Servant Leadership in Police Organizations

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Servant leadership portrays a guiding philosophy where the main objective of the person in charge is to serve. Servant leaders delegate authority, give precedence to the interests of workers and help employees to develop and improve their performance. Many companies have succeeded thanks to servant leadership, and there is a need to employ it in police organizations. Initiating the perception of servant leadership in a police organization would gradually change it from good to great. This would call for a cultural change in the police force. Developing the right personnel and a favorable environment is impossible without extensive training and development. Police leaders should understand that there is a need to decentralize authority to all ranks in the organization. This can only be possible if police leadership is taken through the process of transformation.


Servant leadership differs from traditional leadership in which the major aim of the leader is to enhance the prosperity of the organization or business. Servant leaders share authority, give priority to the needs of employees, and assist people in growing and succeeding as much as achievable (Focht & Ponton, 2015). Such a form of leadership overturns the norm and ensures that customer service becomes the most important concern. The moment leaders change their state of mind to serve first, both themselves and their employees gain (Greenleaf, 1998). Workers under a servant leader realize personal growth, and the company continues to thrive attributable to the employees’ dedication and engagement. This paper discusses servant leadership and its application in police organizations. Servant leadership has benefited many successful companies and could be applied in police organizations.

Major Traits of Servant Leadership

Servant leaders think about the needs of employees first. They focus on the fulfillment of the pressing desires of others first. The leaders have a strong sense of caring and accountability for their personnel. Paying attention marks the ability to successfully receive and comprehend details in the course of communication (Blanchard & Hodges, 2003). Effective listening is essential to successful servant leadership. Without the capacity to listen keenly, information might be easily misinterpreted (Dierendonck & Patterson, 2015). Since concentration marks a vital trait of servant leadership, there is a need to reinforce it through profound commitment that requires valuing the contributions of others. Another significant trait for enhanced servant leadership is empathy. It entails the ability to appreciate the notions of other people while caring about their feelings and helping them to overcome different challenges.

To improve the practice of effective listening, servant leaders should deal with the setbacks and impediments to concentration. For example, the greatest challenge is that instead of being attentive to the concerns of an employee, the servant leader might, at times, be carried away by other issues and may then start wondering what to say in response. In such instances, the servant leader should avoid being distracted by the outlook of the speaker or another person’s actions, which may seem appealing. To prevent such hindrances to effective listening, the leader should try to remain attentive (Grisaffe, VanMeter, & Chonko, 2016). For example, when communicating with a person, it is vital for servant leaders to be heedful of their concerns. If there is a text message or phone call that requires an immediate response, it is recommended for a servant leader to notify the person speaking to them. When finished, the leader should make the person aware of the readiness to proceed with the communication.

Being curious, maintaining an open mind, and developing the desire for knowledge and growth are major traits that can help servant leaders to enhance their skills and abilities. This could be facilitated by having close and thoughtful attention not only to words but also the tone and nonverbal signals such as facial expression, posture, and gestures. This makes the leader receive information as clearly as possible. Being curious makes the leader take conversations as opportunities for discovering something or improving their understanding (Hoch, Bommer, Dulebohn, & Wu, 2018). Having an open mind is valuable as the leader’s approach to perceiving things may not be fundamentally the best. Moreover, open-mindedness makes servant leaders avoid forcing their views or protecting their standpoints by being defensive.

Improvement of performance, as well as maintenance of success, calls for servant leaders to develop and articulate empathy. Empathy enables the generation of self-confidence, insights into the feelings and emotions of employees and customers, understanding of the rationale of others’ reactions, facilitation of good judgment, and making of informed decisions (Song, Park, & Kang, 2015). Additionally, being attentive to other people and involving them in different tasks improve organizational performance. Just as demonstrated by Jesus in the Bible, developing empathy enables servant-leaders to address the needs of others affably, which improves their morale (“Bible verses,” 2019). However, showing care and empathy does not mean that servant leaders should always concur with the employees or change their views. Instead, it allows leaders to be cognizant of the experiences of employees and customers and respond in an approach that values their ideas and experiences.

Comparison and Contrast

Collins (2001) and his research group embarked on a study of more than 1,000 businesses with the aim of identifying why some were doing well while others were not. The group established that excelling businesses, which they called ‘great,’ had a unique kind of leader who was guiding them. The study referred to such ahead of an organization as ‘a level 5 leader’ in its descriptions. In line with the research, level 5 leaders create a paradoxical arrangement of profound personal humility and strong professional determination. There is a need to realize that level 5 leadership is not merely about reasonableness and humility. It is similarly about ferocious determination, a nearly stoical fortitude to carry out activities that require being done to ensure that the organization succeeds. Collins (2001) affirms that they had a lengthy discussion with the team concerning the best means of describing successful leaders. At first, some terms like ‘servant leaders’ and ‘selfless executives’ were presented, but the members of the group eventually settled for their description as ‘level 5 leaders’.

