Years ago, I was forced to go to a training school called The Police Executive Leadership College (PELC). I was a relatively new police manager and the boss sent all new supervisors to this training likened to getting a bachelor’s degree in months not years because of its intensity. It was about four months long, scholastically challenging and several hundred miles from home for most everyone. We stayed at a local Ramada Inn for a week at a time, came back home and then did it again and again and again. Tons of homework in between too. Everyone I knew who had to go to the school, dreaded it. The rumor was it was a nightmare of hard work with tons of papers, speeches and research.
It certainly was some tough schooling for sure. Our papers were graded with a fine tooth comb but any criticism doled out was presented so well that we didn’t feel bothered by it. We had world-class presenters and instructors who could make a positive difference to anyone who listened closely. They taught true leadership. What they got across and developed during the training is something I believe is earth shattering in scope for anyone interested in organizational success. Let me explain.
As time went by, a deep camaraderie developed between the men and women students. The instructors were also a part of that camaraderie even though we were a bit afraid of them. Nevertheless, we felt a close and trusting bond with them. So much so, that we would pretty much do anything for them. One Monday morning when we arrived back for another week of schooling we heard some rumors of an intense team exercise that we were going to do. The word was that it was dangerous and it would be done as a team. From conversations that I had heard, I believed it was going to be jumping out of an airplane—all of us, one after another, kind of like paratrooper style. And for me, that’s something I would never do, jump out of a plane, other than at gunpoint. I didn’t even like flying. White knuckle flyer to say the least for me. I had a close friend who used to jump out of airplanes for fun and he’d constantly ask me to go diving with him. Every time, with no uncertainty, I told him, “Absolutely not, no way!” Even the thought of it got me nervous!
The day I believed we were going to be jumping, I wasn’t even nervous about the prospect. I was completely ready to take the dive with my brothers and sisters. It was something we were doing together for a positive purpose and I was ready, raring and willing to do it with my team. No doubts. In fact, there was no way that I’d not be a part of our team mission—simply no way! I thought about my apprehension of flying not to even mention about jumping out of an airplane but any fear that I had was transcended by the team spirit I had; that they developed in me. I was not just me, any longer, but I was a solid member of a group. Again, I wasn’t just me; I was a part of a trusted team. Not one, but a group; completely solidified. The group would be successful (me included) and we’d be okay. Wow! Now this was true leadership and teamwork developed, perfectly!
When leadership can get a group of people on to the same page or wavelength, and especially in my case, with my apprehension about flying and get me to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, they’ve reached the epitome of leadership. We never jumped out of an airplane that day but I would have done so in a heartbeat.
This PELC example is how any organization can get their group to do what they want. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Yes, it’s great . . . but scary too! If great leadership can work so well getting people on board any organizations positive mission, does it not seem to hold true for devious minded leadership as well? Of course it does. Adolf Hitler skillfully led millions utilizing his dastardly mission. And some businesses have done similarly—leading away from the right thing to do and leading only towards nefarious purposes. However, in these cases, to some extent, the leadership lied to their people—to their group. Either thinking that they knew better than the “regular folks” or that they simply wanted to lie and get their way no matter what. Nevertheless, the key was lying to their organizations—to their people. And thus is the key to great and true leadership. It lies on true respect of all people in a team, whether five men or women or 5,000. Also, never lie to them. Furthermore, truly have their best interest at heart—truly! The vast majority of people: black, white, atheist, agnostic, Catholic or Jewish will follow a leader who does not lie to them and who has their best interest in mind.
So many of us have been lied to by leaders for so long that the majority of us do not believe that leaders ever tell us the truth! However, there are some straight shooting leaders in more places than we might imagine and many of them are quite successful.
You want to see success? Watch what a group will do when you explain the mission and that they are an integral part of it. Watch when you train and equip them for that mission. Watch when you are there every step of the way with them to make that mission work; if not physically, but in spirit. And most importantly, watch when they realize that they are actually not just one person, but a part of it all and that they are needed, trusted and helped. Then, watch success!
Steve's a three-time survivor of violence in his youth and was an award winning police officer.
For several years, Steve also did radio political and current event commentary and taught college Criminal Justice. He is the former host of the long running 'The Kovacs Perspective' Internet radio talk show.
Presently, Steve is the owner and Managing Director of one of the oldest martial art schools in Ohio, 'The Mayfield Academy of Self-Defense'.
Latest posts by Steve Kovacs (see all)
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