Home Case Studies Public & Government Sector Hero to Host: Developing Police Leadership in the 21st Century

Hero to Host: Developing Police Leadership in the 21st Century

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At the level of Assistant Chief Constable/Commander and above, the key role moves from overseeing strategy to developing it and promulgating it internally and externally. This requires an even broader range of awareness, connections and insight. Dealing with internal teams (staff functions and specialisms) and external (Police and Crime Commissioners, politicians, stakeholder groups) is of course vital. They also tend to be the public face of the service. Media appearances and public meetings at which a police input is wanted generally fall to them – or at least the more significant the event the more likely it is an NPCC officer that fronts the police response. 
At these senior levels the requirement for proactive leadership is even clearer – and so, it turns out, is the need to carefully balance reaching out and engaging others. Even in handling the media there is a proactive side to leadership – building good relations with the press on a continuous basis can pay off handsomely. We are now a long way from the road traffic accident described at the start of this article, and the need to stamp authority on panicking strangers.

Key aspects of leading as host at this level, in addition to those described above, might be:

  • Taking an agile and emergent view of strategy development – with long term goals supported by short-term actions and frequent reviewing and refocusing.
  • Connecting with relevant others both inside and outside the organisation – and then connecting those people with others within the force to ensure that the best information reaches the right places in a timely and effective way
  • Starting new initiatives in useful ways, by reaching out and engaging the right people early on and building support
  • Establishing the right ‘container size’ for new initiatives and discussions – balancing the size of the issue with the number of people involved to build progress without either oversimplifying the issue into or collapsing into messy confusion.

Hosts co-participate. They organise and lead events, yes – but they also join in with them, eat the same food, meet the same people, stand in the same room. This balance of leading and participating, of being separate and also of being together, is summed up in the host paradigm. Leaders at all levels will want to develop their skills with regard to this balance – too much apart, and you lose credibility and connection, the vital ear to the ground. Too much together and you ‘go native’, lose perspective and lose effectiveness as a leader of change. 
The group spirit of policing is very strong, and the ‘all in it together against the world’ feeling runs deep in many ways through police culture. It may be that the balance of co-participation offers a challenge for officers at all levels.

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