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Leading Fighting Men

This is one man’s musings, and over the course of my career they are things that I wanted from my leaders. As such, I have tried hard to be that guy as a current leader. This is meant for discussion, not as a how to guide. One of my greatest strengths as a leader is that I recognize how big of a failure I have been as one. Waxing poetic about leadership traits does not make you a leader. Indeed, the one true test, and really the only one that matters to me, is whether the men think I’m doing a good job as a leader.

My team “votes” for team leaders, this doesn’t mean that Chiefs couldn’t over ride the vote, they can, but that has never happened since we started handing out 3X5 cards and asking dudes to write down the four names they want running an operation on the worst day, in the worst possible circumstances. I take great pride that the men have written my name down, not just once, but on every vote. Unanimously on the last one. And I assure you that this is not a popularity contest, these dudes get it and want the most experienced and qualified guys for the job filling the role. As stated I am proud of that, I am also humbled since we have a good selection of studs. I am also driven to earn that vote every fucking day. How can I not? The staggering responsibility of leading men into dangerous situations is not something to be casually regarded. They demand more and do not suffer fools, and by God I will fucking deliver or step aside. There is no other choice.

The road map for leadership is plugged in damn near every “leadership” school. You hear the same adjectives over and over as it relates to leadership traits. Character, integrity, honesty, commitment, tactically & technically proficient, communicator, leads by example. There you go, do that shit and it is likely you will be regarded as a good leader. Very simple. In the book “Challenging Law Enforcement Organizations” by Dr. Jack Enter, he conducted a survey amongst thousands of cops and multiple agencies. That study revealed that 10% of police leaders were viewed as Evil Managers. Vindictive bullies that weren’t worth a shit and highly destructive to the organization. 80% were viewed as Ineffective Managers; nice fellas, take care of the necessaries, but do not do much else. 10% were viewed as Great Leader, inspired people, created commitment and were viewed as dudes that you would ride the river with. My guess is that upper 10% are actually LIVING the traits versus just talking about them in academia or to subordinates to make themselves feel good. 10%? It is a shameful number and one that illustrates being a good leader is anything but simple.

For me, this shit starts at home. What example do I want to be for my Wife and Children? I want them to view me as a man of character, competence and caring. If I can’t lead a family of four, how the fuck can I possibly believe I can lead a team of SWAT men, a patrol squad or a police organization? Nothing in this should make you believe that I think I am infallible, I fail far more than I would like. I have chewed ass when it was inappropriate, I have snapped on dudes when they took initiative to make something happen but their plan was different than mine. I have planned missions poorly, I have made decisions under stressful conditions that weren’t the best and I have failed to speak my mind bluntly on several occasions that I regret. I have left CP’s ashamed of myself twice, the second time was a turning point for me because I swore it would not happen again. And it hasn’t. The penalty for telling a boss that he is fucked up could result in discipline up to and including termination. The penalty for not telling him could result in a teammates funeral. I will not be that guy. Character, honesty, commitment.

Bear in mind these are my thoughts on the topic and are meant to spark conversation, insight, debate and ultimately make me and others better fighting leaders. My guys deserve that guy as their leader, I feel that shit in my bones every fucking day. So just like shooting and tactics, I need to continue to improve and expand my ability. I cannot fail in this endeavor, far too much is at stake. I look forward to your comments.

Bill Blowers
Bill Blowers has been a police officer for over 20 years, prior to that he was in the US Army for six years. Bill is currently a Sergeant for a Municipal Agency in Washington State. He is assigned to his agencies training unit and is also a team leader on a large and active regional SWAT team. He has been assigned to SWAT since 1995 and has held positions such as Sniper, Ballistic Shield Carrier, Entry Team Member, and Assistant Team Leader. He has planned, or participated in, over 1000 missions and has in excess of 5000 documented training hours.

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