it. Then I had to deeply and intently listen to their feedback— how they were understanding what I was trying to communicate.
“The Workbook is part of that transformation process which began in the early 1980s and went on through to my retirement. The Workbook was used to train leaders and then as a teaching format for other police departments about what the department was doing. It continued to be requested by other police departments years after my retirement. There have been many changes since that time: An emphasis on domestic terrorism, the Patriot Act, hard economic times, proliferation of firearms, jailing the mentally ill, wars on drugs, youth and the poor. It was time to update…”
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