The Next Police Leaders in Alberta – Should Gender Determine Who Holds the Position?

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“Three New Top Cops” are being sought after following the retirements of Chief Ron Knecht of the Edmonton Police, Chief Roger Chaffin of the Calgary Police, and Todd Shean Commanding Officer of RCMP K Division. What does this mean? It means there is the potential for a shift in leadership in any or all those organizations. Following this news, I had spoken to several people who stated the next leaders should be female. I couldn’t help but ask “why”? The answers given to me ranged from: “only a female leader can change the masculine culture of policing,” “a female leader would be best able to help bring other female officers into the ranks,” “only a female leader can rid the old boys club.” I could go on, but most of the comments all followed a similar theme – only a female leader can fix a masculine culture. I sat with that comment, and I have come up with the following to help explain why I do not believe gender alone should dictate the next leader of these three police organizations or any organization for that matter.

Leadership, according to author Peter Northouse (2013), is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. 

  • Keywords
  • Process – implies that a leader affects and is affected by followers
  • Influence – how the leader affects or influences followers
  • Group – without followers, there is no leaders
  • Common Goal – the leaders and followers, have a mutual purpoese

I fail to see in that definition it describes a leader by their gender, sex, race, or age. I do know the description focuses on an individual’s behavior and ability to influence others, in a positive way, to achieve a common goal. Can a male or a female lead? Absolutely. I believe anyone can be a leader.

However, to make comments such as “one, or all, of the three police organizations will have to be led by a female for change to occur”, is a ridiculous statement. A leader is and should never be defined by what they were born with, but instead how they have proven to lead themselves and others. What characteristics should the next Leader of the “Big 3” in Alberta have? How about considering the following?:

1) Someone who takes extreme ownership for mistakes that happen in their organization. Mistakes and failure should never be something that rolls downhill to the lowest level. A mistake or failure happens because “YOU” as a leader failed to do your job.

2) Exude humility and admit when you do not know something. Be proud enough to admit when you lack the skills or ability to do a job. However, continuously learn and educate yourself to be better and more knowledgeable about your position.

3) A willingness to surround yourself with a diverse group of people who have a different mindset than you. Engage in conversation and openly listen to those who differ from your opinion, to learn more and see the world from a different perspective.

4) Being a leader is more than holding a title. Work hard to earn the respect of others. Without followers, you are no leader.

5) Coach and mentor those around you to empower the future of leaders. Do not fear others will be smarter or more skilled than you. Revel in the fact you recognized the potential of others and empowered them to see it as well.

6) Good leaders are never content with the status quo or waiting for something to happen. They are continually looking to improve the world around them and make their business, organization, or team better. Recognize what is wrong with the statement “that is the way we have always done things.”

7) Have a balanced work and family life. Respect how others may not wish to be married to their job, but instead balance work and family.

I could, of course, go on with the characteristics a true leader should have. However, I believe those are the most critical. Not once in that list does it state the best person to lead must be a male, a female, Caucasian, Asian, Black, or Indigenous. Leaders come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and genders. Leaders are those who rise to the top because they put others needs ahead of their own. They make smart and strategic decisions, and they are willing to admit when they do not know something. As Leadership expert John Maxwell stated, “people buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.” For those Commissions and Organizations choosing the next Police Leaders to “Lead the Big 3”, ensure the leaders you choose have the internal qualities and the vision to lead, rather than looking at the physical attributes they possess to be a leader.

Jen Magnus has a Doctorate in Business Administration: Organizational Leadership. Dr. Magnus conducts workplace assessments, investigations, and training related to bullying and harassment,organizational culture, leadership, workplace investigations, and trauma-informed interviewing. She is a 14-year veteran of policing and a member of several Public Boards. All notes, publications, and opinions are her own unless otherwise specified. © Magnus Consulting 2018

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