The following is a post from The Virtus Group member Thom Dworak. 
"I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself. "
~ Robert E. Lee
6 Seconds, an international corporation invested in building emotional intelligence (EQ) around the world, presented a webinar on gender and leadership.  The online session examined the differing emotional competencies between men and women in leadership positions. 

High performers of either gender displayed a high level of EQ.  But the breakdown between men and women were inverse images!  EQ categories in which men scored high, women scored low; and visa versa.
The women are:
  • More empathic;
  • More reflective about their emotions;
  • Consider the impact of their decision in the future.

The men:
  • Make quick decisions, whether right or wrong;
  • Were not very introspective about their emotions;
  • Were less empathic.

When looking at the events that have transpired over the past year involving deadly interactions between law enforcement and citizens, a glaring light shines forth.  The majority of the police officers were male. Let that sink in for a second.

Now I am not saying that these male officers did anything "wrong"…as many of these incidents have been justified through internal and criminal investigations, grand jury processes, and US Department of Justice scrutiny. Those are all objective, legal, and policy issues. But let’s look elsewhere -- the emotional responses that may have allowed events to spiral downward, ending with a tragic outcome. Not a popular perspective from which to examine police actions!

Even in 2016, law enforcement is a still a male-dominated profession. When I entered law enforcement in the early 1980s, most every officer was a male…and a white one at that!  They all looked like me. In my agency, the only person of color was the animal warden; the only females were office records clerks or telecommunicators.  This changed slowly over time, but the culture change was not without stress (mostly to those non-white male minorities).

I was a Field Training Officer (FTO) for 22 years of my career. During that time, I trained several female recruit police officers. Those experiences surely confirmed my suspicions that men and women are wired differently! Many times while working with female recruit partners, the females chose courses of action that I had not even considered. It is not about right or wrong; it is just different!

This should not come as a surprise.  I was trained by male officers and worked with male officers. Until then, I had just not been exposed to females in law enforcement. When the female trainee's decision seemed reasonable, I would let her put it in play. I had my “male approved” back-up plan ready if things broke bad.  By allowing female recruits to make their own decisions, I learned another way to do the job from them. At the same time, it provided the female trainees with opportunities to develop confidence in their decision-making skills.

The female trainees' interactions with the public were different, including those suspected of committing crimes. There was a respectfulness that was missing from some of their male counterparts.  The female officers demonstrated an empathic understanding toward others.  Early on, and based on my male thought process, I may have thought they were not being aggressive or assertive enough. But we got the job done, usually without a lot of yelling, name calling, or cursing – staple police tactics at the time (and sadly still today in some places!).

During an amygdala hijacking, the decision making
part of the brain goes out to lunch. You become irrational.

Being in control of your emotions (and more importantly being self-aware of your emotions) is becoming increasingly important. For male officers, this self-awareness includes knowing what pushes your “amygdala button.”  Once you can identify those emotional triggers, you are on your way to controlling how you respond emotionally. During an “amygdala hijacking,” the decision-making part of the brain goes out to lunch. In short, you become irrational.
This self-awareness lens of emotional intelligence allows you to feel and know what pushes your buttons. When you can identify either the cause or your emotional response to it, you can reduce the impact emotion has on your decision-making process. Being self-aware provides an opportunity to make conscious, rational decisions. A situation that requires a decision to escalate or deescalate an encounter can only occur when the thinking part of the brain is active.  Without that ability, your response is emotional, primitive, and relies on the subconscious.

So gentlemen: I'm not talking about shaving your legs or wearing a skirt… but it's time to take a little side trip to Venus.  Be courageous and unleash the hidden women inside of you. Develop your ability to be self-aware of your emotions, to gain control of them, be more empathic in dealing with others, and consider how your decision may impact yourself and others in the future. It may save your career and possibly your life!

Thomas Dworak is a consultant/trainer for The Virtus Group, Inc., a firm devoted to developing public safety leadership. Thom can be reached on Twitter @DworakT.

Be sure to follow these ideas at @TheVirtusGroup.

