Leadership – Then And Now

When I first joined the Met it was a much different animal to the one it is today.  At just about all ranks from Sergeant up to the Commissioner supervising officers threw their weight around and frequently (but certainly not always) bullied and cajoled junior officers into doing as they were told.

Being the sort of person I am I frequently found myself on the receiving end of the mother of all bollockings, somewhat similar to Fergie’s famous ‘Hairdryer’. Did I deserve them? Probably. Did they affect me? Almost certainly. Did disciplinary proceedings follow? Almost never.

Without those bollockings I wouldn’t be the man I am today, they toughened me up and helped form my character. The 19 year old that joined the Met in 1972 is not the same person I am now. Was it right? Quite honestly, I can’t answer that question. By today’s standards definitely not, but do I resent it? No I do not.

I most certainly remember undergoing my initial training at Hendon, a shy, retiring 19 year old being ‘tutored’ in the art of telling someone that their son/daughter/spouse had been killed in an accident etc.  I stuttered along with epics like “I’m sorry to have to tell you…..” or “I’m afraid I have to tell you…..” only to be shouted at by the instructor “You are NEVER sorry” and “You are NEVER” afraid.   I hate to think what modern-day training methods would make of that, but we all endured it and grew quickly.

There was what I used to call the Captain Nike culture about the place; “Just Fucking Do It” or simply JFDI.

Occasionally, just occasionally, one of those supervisors, normally an Inspector, would inspire and you would follow him/her to the end of the Earth and back again. That was a Leader.  They would shine like a beacon and would seldom be popular with senior management, mainly because they cared about their troops. It worked because of something called RESPECT, and it went both ways.

Then, some time around the late 80s things began to change. Constables were calling their Sergeants Jim, Steve or Harry, and this practice continued upwards. Instead of being told to do things, we were getting asked “would you mind awfully doing a School Crossing at Fenn Street?”  Frequently answered with “I’d rather not if it’s all the same to you”

Some time around the mid 90s the third era of ‘Leaders’ emerged. These were people who couldn’t actually ‘lead’ you along a length of rope.  Having got to their esteemed position in life they set about surrounding themselves with their chums.  Inspector or Chief Inspector Smith would get promoted and their friend Chief Superintendent Jones would discover that he/she had a vacancy and Smith would find themselves being posted to Jones’ unit.

In the twilight of my career I worked in an environment where we had to be vetted above the normal level. It wouldn’t be a lie to say that I got more than a tad pissed off seeing senior officers transferring in to our unit who either failed the vetting, or refused to be vetted, because their chum was in charge and said it would be OK. One particular senior officer got quite prickly with me because I repeatedly refused to tell him things he had not been vetted to receive.  Oh the perks of being in your 30th year.

These people are not Leaders, and I doubt that they ever could be. If they’re lucky they’re Managers, possibly Bosses, but Leaders they ain’t.

I don’t have close contact with anyone left serving any more so I’m a bit out of touch, but I get the distinct impression from what I can see and what I can read the the Met is now almost devoid of Leaders. They seem to have an abundance of Bosses, not many Managers, and few, if any, Leaders, but they do seem to have a lot of Senior Officers who have served time on Merseyside, or maybe that’s just in my imagination.

So there we are, at the end of my potted history of modern day bosses in the Met.  If I had my time all over again, which era would I choose?

No contest. Take me straight back to the 70s or I wouldn’t join again.  Did I enjoy being shouted at and getting the odd bollocking? No, nobody does, but despite everything I KNEW WHERE I STOOD, and if the excrement ever did hit the apparatus with rotating blades the bosses would normally back one up, the Leaders ALWAYS would. You may think that constitutes ‘Squaring things up’. I don’t. I think it’s a very effective way of dealing with a problem without causing unecessary shite. The problems were dealt with in a far more effective way than involving the forerunners of Professional Standards, and I’d call that Leadership, using Discretion, and making sure whatever it was never happened again.

I absolutely despair when I see the antics of the modern era Professional Standards, and I seriously don’t understand how they can continue to operate, particularly in the manner that has been described so often over the last couple of years.  If anybody there thinks they are a Leader, I’ll send for the men in white coats myself.

One thing is for certain, there is no place in the Command Chain for ‘Jobs For The Boys’. We need an IMMEDIATE return to ‘Best a Person For The Job’, and ALL Police Ooficers, regardless of rank, should possess a a higher than average level if a Ethics and Integrity. Lack of Integrity should automatically bebar any promotion candidate.  Only then can we once again claim to have true Leaders, able, and willing, to Lead from the front. Get it right and the troops will actually WANT to follow.

We must never forget, of course, that a true LEADER can be found at any rank, not just the higher echelons. Even the humble Constable can prove to be a LEADER. My last thought, is that in order to re-establish confidence in the MANAGEMENT, any officer, of any rank, who thinks that it’s appropriate to refuse to submit to Vetting at any level, should be sidelined, and left to count beans until they change their mind.  Promoting candidates in one’s own image, or because they belong to the same Lodge etc is a practice that should be formally outlawed. I have never had a problem with “best person for the job” and what little I did achieve in my career was obtained soley on merit and not Masonocracy or whatever.

The Sweeney, Ashes To Ashes, Life on Mars and even The Bill to a degree, I could live quite comfortably under regimes like those, with all their faults (I would never say that the Met has ever been perfect).  Pink and Fluffy, and Politically Correct do my head in, not because I want to slag people off and get away with it, but because, tough as it was, as I said before, YOU KNEW WHERE YOU STOOD.

Can any of you say that today?