NTOA Forums Tactical Leadership General Leadership Do You Have to hold a Title to Take a Leadership Position? Reply To: Do You Have to hold a Title to Take a Leadership Position?

Matthew Self

Absolutely not. The word “leader” is a subjective term. While it does refer to an assigned position, such as a supervisor, it is also based on a multitude of personal characteristic or environmental factors. While it could be an assigned position; it could be based on factors such as knowledge, experience, ability, or political saavy.

Sometimes, a person might become a leader because they are the only person who has the ability to do so at the time. Often times, the first responding officer to a critical incident becomes the leader, even if they lack the experience or personal qualifications of other officers. Since they are the only ones with the intimate knowledge of what assets are needed and where they are needed, they take the position of leader until assigned leader can take command.

Leadership could also be deferred by an assigned supervisor. For example, as a shift supervisor, I make it known to my subordinates that I expect them to take complete control of their investigations, even if I am on scene. I simply act as a reference guide, asset coordinator, and mentor; only stepping in as needed to prevent their actions from failing. By doing so, I expand my subordinates’ ability to act without need of supervision and open my own leadership capital to handle the other problems that are bound to occur during the workday.

Sometimes, based on the formalities of the organization, it is possible for someone to have leadership characteristics so strong that they become the true leader over an assigned position. For example, early in my career I was reassigned to a rural district in my county. I had a fairly inept Sergeant who was able to maintain his position as he didn’t actually do anything that would allow him to be fired. However, I also had a zone partner who was extremely experienced, knowledgeable, motivated, and an amazing ability to communicate with others. As a result, he became the de facto leader of our shift. This leadership imbalance was so noticeable that even our Lieutenants and Captains used to communicate with him as if he was the ranking officer of the shift.

In conclusion, leadership is a fluid concept and a person who is a leader is constantly shifting.