PictureRoy Bethge
The following is a post from The Virtus Group Co-Founder and Lead Instructor Roy Bethge

Leadership is an interesting topic.  One that I’ve been studying for the better part of eight years.  I’ve read dozens of books, lots of research articles, hundreds of blog posts and watched hundreds of videos related to it.  The sheer volume of theories and ideas around this topic is numbing.

During that same time frame, I’ve also been on an interesting personal journey.  One filled with failure and success, disappointment and joy, sadness and happiness.  While some parts of the journey were very personal and private, others were very public.  My beliefs and views on many topics have been challenged and things that I once thought certain became obviously wrong. 

But wow, has the journey ever been a growing experience.

I’ve come to understand a few things over these years and I wanted to share some of them in a quick, simple blog post:

  • The most difficult person to lead is yourself.  No doubt about it.  Waking up every morning and making the decision to stay true to yourself, whatever that means to you, is tough.
  • Failure is inevitable.  As researcher Brené Brown says “If you’re brave enough often enough, you’re going to fail; this is the physics of vulnerability.” You have a choice though.  If you choose not to try anything new or different, you can stay safe and comfortable.  But is that really going to make you happy?
  • The only constant in life is change.  Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, you better brace for change.  The number of things that we don’t have any control over is staggering.  Many of them will derail even the best of plans or intentions.
  • Perfection is unattainable.  Stop wasting energy trying to get there.  Life is complicated and it’s filled with choices.  Choose to pursue excellence.  That leaves you some space to be human.  Perfection does not.
  • Forgive often.  Not just others, but yourself.  Know that you have and will make mistakes.  Everyone does.  Get over it.

I believe the two most important aspects of leadership are much simpler than some people would like you to believe.  There is a reason that the field of Leadership Training is a billion-dollar business around the globe. 

Here are the two things I believe are the most important lessons on leadership:

  1. The sooner you learn how to get back up when you fall, the happier and more successful you will be.  Trust me, I know it isn’t easy.  Sometimes the fall is just a couple of feet, sometimes the fall feels like you jumped off the Grand Canyon.  Either way, learn from the ways you’ve overcome failure and disappointment in the past and come up with a strategy to help you for the next time.
  2. Leadership is about relationships. Period. The End.

Bonus idea:

Leadership is born and bred in the little things.  No great leader ever set out to change the world.  It happened as a result of small, incremental changes in themselves, their families, their companies or their countries.  Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do.


PictureLou Hayes
The following is a post from The Virtus Group member Louis Hayes, Jr.

The police officer was part of a tactical team, with the day’s assignment being a search-and-arrest warrant on a couple of bad guys armed with handguns.  Part of the hasty plan was to order any of the people encountered to go down on the ground, so they could be handcuffed.

During the assignment, the police officer came face-to-face with one of the pajama-wearing, breakfast-cereal-eating suspects…in the kitchen. He looked at the officer calmly, as did the officer to him. The suspect was standing with his hands up in the air. Even in the midst of the chaos that surrounded them, the suspect and the officer talked in very calm, conversational tones. The policeman decided to NOT tell him to get on the ground, as doing such would put him out of his sight. Instead, he slowly and calmly explained that the team was serving a warrant on his home and that he was under arrest. “Don’t move, buddy. Stay right there.” The suspect was locked onto the officer – in a good way. Like a personal connection was made. They were both was listening and talking.

Then seemingly out of nowhere, the policeman heard one of his teammates yelling at the suspect to “Get on the ground!” Before he could stop him, the partner ran up to the suspect, grabbed his pajama top, and forced him to the ground. And with that, any rapport that the suspect and the first police officer developed (over the course of ten short seconds) was GONE.

When the second officer was asked why he did such, he answered in a logical manner: The plan was to have all suspects get on the ground for scene safety. The suspect ignored his commands. Force was necessary and reasonable to ensure further safety.

The resultant use of force review determined that the force was reasonable and within policy and law. I agreed then, as do I now.

In the above case, the suspect (who let me add – was a BAD guy!) emerged with a little laceration on his head…and a bit more hatred of the police. Sometimes the results of these chaotic events are more serious, even deadly.

