Hanging on the wall in my office is a large print with a portion of President Theodore Roosevelt’s Citizenship in a Republic speech delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris France in 1910. Most people recognize the speech by a section commonly known as The Man In The Arena.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. –Theodore Roosevelt
While I’m sure during high school or college history class I was forced to “study” this speech, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that it really began to mean something to me. While reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown I came across the Man In The Arena section of the speech. In the book Dr. Brown makes a case about silencing or ignoring our critics unless they are actually in the arena with us.
In the age of social media and with all the negative sentiment toward the law enforcement profession, we face a lot of critics. It’s easy to post something negative and inflame the opinions of haters. We’ve seen it time and time again these past few years. No need for facts or hard truth. Lets just jump on the bandwagon and throw flaming spears.
What’s been interesting these past few months is that I’ve actually noticed something unique from inside our profession. Cops are some of the loudest critics. Of the public, the media, the job, and their coworkers. Most of all, cops are critics of their bosses. I half jokingly told someone at a conference last year that I never really understood the level of criticism toward senior members of command staff officers until I got promoted to that position. I was half joking then, but it’s not a joke anymore. I’ve actually never seen or experienced anything like it.
On any given day the number of people who are willing to share their opinions about a dumb decision or mistake made by bosses, especially at the rank of chief is staggering. Every email is scrutinized and any typo or grammatical error becomes the talk of roll call. Every staffing decision is analyzed and debated in the locker room, sometimes for days and weeks on end. An expensive new squad car is put out on the street with the tens of thousands of dollars in the best emergency lighting available and someone feels the need to point out how they would have done something different.
There has never been a statue erected to honor a critic ~Zig Ziglar
Some days leave me wondering if it’s all worth it. For me, even when I have days (sometimes weeks) of being the brunt of criticism the answer is simple. It is totally worth it. As a matter of fact, I’m the one who asked for it. I’m the one who applied for the promotions. I’m the one who was the critic of the last guy in this position because I thought I could do it better.
That’s why I have the Roosevelt quote hanging on my wall. It’s not the critic who counts, because everybody’s a critic. It also helps remind me that it’s easy to be critical of others around me. But being a critic isn’t what I get paid for. Being a leader is…
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