Showing evidently the reasons behind traditional leadership practices not being suitable anymore, Meese and Ortmeier (2001) focused on the development of leadership for law enforcement officers in the twenty-first century. In their study, they centered on the leadership attributes that are appropriate for police officers in community policing settings. Combining leadership theories with actual occurrences, for instance, in a case study, crises, and applications delves into the full scope of leadership abilities. Such capabilities are apparent in the leaders’ communication style, planning, decision-making, problem-solving, and human relations, which make it possible for one to distinguish between effective and ineffective leadership. In their text, Meese and Ortmeier (2001) explain and emphasize the advantages of ethical leadership practices in all police departments. The authors demonstrate the application of different leadership approaches as they investigate the principles applicable in different situations and the ones linked to success, ethics, and charisma. They also discuss the importance of using effective leadership in the police service. Although the study centered on policing, the different forms of leadership theories discussed may be employed in any organization.

The effective leadership described in the studies, one by Collins (2001) and the other by Meese and Ortmeier (2001), show a strong connection with the traits of servant leaders. Just as explained in the studies, servant leaders are selfless, value others, and produce great results. Some people may be mistaken to place greater emphasis on servanthood and shift their focus away from the leadership aspect of a servant leader. However, both studies, as well as a superb explanation of the traits, agree that the two sides should be balanced and carefully merged. A level 5 leader certainly demonstrates the attributes of servant leadership. However, the two terms could have some differences, which could explain why Collins (2001) and his team rejected the term ‘a servant leader’ and opted for a level 5 leader’. The research team did a careful analysis of the two and found them incompatible. Similarly, Meese and Ortmeier (2001) shallowly covered a wide scope of leadership approaches and could only have touched on an aspect of effective leadership by chance, which is assumed to represent the traits of servant leadership.

In their book entitled Good to Great Policing, Wexler, Wycoff, and Fischer (2007) reinforce the concepts by Collins (2001). For example, they assert that concerning the attributes of a level 5 leader, there could be justification for a critical distinction with regard to police leaders. The public aspect of policing and increased visibility concerns that leaders in the police force experience may defend their application of power and the call for justice in their interrelations with the people whom they serve. Wexler et al. (2007) assert that the commanding presence of a police officer is a vital attribute. Therefore, after a terrorist attack, tragedy, contentious use of force by a police officer, or child trafficking, a law enforcement chief has to talk about the occurrences publicly. If this fails to happen, police bosses risk losing credibility with the people and law enforcement officers in their departments. The use of force by police leaders, as underscored by Wexler et al. (2007), is contrary to the traits of servant leadership or attributes of level 5 leaders. For the police force to employ effective management, their executives and government officials should read and understand the attributes of servant leadership, in addition to the emphasis of a level 5 leader as provided by Collins (2001).

Servant Leadership in a Police Organization

Bringing the concept of servant leadership to a police organization would progressively transform it from good to great. This would require the leaders of the police force to develop the traits of servant leadership, which would then be inculcated in the individual police officers to be felt by citizens whom they serve (Jaiswal & Dhar, 2017). Such an approach would make police leaders value the needs of the officers first, have a strong feeling of care and accountability for them, listen effectively, have an open mind, and be empathetic toward the law enforcement agents they are heading. Similarly, such ideals would be instilled in the police officers towards the people in their respective jurisdictions.

If police organizations embrace servant leadership, their bosses would have the qualities of a level 5 leader discussed by Collins (2001). This means that police leaders would become ambitious and inventiveness-driven, which would eventually transform the operations of officers, thus making them esteemed rather than feared. Servant leadership in the police force would make the officers demonstrate that their work is more about the roles of safeguarding the interests of the people they serve than themselves (Jit, Sharma, & Kawatra, 2016). Police bosses would also show a great passion for learning and teaching their officers to undertake policing in the best possible way. In such a scenario, the most valuable factor in a police organization would not be having adequate personnel but having the right people who are ready to get on board and cause the transition from good to great.

Cultural Change

Bringing the notion of servant leadership to police organizations would necessitate a cultural change. Development of the right people and an enabling environment cannot be accomplished without intensive training and development, honest appraisals, briefing, ensuring that all the personnel at the helm of the organization demonstrate servant leadership, and having excellent field officials. Once all the personnel in the police force are adequately prepared, they should be supported in a manner that makes them feel motivated in their work (Muthia & Krishnan, 2015). After carefully assessing their individual talents, skills, and abilities, the officers should be assigned tasks in which they can best nurture their proficiencies.

