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What Police Captains Can Learn from Captain Picard

Give me the leadership style and management skills of Star Trek’s Captain Picard any day.

January 01, 2002  |  by Sergeant Daniels

First of all, I'm not a Trekkie or someone who goes to conventions wearing pointy ears. But I do enjoy watching Star Trek: the Next Generation, not just because it's an entertaining show, but because it also offers lessons in leadership. What too many people in command positions simply do not understand is that there is a difference between management and leadership. And I believe we have too many of one and not nearly enough of the other.

As a new sergeant, I've taken to heart many underlying messages in the adventures of Captain Picard and his crew, and I'd like to share some of those observations.

The first thing a police captain could learn from Captain Picard is: Surround yourself with a command staff that has been in the trenches. Don't surround yourself with a command staff that will just tell you what they think you want to hear. Be ready and willing to ask questions - and get answers - that you may not agree with. Some captains have not come up through the ranks and were not fortunate enough to spend the needed time in the field. They don't have that "been there done that" reputation with their troops, which damages their credibility. Captain P understood this well.

I have heard some captains respond, when asked if they have ever done the job they now supervise, "You don't have to do the job to supervise the people." I guess in a way that is true: You don't have to ... if you don't want to be an effective leader.

When facing a decision that will have a major impact on the department, ask your command staff their opinions. After hearing your people out, take their information and make a decision based on what is best for the department. A good captain is able to make decisions and policy he personally doesn't agree with but that he knows is best for others.  A classic line by Dr. Spock (pre-Picard) was, "The needs of the few do not outweigh the needs of the many."

Capt. P would never ask his crew to do something he wouldn't. Some police captains in crisis situations can only be found, as we say, in the rear with the gear. Capt. P always led from the front and was not afraid to get dirty. He put his best people on the job, and if they had a solution to a problem, he said, "Make it so." Capt. P allowed his people to do their job with minimal supervision. He was not a micromanager like so many we see today.

Capt. P was not necessarily the strongest manager, but he had the management skills he needed. What he had in abundance were leadership skills. When a good manager asks how you're doing today, you should feel like he cares about the answer, and is not just going through the motions. Capt. P did that.

Captains should take a walk through the work place and see what is going on, and get to know a little about each subordinate. Capt. P did not lock himself in an office "upstairs" for eight hours a day. He walked the ship himself instead of sending others to see if there were problems.

With all this now said, I close with the command Capt. P would himself deliver: "Engage."

Daniels, a pseudonym, insisted his real name not be used for fear of being labeled a geek, or worse, a Trekkie. For this assignment, his first, he draws from personal experience as well as involvement with POST, including a recent course on leadership and supervision for newly promoted sergeants. When he's not supervising his shift in the model of Capt. Picard, he is at home watching Star Trek reruns and worshiping Capt. P from the helm of his La-Z-Boy.


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