What, if anything can we do, to limit these sorts of misunderstandings and uses of police force? Or are these mistakes, misperceptions, and resultant “tragedies” just allowable “collateral damage”…and an ugly, but necessary by-product of good, lawful, policy-driven police work that must be accepted by citizens?

The above case serves as my very first time when I asked myself, “Are there times when non-compliance with police commands actually makes sense?

Many of these sorts of learned-after-the-fact critiques reveal information on WHY a person might have not immediately complied with a police officers request or command. Consider these possibilities and the reasons that might contribute to non-compliance:

  • deaf;
  • music earbuds;
  • Autistic;
  • mentally ill;
  • physically disabled/paralyzed;
  • cognitive impairment;
  • non-English language speaker;
  • sensory/auditory exclusion;
  • medical emergency (ex: diabetes);
  • confusing/mumbled police commands;
  • conflicting police commands (between multiple officers);
  • being shocked or surprised and still processing what’s happening;
  • being temporarily blinded by bright lights;
  • misunderstood police jargon.

The above list can be cited as justifications, or at least logical explanations, for non-compliance. But the above list can just as easily be confused on the street by a police officer as: dismissive, disrespectful, disobedient, or ignoring.

And as police officers, we often interpret dismissiveness, disrespect, or disobedience, or ignorance as a challenge to our authority…which we then perceive as a physical threat to our safety. And maybe rightly so! There are bad people out there!

So instead of waiting to find out if the person MIGHT be deaf…or MIGHT speak another language…or MIGHT be still waking up, we respond with what we know: force. Lawful force.

Police force often immediately negates the question of whether or not the person was plotting an ambush or waiting for the right opportunity to flee or attack. Unfortunately, sometimes honest, well-meaning, innocent folks get caught up in the mix due to a disability, an environmental disruption, or a “human factors” physiological response.

What this really boils down to is how police officers respond to or even ACCEPT certain levels or types of non-compliance. Yes, it’s all situation-dependent. And yes, there will always be some innocent, vulnerable folks who end up on the receiving end of police force - due to a reasonable misunderstanding or unavoidable mistake.

What I’m asking is whether we are teaching our officers WHY and HOW to position ourselves to limit these mistakes and unfortunate incidents. When I say “position,” I mean physically…but also mentally and emotionally. Or are we in such a risk averse mindset that we are absolutely closed to acceptance of any extended duration of non-compliance?

I contend the answer lay within an understanding of a perceived threat’s URGENCY. Are we moving through the three steps of “Ask-Tell-Make” too quickly or too irrationally? Are there cases we could spend more time asking…even pleading for compliance? Or is that beneath us as police officers? When we “tell” subjects, are we doing so with a firm footing in not only law, but also logic? And when we “make,” are we ensuring that (even though law does not require it), we are somewhat confident that asking and telling aren’t going to work in the time available to stop a threat?

Maybe we can sum it up as the tug-of-war between Restraint and Stabilization on one end, and Hesitation or Reluctance on the other.

I feel as though, somewhere along the line, we police officers stopped explaining ourselves before the force event…and leave the justifications for the police report and the courtroom. Maybe if we took more time up front and accounted for some extra accommodations, we wouldn’t be in some of the messes we’ve now found ourselves…

Then again, sometimes, there is no time for that. And I get that too.


Louis Hayes, Jr is a system thinker and provocateur for The Virtus Group, Inc, a firm devoted to developing public safety leadership. He is a law enforcement trainer with biases in Constitutional law, crisis intervention, and tactical policing. Lou can be reached on Twitter @LouHayesJr and under #ThinkLE.

Be sure to follow these ideas at @TheVirtusGroup.

PictureThom Dworak
The following is a post from The Virtus Group member Thom Dworak.

Why. A simple three-letter word that has a profound effect on people.  It also carries many meanings depending upon where, when and how it is asked.  The Why question is too often taken as a challenge to authority.

Mom: "Ok, Jimmy it's time to go to bed."
Son: "But I'm not tired and my friend Billy doesn't go to bed this early!"
"James, it's time for bed!"
"Because I said so!"

