When I was going through the US Border Patrol Academy, way back when…, we had a legal instructor who was a former trial attorney. Any time you asked him a legal question, no matter what it was, his answer was always the same. “It depends” (imagine a strong southern drawl here…it depeyands…). We would then explore all the nuances and issues that could influence the outcome of that question – and it was amazing how many different answers we came up with for what seemed like a very simple question.
Leadership seems to be one of those questions. What is it? Well, who’s asking? Are we talking military leadership? Corporate leadership? Government leadership? Political leadership? Sports leadership? The list seems endless.
First, let’s distinguish between management and leadership. Managers manage programs or organizational functions, etc. Leaders lead people. Pretty much everyone has experienced a leader in their life. It’s one of those things that if you’ve never experienced it, you’re not sure, but if you have…you know. I’ve known some truly inspirational leaders in my time, but then like I always say, “I’ve been in the wrong places at the right time” many times in my life…and many times, that’s where true leadership is most apparent.
Leadership is selfless. It is not about grandstanding, it is not about the person themselves. It is about the people the person leads. A true leader puts others before themselves, s/he serves others, not the other way around.
I’ve been a Force level Sergeant Major during war; a federal Senior Executive Service member and Director in some of the most stressful situations imaginable; a front-line first responder (an EMT, a Firefighter, and a Law Enforcement Officer) in charge of life or death situations; a corporate executive (Vice President, President & CEO) during intense contract negotiations and business development campaigns; a national level political candidate (US Congress, TX-15); and a dad of two boys and a girl who all went through their teens… I’ve seen and experienced true leadership.
During many of these situations, like corporate leadership for example, I’ve been asked “how do you know all of this?” (referring to the ability to plan, organize, lead, delegate, inspire, etc…), and my answer was always the same. I learned this as a young Lance Corporal in the Marine Corps, my first leadership position. Now I’m not saying the only way to learn leadership is in the Marine Corps…there are many, many places to learn – in other branches of the military, public service, business settings and schools, churches, etc., etc…as well as one of the best places, from your parents.
However, if you’d like to read a couple of great articles from Inc. Magazine, one of the premiere business and finance magazines, “providing insight into the world of business in the United States and around the world…an authority on the fastest growing, most-innovative companies as well as the people behind them”, then read these:
“Preparing for Business Battles? Learn Some Lessons from the Marines.” This is a quick article from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, and talks about the leadership lessons they learned at the Marine’s Officer Candidate School.
The second one, “Corps Values”, is a deeper dive into the makeup of the Marines, and the leadership values and principles that are taught – and lived – there. I really thought this one was excellent, and showed why Marines have been successful in pretty much anything they’ve been involved with.
Both Inc. Magazine and the Wharton School of Business look to these experiences to find leadership. Leadership transcends all genres; military, business, sports, life, etc.
All this, and many other examples, show leadership in action, explain leadership, and give examples of great leaders…but nothing here actually defines leadership. Many have tried, varying from very simplistic definitions to in-depth analyses attempting to define leadership. No definition has satisfied everyone – because everyone has their own definition of leadership.
Leadership is based on the situation. It is dependent upon the culture, the tasks, the environment, and many, many other factors.
In my opinion, leadership has universal traits, however. Selfless service to the people being led, the mission that is to be accomplished, and consideration for the value of all those who are being led. A leader is compassionate, focused, driven, delegates to those best suited to accomplish various portions of the task or mission, and drives authority for decisions down to the lowest level feasible. S/he leads from the front, and by example – and takes responsibility for their decisions – good or bad. They are not afraid to admit a mistake, and to learn from those mistakes.
Above all, they lead with and from integrity.
Think about true leadership, find someone you admire, a definition you believe, a cause you are passionate about…and step out. Lead.
That is leadership.
Image Copyright: kchung / 123RF Stock Photo
Civil Service “can refer to either a branch of governmental service in which individuals are employed (hired) on the basis of professional merit as proven by competitive examinations; or the body of employees in any government agency apart from the military” (Wikipedia)
In other words, Civil (or Public) Service is a branch of the Government – Federal, State or Local – or the employees who make up that branch of the Government, and who are representatives and employees of that Government or governmental body.
This is important, because now we run into specific responsibilities and legal requirements. I know. I was a civil servant, at the City, County, State and Federal levels (US DOJ / US DHS) during my 30+ year career – and I took my job and my responsibilities very seriously.
Civil Service is actually Public Service. You are there to serve the public as a part of its elected government, not the other way around. The public is not there to serve you, but to be served by you. As a part of the Government, you hold a sacred trust to “faithfully discharge the duties to which assigned” on behalf of and in service to the public. The very Constitution of the United States says so, in several areas.
What you do NOT have the right to do is to put your own agenda, beliefs, or other non-assigned or non-delegated “duties” or influences into your job performance. As a Civil Servant, you give up some of your “rights” while on the job with the Government. Government employees do NOT have automatically protected 1st Amendment rights that the general public has – per the United States Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court uses “the seminal Pickering balancing test governing public employee speech. The Court described it as the balance “between the interests of the [employee], as a citizen, in commenting upon matters of public concern and the interest of the State, as an employer, in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees.” Pickering v. Board of Educ., 391 U.S. 563, 568 (1968).
In Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), the Court described a two-step inquiry into whether a public employee’s speech is entitled to protection. The first step under Garcetti was for the Court to determine whether (the defendant) spoke as a citizen or as a government employee. If a public employee speaks “pursuant to [his] official duties,” the Court said, he is not speaking as a citizen for purposes of the First Amendment, and his speech is therefore not insulated from discipline by his employer.”
But the Constitution and the Supreme Court are Federal, not State or local. How do they apply to non-Federal governments? Specifically, we’re talking about the 1st Amendment, in this case – the trending story of Kim Davis, County Clerk, the right to free speech and the right to freedom of religion.
First, the Supreme Court decision was on a State case, and holds as a precedent for cases at all levels of Government. Secondly, although the Constitution is a federal document / law, and governs federal Government entities, it is mainly a document to protect the public, the citizenry from an overbearing federal government, and the amendments thereto further that protection, closing some holes that were overlooked or became evident as time went on.
Since it protects the public, it is a document that is relevant to all citizens and residents of the United States, not just to the federal Government. To remedy the issue that technically the Federal Government was the only governmental body bound by the Constitution and its Amendments, the Court held that the 14th Amendment has clauses that make State and Local governments subject to most of the same restrictions as the Federal government.
The 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause prohibits state and local government officials from depriving persons of life, liberty, or property without legislative authorization. This clause has also been used by the federal judiciary to make most of the Bill of Rights applicable to the states, as well as to recognize substantive and procedural requirements that state laws must satisfy.
Additionally, the Equal Protection Clause requires each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people within its jurisdiction.
So what does all this mean? It means the same thing I learned the very first day I was hired as a Civil / Public Servant…and held true whether I worked for the City, County, State, or Federal Government.
As a government employee, my job was to serve the public, and obey the laws. My right to believe what I want, say what I want, and do what I want (within the law) on my own time did NOT hold true when I was on duty as a Civil Servant, representing myself as a Civil Servant, or in any ways performing the duties of a Civil Servant. My job was to “perform the duties to which assigned”, and not interject my own beliefs, feelings, or non-assigned duty interpretations into that performance of my duties.
Furthermore, as a government employee, I was a part of the government…and SPECIFICALLY prohibited by the 1st Amendment from interjecting my own beliefs… “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…” If Congress cannot make any law respecting the establishment of religion, then any law that causes the government (at any level) to establish or mandate religion (any religion) is illegal. That is where the separation of Church and State comes from. As a representative of the government, no Civil Servant can legally interject their personal religious beliefs into the performance – or failure to perform – their “duties as assigned” in accordance with law.
Here are the choices:
1) Hold true to your faith, and resign your position or transfer to another position that does not put you in conflict with your personal faith.
2) Hold true to your faith, refuse to perform those duties, and get fired.
3) Hold true to the law and your sworn duty, and impartially perform the lawful duties you are assigned, putting your personal beliefs and feelings aside if need be, while on duty.
Anything less dishonors you, your sworn oath and/or your beliefs – and is beneath the dignity of a true Public Servant.
With the current highly politicized climate – from some of the highest political figures, to some “clergy”, a lot of the media outlets, populist and cultural movements, and many others, the law enforcement profession – and law enforcement officers themselves have come under fire.
It appears to be unpopular to support law enforcement, and almost a badge of honor to denigrate, disrespect, and downright hate those who choose to put their lives on the line to protect and serve our nation and its citizens and residents.
A lot of readers will be too young to remember this, but this is very much like what happened to our military servicemembers who were serving during the Vietnam War, especially during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. They were reviled, disrespected, spat upon, and attacked for doing their duty. Korean War veterans actually had it a little better, as “the forgotten war”. They were just forgotten, almost in shame. It wasn’t until the Gulf War in 1991 that they finally got recognition and respect, and those who disagreed with the current war and / or the national policies did not take it out on the military members, but the politicians and others who were responsible for the policies they disagreed with.
Servicemembers finally got the respect they deserved for those years of sacrifices.
Now it’s popular to do the same thing to serving law enforcement officers. The vast majority of all Law Enforcement Officers (LEO’s, police, cops, or whatever your vernacular is) are dedicated, caring people who only want to protect and serve others – not as a slogan, but actually protect and serve.
No one segment of society is above reproach. The law enforcement profession is no exception, and because of the authority they wield, should be held to a higher standard and scrutiny than most other professions – but they also attract a much higher percentage of good, solid citizens with a service oriented drive than most others. Those individuals who break their oath should be pulled out of the ranks, fired and if appropriate, prosecuted. All the rest should be respected for their dedication to selfless service to protect us.
Here are some of those dedicated officers. 83 as of today (with 7 shot and killed in the last month alone) who have lost their lives in the line of duty just this year. They won’t be the last.