Law enforcement leaders, consultant David Rabiner believes, can be divided into three groups — small dogs, medium dogs, and big dogs.
Small dogs — Rabiner told attendees of the FBI National Academy Associates (FBINAA) annual training conference in Long Beach, Calif., earlier this week — are officers who don't have anyone seeking them out to make decisions or provide guidance. Medium dogs are officers with small dogs looking to them, who must seek out the big dogs. And big dogs are officers whose presence is immediately recognized when they enter a room.
In his "Tactical Leadership: Tools for Building Influence and Impact" talk, the leadership consultant laid out his model of decision-makers so he could draw a parallel between law enforcement leaders and managers.
Rabiner believes leadership and management aren't the same. Managers hire positions, monitor adherence to agency policy, schedule patrol officers' shifts, and perform the crucial duties required to keep a law enforcement agency on the rails.
Leaders, Rabiner emphasized, develop strong personality traits and inspire others to follow them. They rely on the principle of influence, and often create a "want to" environment rather than a "have to" environment for officers working under them.
Leaders view the creation of this strong persona as crucial to being effective. They cultivate values such as integrity, credibility, vision, a positive attitude, fairness, good communication, compassion and gratitude. The single value that most disrupts proactive policing? A negative attitude.
"Nothing destroys productivity more than negativity," he said. "If you're going to be negative, I'd rather you be late."
Peak performers, Rabiner said, don't let themselves fall victim to negative thinking and behavior. They're always looking for ways to improve. And they don't blame others when challenges arise.
Ridding yourself of a negative attitude is a good start, yet if you don't cultivate positive beliefs and qualities, you'll be viewed as average. To reach the status of a peak performer, you'll want to overcome three obstacles — honestly assess yourself, translate leadership qualities into behavior, and fully believe in the principle.
Honest self-assessment can be challenging, Rabiner said, because of our tendency to believe the praise that's told to us. Oftentimes, we believe we're proficient at a specific skill and stop improving. The peak performers always believe they need to get better, Rabiner said.
Translating a value into behavior is the second obstacle to peak performance, because ranking leaders often don't want to admit they're a work-in-progress, because doing so would give ammunition to people who believe they can do the job better.
The third obstacle to peak performance, according to Rabiner, is the inability to fully commit to the principle and work toward improvement. Integrating a behavior such as "good listening skills" — let's say the value is effective communicator — requires an officer to consciously work on being a better listener every day, even if it feels fake.
Lastly, Rabiner gave his definition of integrity — do what works, and stick with it.