Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Montgomery Police Department, Office Training School partner for leadership development

by Tech. Sgt. Sarah Loicano
Tech. Sgt. Sarah Loicano


8/13/2015 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Members of the Montgomery Police Department, in a new partnership with Officer Training School faculty, participated in a two-day leadership consortium here Aug. 6-7, 2015.

Montgomery police officers attended a tailored version of leadership training coursework that OTS cadets receive. Day one included leadership self-assessments and courses in conflict management, effective supervision and full-range leadership. Day two involved tackling the Leadership Reaction Course, or Project X, a field exercise consisting of a series of obstacle course challenges.

When deciding which courses to include in the leadership consortium, Capt. Kris Walker, OTS chief of training, said that the initial goal was to look at solving problems in communication and personalities between members in an organization.

"The main premise was to look at work center focus, to look at those issues that regardless of the institution, the organization or its actual goal or mission, any team or work center is going to have," explained Walker.  "[There are] similar, universal managerial obstacles that front- line supervisors have to be able to overcome to get mission success."

The second portion of the consortium consisted of field training at the popular Leadership Reaction Course, where participants navigate various obstacles with specific goals, rules and time limits, while different team leaders must get his or her team successfully through the obstacle within those limitations. The LRC emphasizes and solidifies the theoretical classroom lessons on leadership, personality, and conflict management, under the real- world restrictions of time and limited resources.

"What it does is it separates us from all the things we know and puts us in an environment where someone is going to have to stand there with a team and understand that the performance of their team is all on their shoulders," said Col. Scott Lockwood, OTS commandant.

He explained that even extremely successful people can find that leadership role to be an uncomfortable experience.

"When you're standing up front and everything relies on you, and you're accountable for the performance of that team ... sometimes it's a lonely feeling," he said. "We're trying to invoke those feelings in an individual going through this to see how they use their team members and all the talents that are out here. In the end, hopefully what we can find out is that not only have you trained yourself to be a better leader, but that when you walk away you know what your weaknesses are. That's as important as anything, that humbling experience."

The field training exercise is essential to underscore the classroom lessons of the course, as the police officers quickly discovered.

"[The leadership reaction course] teaches you how to work collectively and collaboratively with your guys to achieve a goal. It's a building exercise to learn the strengths and weaknesses of everyone in the group so you know where to pool your resources," said Capt. Shannon Youngblood, a 20- year veteran of the MPD. "You don't realize how you can apply lessons until you get out here and work together with the group and bring in the classroom portion. It's a great idea. It lets you realize that just because you're the leader doesn't mean you have all the answers. You can take the input from the other guys and collectively form the best way."

Despite the heat and physical challenges that going through the reaction course presented, Youngblood spoke about the benefits and camaraderie of the day.

"The best part is everyone having fun and working together. There are so many personality conflicts that can happen when you have so many people together, but everyone has worked together really well and gotten along really well, and it's just been a lot of fun," he said.

The training initiative was developed to create a community partnership between the police department and OTS, allowing both organizations to compare and contrast leadership training efforts as well as learn new ways of conducting leadership training, both in an academic and field environment. Although the police department has several avenues for police development, including Command and Staff College for sergeants transitioning to lieutenants, Capt. Wayne Gaskin, the assistant division commander for the MPD training and recruiting division, jumped at the chance to work with Officer Training School faculty.

"In developing leaders, we believe that there are always ulterior ways to develop those skills, and in the consortium with Maxwell and OTS, we wanted to take advantage of the alternative training methods that were utilized in developing our skills as leaders," Gaskin said. "It's a learning experience for our officers, that there are alternative ways to fix problems. Seeing this training gives us the opportunity to take advantage of alternative ways, showing that you need to work together as a team to fix those problems."

In exchange for classroom and hands on leadership training, the police department hopes to provide OTS faculty with leadership experiences in the form of ride- along opportunities, grappling techniques and active shooter scenario response.

The Department of Defense routinely sends senior military officers to civilian schools for new perspectives on leadership, organization management and behavior, and Lockwood explains that this partnership was created with that same goal in mind.

"It's very easy for us to feel like we know a whole lot about what we're doing and that we're doing it the right way and that we have the answers, [but] it simply takes a little exposure to outside perspectives and the diversity of perspectives to be able to find out that there are a lot of things we can learn from our community partners," said Lockwood.

"It's really a natural fit with MPD to be able to come out here and do these exercises with us. I think we're going to be able to glean as much from MPD as they are from us. We're benefiting from them; hopefully we are able to educate and train them on the way we do things and how we think about leadership. We look at OTS to produce leaders of morale character. We think that's the most important aspect of leadership right now that the American people deserve."

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