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The Essential Heart of A Leader

What have I got to contribute to the myriad of materials on Leadership? The clue is in the title of my book, 'The ESSENTIAL Heart of a Leader'. This encapsulates the personal experiences and beliefs that I developed during my 34 years of service as a police officer in the United Kingdom. Leadership for me is not found by trying to emulate any of the great leaders like Napoleon or Nelson Mandela. Rather, the essential characteristic of leadership is an authentically personal and human connection with those for whom we are responsible. Note, I did not say, those I commanded.

The default style of leadership exhibited by the vast majority of my senior colleagues was Command and Control: " Do this because I'm ordering you to; Do this because I'm a more senior rank than you, " or " Do this because this is how we do things here." I was fortunate to learn and understand and deliver coaching as a leadership style, whilst a senior leader in the police.

You can well imagine that there were occasions in law enforcement when the critical nature of an incident required a more prescriptive style of leadership from me.

I will illustrate an extreme occasion when I needed to adopt a Command and Control mindset, but never lost sight of the fact that those in my team were people, not 'resources.'

I was an Inspector with responsibility for the supervision of operational delivery across two police districts. I was supervising the closing stages of a serious firearms incident. It was a very hot day. A man in a tee-shirt, shorts and with sausage dog, came up to me, and said: " Who is in charge here?" "That will be me I said." He replied, " I've just found the dead body of a girl nearby."

I asked him to repeat what he had just said. I was now evaluating his body language, tone of voice and demeanour. He was telling the truth.

I left a Sergeant to conclude the incident and went with the man. Sadly, we did indeed find the dead body of a girl.

I needed to be prescriptive to ensure that this Critical Incident was correctly managed from the start.

Several hours later, I became aware that it was getting dark, and that the night shift of officers would need to have access to the vehicles of all my team. I coordinated with a senior colleague to ensure this went smoothly.

I then remembered that none of us had eaten for at least seven hours. Due to the adrenalin rush of a myriad of operational requirements, this fact had passed me by. One of my sergeants was acting as a logger, recording the rationale and times of my decision-making. We were in a phase of the incident where all of us were static, awaiting relief from other officers.

I said to this sergeant " Please go and see every officer on the cordons ( a secure and sanitised area that was protecting the potential forensic opportunities for this case until released by the Senior Investing Detective Officer). Ask them for their individual orders of food and drink, from McDonald's. Thank them on my behalf for their performance today. Then come back to me for my order."

He replied, " I'll just order burgers, chicken, fries and coke."

I said," You're not listening. Write down each officer's name, with their food and drink request. This is important. It is my way of saying thank you to them. Please convey my thanks with feeling.

The sergeant left on his task.

He returned. I saw he had complied with my instructions. He then included himself. I gave him my order.

Whilst he was away, I called the manager of the largest McDonalds in Watford.

I explained the need. I said I didn't know the accounting process in the police for this request, so to charge me with the full amount. The manager said, there will be no charge.

Eleven years later, I met some of the people involved in this murder operation, who had been on the cordons that day. No one mentioned that the offender had been caught and sentenced to life imprisonment. They said to me that they were amazed that under the intense stress of a murder investigation, I had remembered them as people and their welfare.

Maya ANGELOU (1928-2014) " I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." An esteemed and distinguished barrister provided the following review of my book. "I greatly appreciated ‘the Essential Heart of a Leader’. Thank you. The book is an autobiography, leadership manual and history of the police successfully rolled into one. I much enjoyed the anecdote of not telling a lie having punched a villain in the face, which is both a good story and a good principle. Your account is haunted by the murder of Frank Mason when he intervened in an armed robbery before coming on shift. I felt the pain reading how, twenty years later, you organised a successful commemorative gathering for him and his family. At the beginning of the book, you recount the story of your mother challenging a teacher who had decided to call you Tony in contradiction to her having christened you Anthony. Now you sign yourself Tony. Should we know why? ‘Essential Heart’ tells a concise history of the United Kingdom Police Force with the disheartening account of the failure to secure for the police the right to join a trade union. Two hundred signatures of serving officers were required to commence legal action. It took two years to get 200 signatures. Then lawyers advised that the action would fail because the cause had not been rapidly and widely supported. That is so frustrating. ‘Essential Heart’ is a short and easily readable guide to leadership. A book for everyone. To be a good leader you must know, as people, those with whom you work. Treat them as people and trust them as people. Sounds easy but it’s hard to do. Thank you again. I hope police officers will all be given your book."

The reason I am used to describing my name as 'Tony' rather than 'Anthony' is because of my time in the police. Names were invariably shortened, or people were given nicknames. I opted for 'Tony'. The Boom Town Rats group sang "I don't like Mondays" and The Bangles sang " Manic Monday" so my other options weren't that appealing!


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