Blue Flower

Leadership Impact

Leadership - How do you see it?

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A study on ‘The need to get more, from less’, authored by a mother and daughter team of academics from the University of Bradford School of Management and Real World Group, has been chosen as the inaugural winner of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) Management Articles of the Year competition, which aims to bridge the gap between academic management research and practising managers working in UK organisations.

CMI launched the new initiative with the dual aims of ensuring business school research meets business needs and directing time-poor managers to the research that will help them most. The competition helps meet priorities set out by the Government for universities to work more closely with businesses. It is also in line with research funding criteria

It is well known that Policing offers tremendous challenges to all that are involved in its function. The eclectic and dynamic nature of the occupation sometimes exposes practitioners to distress, disaster and crises that may be unimaginable to the majority of the populace. Helping our people deal effectively with the toxic nature of policing is a complex affair, but is a key responsibility for all leaders in the service. Resilience has a very clear and important part to play. But we need to know how it works and what the implications are for our leaders; what do they actually have to do? I have mentioned previously that it isn’t about the ability to somehow psychologically profile one’s directs, but to have the aptitude to know your employees well enough to spot when things are not right, and to intervene quickly and effectively. Unlike other occupations, it is not a practice our leaders will never use. Policing provides an abundance of stressful situations, and you could argue that it is not a question of if, but when? We all have a point where it all gets too much. What is important is that if we don’t spot the signs ourselves, help is at hand; hopefully in the form of our management. Techniques of resilience can lead to buffering the toxic effects of stressful situations, and I have written about Thinking Errors in previous blogs. But these ‘self help’ tips ought to be supported by effective leadership, and managers creating the right working environment where workers can experience meaning and purpose in their working life. We know that when work is meaningful employees perform well. Developing this argument, we could assume that Policing is a meaningful occupation that brings good to our community. Therefore, there is some other intervening factor that spoils the status quo. This could be an external factor related to pay or conditions, but it seems the more common observation is that the spoiling factor is poor leadership. Good leaders motivate their people by engaging and communicating their own values authentically; both in word and action. They are emotionally intelligent, caring and professional, which of course ought to be the make-up of police employees in any case! Good leaders will recognise when our resilience is waning and will intervene effectively to help. They will do this, not for reward or recognition, but because it is the right thing to do. 

Smiley faces and unhappy one

What does this look like?

It's all very well theorising about leadership concepts, but how do these various styles play out in practice when it comes to workplace Well-being? What do we actually have to do, what does it look like; and how do we know when we're doing it right? Well obviously it can't be explained in a single blog, but we can make a start! We have a good idea of what things affect our Well-being, so we can use these to inform our leadership behaviours.

What is equally important is that these behaviours are condoned and supported by leaders at the very top, a commitment to creating the right environment for effective Well-being oriented leadership. Without this it is extremely tricky! Let us presume we are going to include concepts of power & influence, followership and management within our description. Assume we are at ease with terms such as contingency, common goal and situational! Here we intend to keep a focus on the basics of Well-being, those being meaning and purpose.

In the business of Policing we could be forgiven for believing this would be fairly straightforward, to serve and protect as they say on the other side of the pond. But is this the element that impacts on the Well-being of our officers and staff? No it is not! Being permitted to get on and do it (the job - what we joined for) seems to be the issue. Let us try to unpack that...

There is a train of thought that differentiates between leading through crisis and leading through the relatively mundane, that require different styles that are quite polar when it comes to method. Maybe this could be compared with transactional and transformational descriptors? Policing obviously requires both, but the dominant requirement, and one most closely aligned to Well-being attributes is most certainly the latter.

Knowing, understanding and caring about your workforce is the key here; and it needs to be done authentically. As with all leadership philosophy, where there is an argument, there is almost always a counter argument not far in the wake; so we do leave an opening for a 'kicking' in this respect! However, if you think of times when you have really enjoyed your work and have experienced high levels of meaning and purpose, try to recall the leadership attributes of who you worked for at the time. Can you remember if this person knew you well and had your Well-being high on their agenda? Did good performance (not reds and greens, we mean excellent service here) simply 'occur?' Did time fly by for you? Did you speak fondly of your job outside of the workplace? Did your team gel, know each other, get on well and socialise outside of the workplace? Did you feel fit and healthy, imaginative, able to innovate, given autonomy and were often told you were doing a good job? Were you supported when you erred, felt opportunities to develop came your way, had interests outside the workplace, slept well and were generally satisfied with your life?

If yes, chances are that you were led by a person who 'had it!'

This is what good leadership looks like...!

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