Public Safety Needs Good Leaders — Are You One of Them?

by | May 17, 2024

In its latest survey of nearly 14,000 executives and 2,000 HR professionals from over 1,500 organizations around the world, global consulting firm DDI revealed some disturbing trends related to leadership and the supervision of employees.

According to DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast, a mere 32% of respondents indicated they trusted senior leaders at their organizations, and just 46% said they trusted their direct supervisors to do the right thing.

Not surprisingly, age and experience played a part in the level of trust direct reports expressed toward those in leadership roles. While just 31% of workers over the age of 40 said they trusted their organizations’ leadership, 45% of those under 30 indicated their leaders had their full trust and confidence.

A Forbes article covering the survey results noted that just 40% of respondents indicated their organization had “high-quality leaders.” That’s a 17% drop since the previous iteration of the survey, and the lowest score since 2007-2008, when the global financial crisis sent companies worldwide into a tailspin.

According to Forbes’ Dan Pontefract, “This crisis of confidence in management should be seen as an opportunity for senior leaders to put extra effort into repairing damaged relationships and better integrating the company’s goals with those of the team.”

Coaching and Burnout

Some of the other survey findings are highly relevant from a public safety leadership perspective. For example, according to DDI, leaders whose managers provide quality coaching are:

  • 3 times more likely to feel they have a clear development path as a leader
  • 7 times more likely to feel accountable for being an effective leader
  • 5 times less likely to feel they have to change organizations for career advancement

Another key area is burnout. Respondents indicated rising levels of burnout among those in leadership roles, with 72% indicating they regularly “feel used up at the end of the day.” This is a 60% increase from the 2020 survey. In addition, just 15% of leaders surveyed said they felt well-equipped to prevent burnout among their own employees.

Five Skills of an Effective Public Safety Leader

One of the most important things a public safety leader does is make critical decisions for the future and help those they supervise learn to participate in and adapt to changing conditions within their agencies. The DDI report authors identified five crucial skills leaders indicated they wanted to develop in the coming three-year period:

  1. Identifying and developing future talent
  2. Strategic thinking
  3. Managing successful change
  4. Decision-making prioritization
  5. Influencing others

Of the survey’s 15,500 respondents, only 12% appraised themselves as proficient in all five of these skills. Furthermore, just 29% said their organizations provided training in these important skill areas. At the same time, the survey said leaders who rated highly in all five areas indicated they were:

  • 3 times more likely to say they can engage and retain top talent
  • 2 times more likely to feel prepared to prevent employee burnout
  • 2 times more likely to be comfortable operating in a highly ambiguous environment

Public Safety Leadership

In public safety fields, leadership skills are crucial because they help ensure effective crisis management, promote teamwork, and enhance decision-making under pressure. This is true in all areas such as law enforcement, fire and rescue, emergency medical services, and corrections.

Leaders of first responders must inspire and motivate their teams, maintain clear and calm communication, and make swift, informed decisions. Strong public safety leadership fosters trust among team members and within the community, ultimately contributing to the safety and well-being of the public and the efficacy of emergency response operations.

White Paper: Finding the Leader in You — DOWNLOAD NOW

“Finding the Leader in You”

To help current and prospective public safety leaders learn more about what’s expected of them and develop effective leadership skills, Lexipol recently released a white paper called “Finding the Leader in You.” This downloadable leadership resource condenses highlights of the article series of the same name by Capt. (Ret.) Rex Scism, a 32-year veteran of Missouri law enforcement and graduate of the FBI National Academy.

The white paper covers 10 key topics important to public safety leaders:

  1. Exploring your personality traits
  2. Determining what leadership types you use
  3. Understanding how your emotional and social intelligence impact your effectiveness
  4. Always maintaining your ethics
  5. Honing your communication skills
  6. Being cautious and deliberate with your social media use
  7. Getting comfortable managing change
  8. Building effective, professional relationships with subordinates
  9. Learning to manage conflict
  10. Using discipline to teach, not punish

Download the White Paper

This resource is available as a PDF download. If you find it helpful, you might also watch for upcoming (and on-demand) Lexipol webinars, as leadership is a topic frequently covered. You can also subscribe to The Briefing for once-a-month notice of upcoming events and new resources from Lexipol.

One of the most important things a public safety leader does is make critical decisions for the future and help those they supervise learn to participate in and adapt to changing conditions within their agencies.

Leadership Articles by Rex Scism

To take a deeper dive into the principles and practice of leadership as covered by Scism’s blog series, you can read the individual articles here:

Lexipol provides public safety and local government with solutions that combine the impact of information with the power of technology. We serve more than 2 million first responders and local government officials with policies, training, wellness resources, grant assistance, and news and analysis.

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