It’s Your Turn?
By Ken Kilbride
If not me, then who? If not now, then when?
Earlier in my policing career, shortly before my promotion to sergeant, I spoke with a veteran officer who said he wanted leadership and inspiration—both, in his mind, sorely missing—from the department. At that moment I realized that regardless of what I did or said, I could not meet his expectations. He expected me and others to lead him, but would not accept his own responsibility to provide leadership to either the organization or himself.
My coworker identified poor management, but blamed leadership. The failures of the organization to manage its resources correctly led to low morale and finger-pointing toward formal leaders. I believe that everyone has the responsibility to lead, but my coworker, like many employees in our organization, thought differently. Instead of providing leadership, he quickly blamed others. As John Maxwell observed, “Leadership is a choice you make, not a place you sit.”1
In most organizations, we promote the best of those who “raise their hands,” not necessarily who will be the best leaders. How do we create an environment where the best rise to the top? How can we encourage the best to accept formal leadership positions? Perhaps, some of the best qualified do not step forward because they cannot fulfill what we expect leaders to be. Would others more willingly accept formal leadership roles if they embraced their own leadership responsibility, stopped blaming others, and recognized that others supported them?
We have to realize that the responsibility to lead rests with each person. When we say that our organizations lack leadership, we actually blame ourselves. If we agree that everyone carries the responsibility to lead, then we hold the duty to fill the void left by others in leadership positions. It is time for each of us to step up and lead.
Kenneth Kilbride, a retired lieutenant from the Plantation, Florida, Police Department and an instructor in the Center for Police Leadership and Ethics at the FBI Academy, prepared this Leadership Spotlight.
1 John Maxwell, 360° Leadership (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005).