What does leadership mean to you?

For me, the only way to achieve positive leadership is to know yourself, understand yourself, be clear on your vision and values, and lead by example.

I worry about the strong focus on learning from the leadership of others. Of course, we should study good, strong leaders, but it’s very dangerous to impersonate any other leader. Find your own approach.

What are your biggest leadership challenges?

There are 13 local policing divisions in Scotland and I work within one of those. The big challenge for me is around engaging communities. We need to be part of the communities we police and carry out policing alongside those communities.

We also need to do it increasingly with partner agencies, such as health services, local authorities and voluntary groups. Getting that message across externally, and internally to our own people, is very important.

How does the general context of policing feed in to those challenges?

We are four years into the largest merger of any public-sector body in the UK.

Pre-2013, there were eight individual police services in Scotland and two national agencies – the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA) and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA).

These services and agencies employed over 30,000 staff, with 24,000 of those being police officers, and had a combined budget of £1.1 billion.

On 1 April 2013, all of the police forces were merged into one single agency, Police Scotland. We needed to not only merge effectively and efficiently, but also reduce our overall budget.

One of the big challenges with becoming one organisation is that individual communities can feel as though they have lost their identities, and our teams in those areas can feel that they have become a smaller, less important cog in a huge organisation.

The biggest asset we have as a service is our people and how our people work with communities. We’ve got to continue to fight for that.

What are you focusing on personally from a leadership development perspective?

I’m retiring from Police Scotland shortly, so I’m developing myself in a different way. I’m in the second year of a doctorate at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, looking at continuous improvement in quality of service in the public sector.

As part of that, I’ve been doing a lot of lecturing on leadership programmes within the university and I find that a really effective way of sharpening my own thinking and continuing my own learning.

How are you developing your people?

I like to sit with a team of people, talk through ideas and challenge them. I make sure that all my team understand that if they come up with an idea, it’s their idea, but if things don’t work out, I will take responsibility. After all, that’s my role.

I believe in moving away from the theoretical, towards tools and opportunities that allow people to test ideas and approaches in a safe environment.


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This article was taken from the Yule 2017 edition of Edge magazine

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