I have read lots of books on leadership over the years, and for the most part they have been insightful. But theories proposed in books will never be a substitute for real life examples. Today I heard a story that reflects the essence of leadership.
The most difficult hours for a police officer working patrol during on nights are from about 4:00 a.m.-6:00 a.m. By that time, even the serious revelers have gone home. As a rule, reports stemming from activity earlier in the shift have been completed. And during the winter, it is just cold and lonely out there on the streets doing building checks in dark allies. That of course is especially the case on Christmas Eve.
This year on Christmas Eve I was made aware that a police administrator, who normally works behind a desk during the daylight hours Monday through Friday, came out in uniform to cover patrol duties for the city he serves beginning at 4:00 in the morning. The young officers working the 12 hour shift that was scheduled to end at 6:00 a.m. were cleared to go prepare for the arrival of Santa Claus with their small children. That same leader in the department covered the sparse calls for service until 9:00 a.m. Christmas morning, so the day shift officers would have three extra hours to open presents with their children.
A young officer with a 2 year old at home relayed this story to me today. My response to him was: That particular member of the department’s command staff showed us all by his actions what leadership is all about. He quickly agree and added this thought: He stated: A lot of leaders have good intentions to do something like that, but few actually follow through and do it. He is right! I could not agree more.
This incident demonstrates two principles of leadership for all of us to take with us as 2011 begins:
• True leaders lead by example. Serve those under your command or people that work for you in a way that is not expected. Roll up your sleeves and do the dirty work.
• True leaders don’t just talk about. They do it. I don’t know if members of either shift knew that the second in command of the entire department was coming in at 4:00 a.m. on Christmas morning to cover calls. It does not really make any difference. What makes a difference is…He showed up!
Do you know when to show up??