If you are a parent of a child above the age of two, you have had this conversation more than once.  As a Field Training Officer (and later as a supervisor), I experienced the Why question many time from rookie probationary officers in training and seasoned, veteran patrol officers.  Early in my FTO life I did not handle the Why question very well. My answers were mechanical: "We've all ways done it this way!" or “That's what Sarge wants." or the classic "Because I said so!

"It all starts with clarity. You have to know WHY you do WHAT you do. If the leader of the organization can’t clearly articulate WHY the organization exists in terms beyond its products or services, then how does he expect the employees to know WHY to come to work?"
~ Simon Sinek, Start with Why

My experience as a rookie during my own field training was less than stellar. My FTOs were good cops, just not good teachers. And they did not like Why questions.  But I did learn from my FTOs. I learned how to fill-in-the-blanks on official reports, which report forms to use, and where to take my squad to get washed.  All very important tasks to keep everything in a uniform and proper law enforcement order.

As a rookie, I was given the super secret ninja police technique that would successfully start a fight when someone committed the heinous felony of pissing off the police. When someone challenged your authority, raise your voice. If that was ineffective: close distance, yell, and add profanity for effect. Oh, and “Probable Cause” was something to figure out when writing a report…after the incident was over! (It was a different time and place.)

I successfully completed FTO training and my journey to find the Why continued. My supervisors, many who were military veterans, were not pleased with my quest for knowledge.  It began to feel like they knew the location of the Lost Ark and were taking it to the grave.  When pressed, they would answer, "That's the way it is," or "That's the way it's always been."

Along came a new Sergeant who felt the frustrations of the young officers in his charge.  He took the time to teach us the Why.  We didn’t always agreeing with the What or the Why, but at least he was able to put a face on it. That young sergeant became of source of information and inspiration. He was a "Why Whisperer."  Being a new sergeant, he was assigned to the midnight shift…and it soon became a requested assignment for young officers. Why? He took the time to answer, to teach, and to grow our knowledge.

The new crop of recruits coming from the academy are the children of Baby Boomers.  Boomers are notorious for asking Why - a trait, which has been passed on to their children. Many FTOs and supervisors describe these new Millennial officers as entitled and not engaged in the workplace. 

When pressed about what makes them entitled, the usual answer is "They want everything right now."  What the Millennials want is to experience (translation: they want to learn!).  They want to learn about all aspects of policing. They want new experiences for personal growth. 

How does the model used in most law enforcement agencies compare to the Millennial mindset?

To be considered for a specialty position (such as detectives or tactical unit or traffic enforcement), agencies often require:

            1. A minimum 3-4 years experience in patrol duties, plus

            2. A 5-year commitment, once assigned to the specialty unit.

If you are in a larger agency of 100-150 sworn officers, the wait may not be long.  For smaller agencies of 25-50 officers, the wait for a specialty position opening could seem like a lifetime!

If the Why is so old no one can remember why, it's time to change it.

So here is my challenge to the FTOs and first line supervisors:  Become “The WHY Whisperer."  Find out the Why and teach it. If the Why is so old no one can remember why, it's time to change it. Work to change the Why.

And before you say “I'm just a _____  (insert your rank here.)“ …you would not be in your position or rank if you were not a leader.  Step up and be the leader. As Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see."

To those in command staff, look for ways to engage your new officers. Possibilities are endless but here is a start: short, temporary, rotating assignments once the new officer finishes his/her probationary period.  Assign them to a specialty position for 2-3 months at a time and then return them to patrol. Think of the experience and knowledge the officer acquires about the job, the department, and serving citizen at a higher level.  Become a growth agency that values the Why.

Break the mold. Don't adopt someone else's best practices. Create your own that are unique to the agency and the citizens your serve.  Welcome creative solutions from all levels of the organization.  Seek out suggestions from your Millenials; give them a voice. You might be surprised by their suggestions. Why? They are the future, that's why!


Thomas Dworak is a consultant/trainer for The Virtus Group, Inc, a firm devoted to developing public safety leadership. Thom can be reached on Twitter @DworakT.

Be sure to follow these ideas at @TheVirtusGroup.