RCMP Leadership: Has it got the “right stuff”?
I’m sure that most of you are aware that since I publically criticized (2008) a handful RCMP senior executives and certain use of force “experts” for being “brainwashed” by Taser International, the Force and I had been undergoing a catastrophic loss of rapport. Without going into great detail (a further post?), this messy spat came to a head in August of 2012. It seems that (ATIP material bears this out) all the way down the food chain, from the Commissioner’s office to “E” Division Occupational Health and Safety (psychologists and physicians) a smear campaign had been organized to discredit me (it even had a name, “The Webster Initiative”). I think it is illustrative to point out that after spending inordinate amounts of RCMP time, energy and resources, to say nothing of taxpayer dollars, their clumsy, amateurish, misguided, panicked, and mean spirited attempt failed miserably (the BC College of Psychologists dismissed the RCMP’s complaint against me, in its entirety).
Anyway, as a result of this acrimonious divorce, I have moved on. I am now employed as the psychologist in a Canadian Armed Forces military hospital. In my role there I am often exposed to the militaries of other countries. As I have an interest in leadership models, I have been attracted to and particularly impressed with the US Marines Leadership System (which shares many similarities with other “character-based” models). The Marines live by the philosophy that leaders are made, not born. Every marine is instructed in three fundamental categories; leadership objectives; leadership traits; and, leadership principles (USMC, 2003).
As you may have noticed from reading this “guest-blog”, I like to think critically and I like you to join me. What do you think of this? I’ll outline the Marine Leadership objectives and traits (which by the way, work well in life-in-general) and you compare them to your experience of the RCMP leadership philosophy (do they have one?). The many, and varied, persons who follow this blog would love to hear from you no matter what side of the issue you come down on.
In the Marine philosophy there are two reciprocally related leadership objectives. The primary objective of Marine Corps leadership is mission accomplishment. Does the RCMP have a goal oriented approach? Do RCMP leaders identify long-term goals and the short-term steps needed for the organization to reach them? Could you, as a member, recite this “battle plan”? Have you, as a member, had any input? Do you, as a member, get the sense that RCMP leaders are more concerned with their own careers and maintaining the Force’s Disneyland image than getting your input?
The secondary objective of the Corps is troop welfare (i.e. individual and team well being). Marine leaders also recognize that without an equal emphasis on this objective, mission accomplishment is impossible. Have RCMP leaders shown you the empathy necessary to look after the needs of the membership? Although written by a US Army leader, Marine leaders live and die by this credo:
“The capacity of soldiers for absorbing punishment and enduring privation is almost inexhaustible so long as they believe they are getting a square deal, that their commanders are looking out for them, and that their own accomplishments are understood and appreciated”.
- Gen. Dwight Eisenhower (1944)
Do you, as a member of the RCMP, feel like your resilience is supported by such a “square deal”?
Military research has identified fourteen traits to which all marines are encouraged to aspire. Individual Marines are encouraged to exhibit these traits and are judged on their ability to do so. Let’s see if your leaders have “the right stuff”:
Bearing – do RCMP leaders carry themselves in a way that reflects alertness, competence, confidence, and control at all times? Do you recall Mr. Paulson “going off” on S/Sgt. Tim Chad? Do you recall him publically attacking, before a Senate Committee, members on long term medical leave (e.g. Cpl. Roland Beaulieu)? Could Mr. Paulson have shown more leader-like bearing, or compassion during Cpl. Ron Francis’ very public meltdown?
Courage – do RCMP leaders have the moral courage (inner strength) to stand up for what is just? Do they accept blame for when they are clearly responsible? Think for a moment, can all those members who have lodged grievances or alleged mistreatment (e.g. harassment, bullying, intimidation, favouritism, nepotism, racism, sexism) be wrong?
Decisiveness – do RCMP leaders make good decisions without delay? Do they gather all the facts and weigh them against each other? What has been your experience of the grievance process? Or the harassment policies, “advisors”, investigations, and outcomes?
