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Learn to Lead Yourself

Here's a sneak peek at a soon to be published article in The Blues Police Magazine. Whether you wear a badge, own a business, or want to tackle the everyday the best way to do that is to learn to lead yourself.

Leadership Starts with You...

“We have the lowest morale ever,” said a commander from a police department in a large city.

“There’s no accountability. Officers are afraid to act because they are now the target of our city’s politicians,” he continued.

What do we do when it all seems to be falling apart? The once coveted job as a police officer is taking more from us than ever before. With our police chiefs caught up doing battle with local officials, and training budgets slashed, we are left to fend for ourselves, relying on supportive police associations, and the public to champion our cause.

When it seems that there is no place to turn, how can we help ourselves? First, make the choice to lead. By our nature, we operate with excellence at our core. Our training helps build it. Once trained in our police duties, we sometimes only rely on that training to solve everything. There is a famous quote that says, “you will always fall to the level of your training.” By making the choice to lead, you choose to do more, to be more than what your training has provided to you.

Next, create a plan to lead yourself. After all, if we simply try to be an excellent mom/dad, partner, spouse, supervisor, wearing lots of hats every day all the time, overwhelm and stress are typically the result because leaders want to be the best. When we try to wear a lot of hats all the time, typically we are not “engaged” or “present” in it. It becomes wrote and robotic. So, what can you do to build a leadership plan for yourself so you can serve in all your roles effectively while also being “present”?

First, go back to the beginning and define your why. Specifically, why did you decide to be a police officer? Author Simon Sinek says it best, “Your why is the one constant that will guide you toward fulfillment in your work and life.” Once you define it, write it down and put it in all the places you find yourself each day. Your office, your patrol car, your locker, your personal vehicle, and in a pocket in your uniform. When times get tough, and they will, you have your why as reminder of your excellence and why you chose to become an officer.

Second, write out what is important to you right now, in the place you find yourself. Perhaps you are a new shift supervisor, and the most important thing right now is to be a good listener. Or maybe you are a veteran officer who has sought out some help because you cannot seem to separate job life from home life. For you, the most important thing may be to learn how to be dad or mom again when you walk in the door from work.

Third, learn a strategy to delegate. We use control or the feeling of it to alleviate stress. Control can sometimes backfire however, often causing more stress in the end. While “in the moment” control makes us feel good, when things get quiet and we cannot turn off the control, however, we often find ourselves wound tighter than a rubber band, ready to “snap” at the next person who asks for something, or worse at our own family. Ask others to do certain things at work and at home which can help alleviate the feeling that you need to do everything and be everything to everyone.

Another strategy is, take time for yourself. Make YOU a priority. This is one of the most self-LESS and important things you can do. Whether it is setting a specific gym time each day or making time for your favorite hobby. The more purposeful you are with things away from your job the better your brain’s function. You can “turn off” and be in moment. A note of caution here. Should you find yourself unable to “turn off” it may be a sign of hypervigilance and uncontrolled “fight or flight.” Please reach out for help.

Make the choice to lead yourself first, so you can lead others more effectively. When things go sideways, or you get stressed remember your why. Be more effective at work and at home by putting yourself first, and delegate. By implementing these strategies, you will be able to be engaged with everything. _____________________________________________________________________________

Samantha Horwitz is a regular contributor to The Blues Police Magazine. She is a 9/11 first responder, former United States Secret Service Agent, speaker, and author. She and her business partner, ret. NYPD detective John Salerno created A Badge of Honor, a post-traumatic stress and suicide prevention non-profit for first responders. John and Sam host MAD (Making a Difference) Radio each Wednesday 7pm central live on FB @Makingadifferencetx. For more about Sam and the wellness and resiliency workshops for first responders, visit

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