Change Is Inevitable. Progress Is Optional.

We only have the past – and we have the future.

I suggest that my friends, students and clients pick one … and stick with it.

Most “strategic planning” in organizations consists of the periodic creation of a list of short-term projects upon which to spend The People’s money. That is neither “strategic” nor “planning.”

As a nation we risk falling behind other nations because while we’re worried about the next sound bite or the next project or the next headline, they are planning for the strategic benefit of three, four, five, six or seven generations of the unborn. They couldn’t care less about the daily skirmishes and instantaneous gratifications with which too many Americans are consumed. They’re constantly working on the long-game.

With similar logic I predict that – if we can, as Benjamin Franklin observed, keep this Republic – upcoming generations will be attracted to, leading, participating in and supporting the enforcement and peace keeping profession in the very near future. There will be communities wherein true, strategic leaders take the long-view to define new, more effective models.

Why? LINK: Because it’s their money.

From those future communities, young citizens, seeing opportunities for effective public service will step up to take pride in making it work.

To anyone beating their chests, wailing like co-dependents and decrying how things are “going to hell because of this new generation,” I always ask, “Hmmm … who’s children are those …?” Where did the new generation learn that the old ways weren’t working so well for anyone?

To those folks I say:

Where did they learn that they are “leased not purchased” by the organization they work within?

Where did they learn that they have a right to express their opinions in the workplace without fear of retaliation or retribution?

Where did they learn to listen and respond to citizen needs and expectations rather than somehow believe they know what’s best for everyone?

Where did they learn that the general public is not and cannot be the enemy?

They learned those things around the dinner table from sarcastic, cynical role models – parents and other care givers – seeking validation of their own, self-inflicted victim-think by listening only to the echoes of their own screams.

They learned those things as they stood, alone, at the ballpark, waiting for such role models to come see them play but knowing Dad or Mom were probably too busy or were working mandatory overtime because their own so-called ‘leaders’ didn’t have the guts nor the skills of persuasion nor the commitment to the long-game to convince the taxpaying public that “minimal staffing,” a flawed funding algorithm, a flawed staffing algorithm and acceptance of the short-sighted complacency and selfishness of tenure among those with rank were combining to burn people out, destroy family relationships and destroy mental and physical health.

They learned to adopt more effective choices … time-and-time again … when they looked around only to find their role models weren’t at the grade school play or the basketball game or the music recital or the Christmas party or their own birthday celebration because those role models chose work over family and bragged about “workaholism.”

They learned those things when they heard their role models express frustration about being treated as a suspect by their own chain-of-command.

They learned those things from watching their caregivers explode with anger upon seeing even minor criticism or negative stories about the industry or their organization in the media.

They learned those things when they heard their role models and the co-workers of their role models refer to citizens as ‘shit bags’ or ‘dirt bags’ and lumped everyone together from a cult-like, self-isolated, tunnel-vision, bunker-view of all humanity.

They learned those things by watching their home – the one place that should have been safe for them – turn into broken family relationships, serial monogamy, bankruptcies, negativism, child abuse, domestic violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicides and seeing you die from a heart attack or stroke within five years after retirement.

They learned to loathe the way things have been and the way things are.

My children learned to not be like the worst me. Your children learn it the same way.

I see it happening nearly everywhere I go; yet, a few folks, still clinging to past myths, are resisting change in an “all or nothing” view of the world. I die a bit each time I waste a little of my finite existence on this planet reading comments on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter … from people of rank or no rank in the industry who can now only speak in pissed off, blaming voices. Many are merely faux toughies consistently seeking or fabricating reasons to feel oppressed or victimized. They are of the view, “Well, if citizens don’t like us, screw ’em. We just won’t do anything. After all, what are they going to do when there’s no one to protect them! That’ll teach ’em.”

That is not “leadership.” It’s not even adult behavior.

I note again: “All Or Nothing” behavior is NOT effective adult behavior. It is toddler behavior. It is adolescent behavior. It is dysfunctional behavior.

Such behavior makes easier to cast anyone who disagrees as an enemy and when that happens, we become their prisoners forever. It is circular logic ranking right up there with the effectiveness of wiping one’s nose with a hula hoop.

The next generation and the next generation of people in enforcement and peace keeping will most likely be people who are attracted to future attitudes and methodologies in which a seamless system of balanced, community-based, community-supported public safety services will be delivered.

The next generations are not likely to be attracted to the industry merely because 90% of your recruiting videos show little else about your organization than masked officers in tactical gear brandishing firearms pushing their way into buildings. They’re going to be attracted to those agencies that also show they are investing much of their time making a positive difference in people’s lives.

They’re not going to be attracted to the industry solely because existing voices from law enforcement claim they’re “under attack.” They’re going to be attracted to those agencies that also show they are community builders, that there is no such thing as a ‘non-marketing employee’ and are ever-reaching out to create informed ambassadors among citizens and visitors.

They’re not going to be attracted to the industry because of toxic masculinity. They’re going to be attracted to those agencies where team members understand that violent responses to violence are a statistically minimal (but necessary) aspect of the career and that the truly adult employee knows the difference between a violent event and a lifestyle that adores violence.

They’re not likely to be attracted merely to photos and videos and brochures showing light-bars-hand-cuffs and defensive tactics “crime fightin'” … they’re going to be attracted to agencies that are also focused upon and dedicated to engaging the community in meaningful education and true problem-solving – not as adjunct “projects” but as part of the fabric of the industry’s culture.

Healthcare … Fire … Banking … Public Education … all were forced to change. Some organizations within those industries did well; others vanished. None of them have it right quite yet, but, their true, effective, inspirational leaders are willing to put the old ways behind them and define a new future.

It is not because all of the old ways were bad … it’s just that all the old ways are now … uh, … yesterday.

Remember I said this: In the same manner as American “sick care” had to evolve to “wellness care” in order to satisfy and stay relevant to customers and, by the way, to stay in business – law enforcement must evolve away from mere short-sighted, isolationist, crime fightin’ stats-driven, symptom-solving.

It must deliberately change or be forced to change into inspirational-vision-driven, transparent, partnership-embracing, community-wellness, problem-solving leadership organizations committed to effective economic development and economic growth.

You can do it now and you can do it well – or it will be done to and for you.

It is that simple.

Adult leadership wisdom would tell us that whining about, ridiculing, denying, and avoiding change or engaging in or tolerating victim-think not only embarrasses any profession, it serves to make the participating dinosaurs irrelevant observers of the inevitable.

I submit that it is better to be community builders – integral to designing a safe, secure, rewarding future for communities – individuals, families, neighborhoods, businesses and visitors – then finding or creating the resources to make it happen. It’s what adult leaders do.

While you’re here I remind you yet again: LISTEN to one another.

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Article written by

Stephen L. Kent, founder and president of The Results Group, Ltd., has more than 30 years of leadership, training and facilitation experience. As a leadership & training consultant, he specializes in helping organizations design and implement programs to improve personal, leadership and organizational effectiveness, strategic planning, issues management and community engagement. Steve is a dynamic speaker who is known for his straight talk that gets right to the heart of key issues. He and his family reside in Oro Valley, Arizona.

4 Responses

  1. Dan Christensen
    Dan Christensen at |

    These are truly great thoughts to help shape decisions in our future. I have always respected how you inspire me in thought…. I look forward to helping shape that future.

  2. Zae Hudson
    Zae Hudson at |

    Great perspective my friend. Be safe!

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