Leadership does not bend to political winds
by Jim Ruth Bradley County Sheriff
Oct 27, 2013 | 643 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print


Last week we discussed that the first quality of leadership is the character trait of being honest.

Billy Graham has drawn more followers, I believe, because people sense he is genuine. Not only because of what he says, but because of who he is.

I admired former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She said concerning leadership and power: “Being in power is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t!”

Generally, your reputation tells who you really are.

At the BCSO, being quasi-military, we use the military model command structure. The challenge is to put the right person in the right leadership position.

I’ve served with some good leaders, and some not so good — some who were sorely lacking in the right qualities.

I think another quality, after honesty and competence, is humility.

One of our residents was telling a group of us about Walt Disney visiting his new park years ago in Orlando, Fla. While walking along the parkway, he stopped and picked up some trash that had been discarded.

His new CEO said: “You didn’t have to pick that up, we have people to do that. It’s their job.”

Walt is said to have replied: “It is all our job to keep the park clean.”

It is said he dismissed the CEO the next day. All of Disney’s employees always addressed him simply as “Walt.”

There’s a story from early days. The Sunday School teacher asked the class what they aspired to be when grown up. One boy blurted he wanted to be a “returning missionary!”

The teacher said, “Oh, that’s wonderful, you’re willing to go to primitive lands and live a sacrificial life.”

The youngster said, “No, I don’t want to do that. I just want to stand on the ship and wave to the crowds welcoming me home as a hero, a returning missionary.”

Too many want unearned accolades and imagined privileges they assume a leader should have. They often do not want to pay the price or really earn the privileges of leadership.

People who make the best leaders and public servants have already served in the roles they expect to lead. They have a generosity of spirit and true humility. You see it even in the toughest leaders.

I like what the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps said when he was introduced as taking over the position. He said he would immediately clarify his perception of the position by saying he was a “Marine Corps rifleman currently assigned to the position of commandant.” Humility and power: a good combination.

A real leader in law enforcement doesn’t check to see which way the political wind is blowing before he takes a stand. He doesn’t fold when threatened or criticized by those who do. When it comes to keeping people safe, he stands.

We are all sickened by the self-serving carrying-on of the politicians in Washington. They are supposed to be leading our country but are failing miserably. I suspect they are waiting to “play it safe” when we so desperately need strong leadership.

But back to the point at hand.

I want the BCSO to be a constant, now and in the future. I’m not speaking of politics, but professional law enforcement — people who have taken to heart the slogan “To protect and serve.”

The policies and procedures we’ve put into place are meant to encourage a continuum of professional law enforcement for years down the road. These policies are also meant to be very cost-effective as well.

With the election season coming up, there will be those who attempt to sabotage or undermine the real sincere efforts of our employees who are dedicated to the profession. This generally occurs with slanderous misinformation and rumor. We’ve encouraged our people to not be distracted but continue their good, hard work.

As I’ve mentioned before, most of our deputies are good, hardworking professionals, just like our other public servants, the teachers, those in health care, others who really care about people.

Thanks again for reading.