Matt asked me to start a series of short articles on leadership, and specifically leadership in the law enforcement world. Frankly, some of the issues are unique to the field, but mostly quality leadership is quality leadership.
My first SGT after getting off of FTO (Field Training) status as a young rookie copper was Dave Landis. He was so good at his role that to this day I often ask myself “What would Dave do?” when faced with a leadership issue.
Dave taught me a number of things, some directly, but quite a bit just by being Dave, which leads to one of the very first lessons I had emphasized to me, “Lead By Example” is one of the very strongest tenets of leadership, and in my opinion the most important. Dave lived what he wanted to see from his troops. Dave was technically and tactically proficient at his job, a hell of a good shot, technically educated in all aspects of being a police SGT in our fair city, such as legal updates and policy issues, and never, ever fell into the “Do as I say, not as I do” trap.
Being a gun nerd I noted that Dave did not carry the then issued model 66, carrying instead his personally owned model 27 S&W, nickel plated, 3 1/2″ barrel. Dave went with the heavier N frame because the K frame guns we were issued were known to not stand up as well to shooting with our issued .357 magnum ammunition. Dave shot on his own time to stay proficient, another lesson learned.
Dave was a Vietnam veteran, and even though he was “Just in the Air Force” he saw heavy ground combat several times due to being an SP on an airfield perimeter. This gave him an eye toward what was important and what was frivolous. Dave might note that you need to shine your boots, but he wasn’t a dilettante who worried about bullshit like uniformity of your gun belt, etc.
Dave also taught me early on, by example, that being both a leader AND a manager was important to the leadership role.
Many people fail to note that there is a big difference between leaders and managers. Leaders lead people, managers manage stuff. Huge difference, however, comma, a quality leader needs to be good at both. One can be a great manager and a horrible leader, this is far too common in both the police and military worlds in my experience. The flip side is that one can also be a pretty good leader, but a poor manager, and your troops will suffer for it. Poor managers don’t take care of things like logistics, clothing and gear issues, pay problems, and their troops suffer for it.
Dave also made sure to show up on our calls, not to micromanage us, but to be there if we needed him. He would “43”, meet with us, as a habit every shift we worked, nothing formal, just talking while writing up a call, etc. But this habit let you know without a doubt that Dave cared about us at a human level. When Dave asked us “How’s it going?”, that wasn’t just a pleasantry.
Not everybody got a chance to work for Dave, but he’s the kind of guy we’d all be lucky to have as a boss, and the fact that he stands out so brightly as an example during my career makes me a little sad.