Leadership – a Request and a Response

I recently received this email message from a student of Police Dynamics and aspiring law enforcement leader from a western Sheriff’s Office asking for advice. I thought my other readers might like to read his request and my response…

Hi Ray,

I’ve been with the department for 6 years now in the detention facility and am now attending the Law Enforcement Academy. I have been elected as the president of my class, and am wondering if you have any guidance you can provide as to how I can be an effective leader. I know you have a lot of experience and hope that you can share some of that with me.

Here is my response…

I would be glad to help in any way that I can. Just the fact that you have sought me out shows a lot about your character and potential as a leader. First of all, good leaders are humble, teachable, and always putting the needs of others first. Leading by example is not an outdated idea. It is the essence of leadership.

I have always sought to model my own leadership style after others that I admire. Historical figures, like George Washington or Stonewall Jackson, have been great inspirations to me, as well as living examples who have mentored me over the years. One caveat is that current mentors will oftentimes let you down. They are only human too. So take the good and learn from the bad that you find in them.

Read, read, read. There is so much out there on leadership and I suggest you find books and/or videos from authors who you respect. Look for those that approach leadership from a character-based perspective. Steven Covey has some great stuff as does John Maxwell. Doug Dickerson, who is a frequent guest-poster on the Police Dynamics blogsite, offers an excellent book you might want to consider. I have an e-book that is available for sale on the site that you might also consider. Training courses are also good. Take advantage of all that you can.

Remember this, the greatest leader who ever lived said, “I came not to BE served, but TO serve” and “He who would be the greatest among you must become the servant of all.” Follow this principle and you can’t go wrong. Look for ways to serve others, to help them achieve their goals, and to become more successful. Leadership will come when you are ready. It sounds like you are well on your way with the class presidency. Find ways to serve your fellow classmates instead of yourself and you will stand out in a positive way.

Please stay in touch and let me know if there is any other way that I can help you along your path. But also remember this: the path of leadership is the path of MOST resistance. There is heartache and struggles ahead for the true leader. But for those who are called to it, there is no other way…!


Character and the Crime Rate

Can a character initiative in your law enforcement agency actually reduce the crime rate? Is there a connection between good character and crime fighting? In this last installment of the Dynamic of Character from the Police Dynamics Video Training Series, I take a look at the impact of character training programs on the crime rates from the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office and the Goose Creek Police Department in SC; the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office in Florida; and Fresno, CA.

Understanding the Character Test and the Definition of Truthfulness

Sorry for the long delay in posting a new police training video. I was on leave enjoying a great time at Myrtle Beach with my family. But now I’m back in Kabul and ready to start blogging again.

There are three components to building a culture of character. The first is Gaining a New Vocabulary by familiarizing yourself with the working definitions of the 49 character qualities as defined by Character First! (click on the link for a free download of the character definitions). The second is Making the Character Connection by praising the character quality that produced the achievement rather than the achievement itself. The third is Understanding the Character Test. These are circumstances that crop up unannounced, although not unexpectedly, that put your character to the test. Some people say that a character test builds character. I don’t dispute that. But I think more importantly the character test gives you an opportunity to demonstrate the character that you already had developed in your life.

In this short training video from the Police Dynamics Video Training Series, I explore the dynamic of the character test and how the Character First! definitions can be used in the workplace to promote good character. I also use the definition of Truthfulness (Earning future trust by accurately reporting past facts) to demonstrate how you can technically be honest but still be deceptive. Truthfulness means being Full of Truth…

Character-Based Supervision

Understanding the Character Maxim and how to make the Character Connection by praising for character rather than achievement makes you a better supervisor. As supervisors, we tend to say things like “Good job” or “Keep up the good work” when praising the members of our teams. Our vocabulary tends to be very limited. But character-based supervision requires a new vocabulary that links the character quality with the achievement. It forces us to become better supervisors, better parents, and better leaders.

In this segment from the Police Dynamics Video Training Series, I demonstrate how to use the character quality definitions from the Character First curriculum to motivate and praise those under your authority.

After watching this video, every time you find yourself saying “good job” or “keep up the good work,” it should serve as a red flag. Realize that you have just praised someone for achievement instead of character, make the character connection by coming up with at least one character quality the person displayed, then praise them for the character quality as well. This will remind them to keep up the good character…!

Pitching Character – Character-based Praise

Shortly after I took office as Sheriff of Dorchester County, we experienced a tragic crime. An armored-car was hi-jacked and one of the guards brutally murdered. Due to an intense investigation and some top-notch forensic work, we were able to identify the murderer and successfully prosecute the case.

Right after the jury came in with their verdict, I sought out my Detective Sergeant (now a Lieutenant) who had handled the crime scene and forensic portion of the case. I knew the conviction was largely due to his efforts and I wanted to recognize him for a job well-done.

Lt. Earl Asbell

So I found him out back of the courthouse and went up to praise him as any good Sheriff should. But instead of praising him for his achievement (gaining the conviction), telling him “good job,” or “keep up the good work,” I praised him for three character qualities. By “pitching” these character qualities, right across the plate so he could catch them, I made the “character connection” and ensured that I sent the right message.

Gaining the conviction was the achievement–the fruit. Character qualities like attentiveness, thoroughness, and diligence were the seeds that produced the fruit. If you focus on the fruit and neglect the seed, you can produce a bad crop. It’s the Law of the Harvest. According to our Character Maxim, if you focus on achievement to the exclusion of character, you encourage bad character. 

Watch this short video excerpt from the Police Dynamics Video Training Series as I demonstrate how to use character-based praise to encourage high achievement. 

Praising character over competence requires a new vocabulary. The 49 character qualities defined by Character First provide an excellent tool.

The Rookie’s Pursuit – Making the Character Connection

Do you remember your first pursuit? Most police officers do. They can turn out really good or they can turn out really bad. As law enforcement leaders, we can use character-based praise to help minimize the potential disasters associated with high-speed police pursuits.

In this short clip from the Police Dynamics Video Training Series, I use the story of a Rookie’s Pursuit to illustrate just how important it is to praise the character that produced the achievement rather than the achievement itself. 


In this illustration, the Rookie exercised the character quality of self-control:

rejecting wrong desires and doing what is right.

His self-control is what kept his own emotions in-check and maintained his composure so he could make good decisions under pressure.


The Character Training Institute defines Determination as:

purposing to accomplish right goals at the right time, regardless of the opposition.

Watch this heart-warming video of a young girl whose determination allowed her to overcome an incredible obstacle in order to reach her goals in life. 

Click here to download the full list of the 49 character qualities and their definitions.

Twin Towers of Giza

The Twin Towers of Integrity is a model I use to illustrate the relationship between character and competence. Both are important for our success and together they form the twin towers that support our integrity, which in turns builds trust, which fuels our relationships. These trust-based relationships with the community can then be used in a  coactive manner to establish peace. This is the essence of the coactive model of policing which has led to so much success for the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies throughout the world that have adopted the principles of Police Dynamics.

In this video, we visit the ancient pyramids of Giza in Egypt to drive this point home…

Character and Competence

We are back to some more traditional Police Dynamics training videos from my trip to the Middle East.

Here I use the Temple of Zeus in the ancient city of Jerash in Amman, Jordan to explain the Twin Towers of Integrity and how it is possible to build a life on competence alone. But then what happens when the character test shows up? We know police officers like this. They know the law, they know procedure, they know policy. But you can’t trust them…