Essential Leadership Traits in Law Enforcement

If you’re considering a career in law enforcement, or are already in a law enforcement role, there are tons of opportunities to both promote and advance your career, helping to make a difference to not only those in your community, but your department too. For those who have a passion for making a difference, and want to take charge and enter into a leadership and managerial role, here are some of the leadership qualities that law enforcement commanders must possess.


To be an effective leader in law enforcement, you need to have an intelligent vision for the unit you are working for. As a leader, you should understand where your group are, and where they could be in the future. Having a positive vision of what the future holds can help you make the correct decisions to guide your workgroup on the right path towards sustained success, not only for you and your team, but for the entire organization.

A successful law enforcement commander needs to understand the challenges and obstacles your agency will face both in the near and distant future. Having a clear goal for your team and staying committed and driven towards your work is what will help you succeed as a leader in law enforcement.


One of the most important skills that a leader in law enforcement must possess is honesty. Being transparent and direct with subordinates is a must. Dishonest leaders can create all kinds of chaos in their agency, which can tarnish your reputation and lose your credibility within your team. A flock thatis leaderless will inevitably fall at the first hurdle, so it’s important that you thrive in a structured environment and adhere to the rules and regulations set. There are various benefits that go hand in hand with honesty, such as:

  • Developing closer friendships within your team
  • Building trust among the workforce
  • Increasing confidence
  • Being respected by your colleagues

Ability to Motivate and Reward

As a law enforcement leader, you need to learn how to lead an entire agency in the right direction. Inspiring those in your field to work to the best of their abilities is a must. So, knowing how to relate to people of all generations, cultures, and backgrounds, and knowing what strategies to use to motivate them towards success is key.


Understandably, leaders in law enforcement need to know what they’re talking about. If you haven’t got the relevant training, experience, and credentials under your belt, it’s likely that your team won’t take you as seriously. If you are keen on securing a leadership or managerial position within law enforcement, completing a BA in policing can equip you with the attributes you need to flourish as a leader. To get more of an understanding on what the program entails, you can click here. There are also various roles that you can go into upon graduation, such as:

  • Chief of police
  • Deputy chief of police
  • Inspector
  • Staff sergeant
  • Sergeant major
  • Staff superintendent
  • Police constable 1st class

Empathy and Understanding

To be an effective leader in law enforcement, you need to have a level of compassion and understanding for the team you work with. Caring about your subordinates and wanting them to strive for perfection will help keep you on track and ensure you’re doing the best you can in your role. In both a professional and personal manner, being on hand to offer reassurance and guidance is what will make you stand out from the crowd. Remember, current officers are the leaders of the future, so they need to be served and supported in whatever way possible.

Effective Communication

No matter the field of law enforcement you work in, each member of the team needs to know how to cooperate effectively in order to complete tasks. If you’re in a leadership role, it’s up to you to take charge and implement measures to make sure everyone is on track. So, knowing how to communicate effectively with your team is crucial. There are numerous benefits that effective communication can provide, such as:

  • Fostering trust with others
  • Providing direction and clarity
  • Strengthening relationships
  • Increasing engagement
  • Resolving problems quicker

Active Listening

While you may be able to communicate effectively with your subordinates, if you’re not listening and taking on board what they say, you may find your team won’t be working to the best of their abilities. Regardless of whether you agree with their points of view or not, you should still take their thoughts, feelings, and ideas into consideration. Some of the key benefits of active listening include:

  • Avoiding misunderstandings
  • Building relationships
  • Improving productivity in the workplace
  • Overcoming disagreements
  • Being respected by your workforce

Hierarchy Awareness and Delegation Skills

In law enforcement, there is a defined command hierarchy across the departments. In most departments, officers are expected to follow the chain-of-command, so it’s important that leaders are able to delegate tasks and responsibilities correctly, as well as instill trust in their subordinates to execute their duties successfully with minimal oversight. Building a network of trust and accountability from the top down through the ranks can make a big difference in productivity and efficiency in the workplace. When delegating tasks, you will be able to:

  • Focus on higher-level tasks
  • Develop trust between your team
  • Improve communication
  • Improve productivity and efficiency


To be truly effective in law enforcement, you will need to be accountable for both your superiors and the members you lead. If a task hasn’t been completed according to plan, it’s up to you to hold your hands up and take accountability for the actions of your team. Taking complete ownership of your unit’s failures, as well as working out strategies and ways to rectify the situation is what will put you in good stead to becoming a successful leader in law enforcement.

No matter what kind of law enforcement role interests you the most, for those who would like to enter a leadership position, it’s important that you possess all the essential traits listed above. For your colleagues to take you seriously, being passionate about your role and knowing what it takes to lead a team towards success can help you stand out from other candidates.

Atif Mallo

Atif Mallo is a freelance blogger with huge interest in technology, science, life hacks and health. He loves coffee, cheesecake and chess. Drop a line in comments to leave feedback for him.

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