When bad things happen, no matter the organization, we look to leaders to step up and help us through to an outcome that gives us hope for a better future. This starts with helping to solve the immediate problem expediently. As the wider group is under a high degree of anxiety and panic, a leader’s calm demeanor is helpful. Sometimes they need to help the team step back, take a breath, and slow down decisions. Other times they need to communicate the direness of the situation, encouraging quick movement depending on past training and experience.
If you’ve got somebody you think is actively engaged in harming people or attempting to harm people, your obligation as a police officer is to immediately stop that person and neutralize that threat. We don’t expect police officers to commit suicide in doing it. But the expectation is that if someone is about to harm someone, especially children, you’ve got to take immediate action to make that stop.
Many organizations will have multiple levels or circles of leadership. There are leaders who are expected to take control of situations as they happen. There are also leaders responsible for high-level abstract thinking about larger issues that lead to the problems throughout their organization. We expect these people to find the commonality in a myriad of situations that may seem disparate in their details. Leaders at this level must step back and look across many situations to find root causes and possible improvements that can be made to strengthen the whole system. It is very important that leaders at this level do not get mired in the details of one specific situation, but rather consider the common threads across all events to look for more fundamental changes.
A well-regarded technique for discovering the root cause of a problem is to complete an exercise called Five whys. For example, 19 children and 2 teachers are dead in an elementary school:
- Why? A gunman shot them.
- Why? He was a disturbed 18-year-old with access to semi-automatic weapons.
- Why? Texas gun laws allow 18-year-olds to buy semi-automatic weapons without background checks, licensure, or training.
- Why? Texas politicians have liberalized state gun laws for political and power reasons. This includes more open access for semi-automatic weapons.
- Why? Without stricter federal gun laws around semi-automatic weapons, states are allowed to push to these fringes, putting the health of their citizens at risk.
A leader at the highest levels must make decisions that are sometimes unpopular in certain areas of their organization. These decisions aren’t made out of spite for those who disagree, but rather they are made with the best information, responsibly gathered. A leader will not claim that one decision will solve all the problems in the organization. A leader understands that more challenging events will occur in the future, requiring new analysis and further improvements to the organization. A leader realizes that some decisions will not have the intended effect. None of these things stops a leader from making decisions that can possibly improve reality right now.
The constituent responsibilities of a leader should be known throughout the organization. A leader is generally responsible to the people and assets in the organization. Sometimes a leader is responsible to outside forces, such as shareholders. A leader should not seek to increase their constituent responsibilities without having a conversation with their existing constituent base.
In the years since the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United vs. FEC, hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into super PACs, allowing a relatively small group of wealthy individuals and corporations to exert [anonymously] an outsize influence on local, state and federal elections.
A leader talks to their team. A leader tells them hard truths. A leader does the hard thing.
The folks that feel strongly on the right about the Second Amendment, while their heart clearly aches, they also are deeply concerned about their safety, their family’s safety, and the rhetoric of the left immediately jumping to their worst fear, which is seizing guns and gun control. It’s an issue that the base needs to be reassured and spoken to [about] — that they’re not going to get their guns taken away.
- https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/uvalde-shooting-police-waited-hour-backup-rcna30622 ↩
- https://www.huffpost.com/entry/ted-cruz-doors-school-shootings_n_628ecb5de4b0933e736ee276 ↩
- https://www.history.com/topics/united-states-constitution/citizens-united ↩
- https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/25/nra-republicans-texas-shooting-trump-00035260 ↩