Key Traits For The Law Enforcement Leader

May 26, 2017

Key Traits For The Law Enforcement Leader

by Ian D Scofield

Some leaders are born, others are made.  No matter how a leader comes about their position, most possess some of the same traits.  Continuing on from our post on Tuesday, we are going to talk about some of the best traits that law enforcement leaders possess.  Learning these traits and then learning to possess them will help you to step up the ladder of law enforcement leadership but also help you to be a leader those under you respect.

Team Builder

Being in law enforcement means that you are operating as part of a team.  Being a leader means that you are part of that power structure that supports the overall health of the team.  A key trait in any leader is to be able to foster the sense of team among those under you.  Help your team learn to think for themselves and think together.  Don’t micromanage them.  At the same time, don’t set them up to sink.  A lot of the other traits here will help to encourage a team building trait in yourself.  After all, a leader is a team builder and that is what separates he/she from being a boss.

Problem Solving

It is important for any law enforcement officer to be able to think on their feet and solve problems.  Developing skills to solve problems will help you come up with answers when policy and procedure doesn’t cover the situation.  As you move up the ranks this will become ever more important because you will encounter more situations that you won’t be trained to handle.

Open To People

Any manager will come across team members that have problems and need someone from leadership to discuss them with.  Being open to hearing from those under you is a great tool.  Sometimes problems from officers just need someone to hear them, other times, the system put in place to handle situations don’t work the way they should.  No matter what, a good manager makes it known they are available to those under them.


We all have times when we are wrong, I have.  It is part of human behavior to not admit when you are wrong but hiding mistakes can be hazardous to your team.  Your team needs to know that you are a leader and admitting when you are wrong or have made a mistake is a key trait.  If your team can benefit from a mistake (i.e. it can be used as a learning opportunity), do so.

In the past we have discussed this but we bring it up again because it hasn’t changed in importance.


Caring about your career is important because that is what separates a job from a career.  Passion is different though.  Passion shows that you love what you are doing.  Approaching every day of work with gusto and ambition is contagious and those around you are more likely to enjoy what they are doing.  Enjoying your job also provides you with the energy you need for those times when you are feeling underappreciated, overworked, and stressed out.

Influentially Inspiring

Those under you will follow what you do, but they will also look to you for the inspiration they need for their everyday duties.  The amount your officers look to you only increases when times get difficult such as with this week’s bombing of a concert in the UK.  With the ability to be inspiring you will be a true leader.  People under you will be inspired to carry out their jobs with the same passion that you do.  For example, a lot of employees at businesses do not believe in the business’s mission statement, goals, and principles.  A leader inspires those under them to care about these things and cultivate each one in themselves.


As a police officer you already know that you need to have integrity.  Leaders in the law enforcement world need to have even more integrity.  One definition of integrity I learned when I was younger was “integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.”  While in some senses you may have more people watching what you do as a leader, it may be easier to do things that you probably shouldn’t be.  Keeping the integrity is something that every officer and leader should pride themselves in.

Combine all of these traits that we have talked about and become the best law enforcement leader you can be.  I hope that they don’t just benefit you either.  I hope they benefit your whole department.  As soon as you start to exhibit these traits, others will start to pick up on them.  You should also be helping that process.  Good luck, and stay safe out there.

About the author:

Ian graduated Seattle University with a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice. He has held positions as an Auxiliary Public Safety Officer, a Security Patrol Supervisor, and as an in-house security officer for a major medical center. Through all of this he has picked up a wealth of experience, training, and education that he is happy to pass on to others. Ian can be reached at

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