Unchecked power corrupts the mighty. Police officers have a lot of power and authority and should be made continually answerable to the people they serve. Different pressures may initiate the concerns of abuse of power, dishonesty, corruption, and malfeasance. It is thus incumbent on executive directors to develop a culture of discipline and servant leadership within the police force. This would be enhanced by making the officers feel the need to serve the people diligently, do the right thing, and avoid prejudice and malice at all times (Shrestha, 2015). Such a culture would ensure police officers and their leaders communicate well, inspire others, make proper decisions, resolve conflicts amicably, and plan effectively while organizing, implementing, and evaluating programs and policies successfully in a bid to uphold personal and professional integrity. The development of such a culture would act as a fundamental ingredient to servant leadership in police organizations for successful policing.

Benefits and Pitfalls of Servant Leadership in a Police Organization

Rather than issuing orders and commands to subordinates and the people they serve, as well as seeking to dominate every discussion, servant leadership presents an excellent approach to leading police organizations. It would enable police officers and their leaders to treat their powerful positions as opportunities for serving others (Williams, 2017). This would oblige asking for feedback, valuing subordinates, and doing everything possible to ensure that the organization and the entire police force serve the best interests of citizens (Moisan, 2007). However, there would be both benefits and pitfalls of servant leadership in a police organization.

One of the benefits of servant leadership in a police organization is that it would boost the morale of law enforcement officers. Excellent leadership that respects employees inspires the entire organization. It would make police officers and subordinate staff eager to report to work each day and enthusiastic concerning their mission in society. The humility of the leader acts as the leading predictor of whether the junior officials will be loyal and committed to the organization and its vision (Gutierrez-Wirsching, Mayfield, Mayfield, & Wang, 2015). Another benefit of servant leadership is that it would create a road to positive change. Although it is very difficult to change an organization’s culture, servant leaders achieve it without much resistance. This is attributable to their skillful way of selling the change idea to the employees who then willingly support it. Through effective communication, listening keenly, and valuing the officers’ contributions, such a leader would steer the police force to greatness.

One of the pitfalls of servant leadership in a police organization is that just a few people would have the ability to practice it. Amid other traits, a servant leader should be empathetic, a keen listener, treasure the interests of employees, and reach an agreement instead of forcing his/her views. Most police commanders and directors cannot effectively develop such attributes. Even if they try to feign it and are more comfortable being authoritarian, it would only result in fruitless efforts and extremely poor results. Another pitfall is that the majority of leaders would not be open to the idea of servant leadership. There is a widespread feeling that if junior officials find the leader empathetic and soft, they consider the boss weak and take advantage of the situation, which may torture him/her psychologically (Gutierrez-Wirsching et al., 2015). Therefore, police bosses prefer being autocratic and demanding instant results whenever there is a problem instead of engaging in discussions.

A Brief Plan

Implementing servant leadership in a police organization requires a successful change process to make it possible to encourage the contribution of all officers. Such a change will enable police bosses to respect officers and become effective problem solvers. Police executives need to first be made to understand the need for change from the traditional approach of leading their organizations (Steden, 2017). This will require that they identify and understand the current problems facing the sector. Most of the existing issues are caused by the organization functioning in a paramilitary fashion where there is a controlled chain of command, as well as a top-down hierarchy. In the current arrangement, power and authority to make and enforce decisions are placed at the top. This results in the lack of personal accountability and inadequate feeling of ownership and self-esteem among police officers, therefore, preventing them from delivering effective services to the people.

Decentralization of authority in police organizations calls for the efforts to train officers to be ready to take up the necessary administrative tasks after learning the vital servant leadership concepts such as empathy, loyalty, leading by example, integrity, and prioritization of the interests of others. It is after a thorough training of potential officers that first-line directors, command-level officials, and staff representatives are carefully selected. To create a setting that supports servant leadership, there is a need to instill such qualities through training and development, over and above an overhaul of the police system (Steden, 2017). This helps to weed out the conservative-minded leaders who will keep thwarting change initiatives hence making it appear impossible.


Servant leadership is associated with the management viewpoint, where the major aim of the director is to serve. It also necessitates honest assessments, discussions, making sure that the executives demonstrate servant leadership and outstanding field training officers. Employing servant leadership in a police organization would result in benefits such as improvement of the motivation of law enforcement officers. Nevertheless, it would bring pitfalls that need to be carefully addressed to ensure continued success and the provision of excellent services.


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