Cultivating Leadership: Embracing the Power of Positive Recognition

Beyond demonstrating leadership skills themselves, police chiefs are also responsible for developing leadership in those they oversee.

However, police chiefs are often unable to interact with each officer on a daily basis.

Luckily, a culture of positive recognition can be a consistent source of cohesion, productivity, and morale. Providing supervisors with recognition strategies and tools can greatly assist you in fostering leadership in your ranks.

Rethinking recognition

“Be careful not to take consistent acceptable job performance for granted.”

In the high-pressure, high-stakes field of law enforcement, simply being able to perform under the weight of procedure, law, and public scrutiny is a huge accomplishment. Your people should hear as much from their supervisors and the organization at large.

More importantly, taking time to tell officers what they did right puts the focus where it belongs—on your desired behaviors and actions.

But this only works if you know what leadership skills you want to cultivate and how they can be measured.

Identifying skills that support leadership and recognition

To get started, consider the leadership traits necessary in your organization—especially those that further a culture of recognition. These core competencies can take many forms but generally include versions of the following:


A supervisor who can thrive in a team is one who can identify high-functioning performance within one.


Knowing how to say something is as important as knowing what to say, especially regarding the idea of workplace recognition.

Mediating and Coaching

A skilled mediator can see the positive in situations and spin them in ways others might not consider. A solid coach, meanwhile, knows when to use praise and when to use criticism, and how to apply both.

Documentation proficiency

The ability to skillfully “put it in writing” is an underrated talent in law enforcement, and one that definitely shines when it comes time to formally recognize an individual for an achievement or sustained acceptable performance.

Other traits noted by police chiefs include leadership in tough situations, core values, and day-to-day “floor effectiveness.”

Setting up early intervention systems to measure and encourage leadership skills

After noting your core leadership competencies, you will need a method of measuring them.

Law enforcement is a field that thrives on concrete proof. Using a system with defined processes to appropriately document when personnel exhibit leadership allows agencies to make more informed supervisory choices and specify the impact they want these individuals to have.

Though incorrectly considered purely punitive or corrective, early intervention systems are one of the best tools for consistently capturing instances of leadership.

With customizable fields, flags to highlight behavior, strong documentation, and inherent transparency, early intervention systems can be easily applied to leadership development.

You can also set up thresholds for activities that often go unnoticed—such as being on time every day. When an officer reaches a threshold you’ve set, the flag can tell supervisors to formally commend that officer. When it comes time to think about promotions, the career records of the officer will show patterns of commendable behavior based on the traits your organization cares most about.

However, make sure your supervisors know that recognizing and documenting instances of leadership is a priority for your organization. The best systems in the world only work if your people use them.

Fostering a consistent process of recognition, affirmation, and documentation throughout your organization will create a positive and productive workplace culture and affirm leadership strengths.

When leaders rise through a system that recognizes and guides healthy professional development through positive recognition, they are more likely to use the same approach—creating a cycle of long-term cultural change worth enhancing.

Want a system designed to integrate positive recognition into your processes?‍

Posted on Sep 16, 2021