Dependability – can RCMP leaders be trusted to perform their duties even under existing guidelines? Can they be trusted to complete a job – start to finish, in a timely fashion, without distraction? Do RCMP policies, and orders, issued by the chain of command increase or decrease the likelihood of dependability? Can you depend upon RCMP leadership to provide you with what you need to achieve the highest standard of performance? Or are your tasks outstripping your resources and making you look second rate in comparison to your municipal brothers and sisters? Have you checked out working conditions in the Burnaby or Surrey B.C. detachments lately? What’s that you say, another murder where?
Endurance – do RCMP leaders exhibit the mental and physical stamina necessary to endure pain, fatigue, hardship, and stress? For example, do they have what it takes to address the multitude of member complaints before them? Do they have the “stuff” needed to address flagging morale? Or would they rather “change the channel” and blame the victims?
Enthusiasm – does the RCMP leadership have a sincere interest and exuberant attitude in the performance of their duties? Are they optimistic, cheerful, and willing to accept the challenge of leadership? Or do they give the impression of wanting to fly “below the radar” until retirement?
Initiative – do RCMP leaders take action without being given orders? Do they meet new and unexpected situations with immediate action? Does the Commissioner, for example, show resourcefulness and innovation in an attempt to get a problem solved? Or does he appear impotent in the (cozy) relationship he has with his puppet-master, the Prime Minister?
Integrity – is the RCMP leadership honest, truthful, and congruent in what they say and do? Does their behaviour always reflect their public statements? Do they put honesty, sense of duty, and sound moral principles above all else? Or do they seem controlled by their obsession with their own careers and the (Disney) image of the Force?
Judgement – can RCMP leaders think clearly about the Force’s well publicized dysfunction? Do they make calm and orderly decisions in an effort to transform what is broadly described as a “horribly broken” organization?
Justice – are RCMP leaders fair and consistent? Do they give consideration to all sides of an issue, and base their decision on merit? Or are they more concerned about image? Or is it based more on looking after one of their own? Can you recall some recent dispositions from Boards of Review that had you scratching your head?
Knowledge – do RCMP leaders seek contemporary knowledge (e.g. media relations, public relations, organizational management) that would allow them to better serve their membership and the Canadian public? Is their knowledge, broad, current, progressive, and evidence based? Or are they mired in RCMP history, tradition, and “sacred cows” (bison)?
Loyalty – in your experience do RCMP leaders have a deep emotional tie with those they lead? Do they manifest an unwavering loyalty, not only up but also, down the chain of command? Do you feel the “love in the room” when the Commissioner speaks to you? Has the “outfit” lost sight of you and become the Royal Conservative Mounted Police?
Tact – does RCMP leadership deal with their members in a manner that will maintain good relations and build rapport? For example, does the Commissioner have the social intellect to appear firm; yet still be calm and polite? Do you recall the derogatory “woo hoo” gesture he made when referring to members on medical leave suffering from a variety of serious adjustment issues?
Unselfishness – do RCMP leaders always put the membership on a plane with the public they serve? Do they avoid making themselves comfortable at the expense of their members? Are they always considerate of those they lead? Are you aware of the “E” Division member, on long term medical leave who was forced to drive several hundred kilometers, round trip, through snow storms, more than once, to pick up his pay cheque at HQ (direct deposit to his bank had been stopped in a ploy to get him to speak with the “back- to- work- bunch”)? Are you aware of where Cpl. Ron Francis spent much of his Christmas season?
Well there it is; food for thought. Can you add any personal experiences or perspectives? I welcome your critical thinking and intelligent analysis. And while I’m at it, I wish to thank all of you (contributors and readers) for your interest in this blog. It is all of you who have made this forum such a success. You may not be aware of this. but you have an international police audience. Please make yourselves a happy and healthy New Year; and above all else continue to support each other through the tough times. I may have moved on, but I have not forgotten.
Dr. Mike Webster, R. Psych.