After the Webinar: Creating a Leadership Paradigm. Q&A with Dr. Jeff Fox, PhD

Webinar presenter Dr. Jeff Fox, PhD answered a number of your questions after his presentation, “Creating a Leadership Paradigm.” Here are a few of his responses.


Audience Question: Do you think that some mid-managers not evolve and become leaders because with leadership comes responsibility for that action? 

Dr. Jeff Fox PhD:  Not sure I quite understand that question, but I think it’s a comfort thing for one thing. We had that presentation a while back where people have the comfort zone. People are not going to step outside their comfort zone if they don’t feel comfortable. It’s not a malicious thing. They can get to a point where they’re happy where they are. I mentioned this before, leadership is dangerous. You really have to take risks as a leader. You’re putting yourself out there for criticism, where it might hurt your career, or it might help your career. But management is a very safe thing. Management, you’re good, you’re getting those numbers pushed through and paperwork on time, your area’s running smoothly.

Maybe you’re a manager that doesn’t have the desire to go up — that’s okay. I think there’s a lot of different reasons why people lean more towards management than leadership. I was teaching a first-line supervisor school once and one of the students raised his hand. The way we did it was, and most people do this — is we promote people to sergeant that is the first level. They wouldn’t go to school sometimes for six months or a year or two years. Yet, they’re out there doing that sergeant’s job for six months, a year, or two years and never have been to a supervisor school. A sergeant said, “Nobody’s ever taught me how to be a leader and manager,” or “Nobody encourages me to do that.”

Sometimes, it’s upper management where they think, “I just need to keep my head down and keep safe.” There’s a lot of different reasons why that may occur. I really would have to look at the situation to see. But sometimes it’s because they know it’s not safe. I hear a lot of high-ranking people say, “I want people to be leaders.” But their actions don’t coincide with that so I say, “No, you don’t, because you’re not treating your people in a way that they can be leaders.” So there’s a lot of different reasons why that may occur.


Audience Question: Is there a sweet spot for how much change a leader should/can introduce into an organization over a given period of time? 

Dr. Jeff Fox PhD: I would say yes. I cannot tell you what exactly that formula is. I’ll be honest with you, I was always pretty hard-charging. If I saw something that was wrong, I would usually go ahead and fix it pretty quickly.

Some things you have to do quickly. When you see something that is not ethical or legal, you’ve got to fix that right there — you don’t have the time to wait. If it’s a style thing, or a small thing, you can fix it gradually. You might want to plan that out. You might know the things that you want to work on to change and create a roadmap to that over a period of months or maybe even a year or so.

I think you can put too much on it at one time. Certain things you’ve got to do. If it’s a legal or ethical issue, you’ve got to fix it quickly. I was more along the lines of as soon I saw an infection, I wouldn’t go sit there and pick it and pick at it. I was going to go ahead and saw it off and do the necessary surgery to make it better.

A friend of mine said, “Being aware is a curse because the more you’re aware and if you’re a leader, then you’re going to deal with it.” Sometimes we can be ignorantly unaware on purpose. Some people get away with that. I was never one who could do that but yeah, I would say there is a sweet spot.

You got to pick your battles too. Sometimes if it’s just a style thing, maybe let that go. You really got to pick and choose the things that you want. You want to get buy-in. You want to get people’s ideas. You don’t have to be the one who initiates all these changes necessarily. Your people might be the ones who want to do it.


Audience Question: Are there any tools that you would recommend to achieve introspection? 

Dr. Jeff Fox PhD:  Read all of Stephen Covey’s books — that is how I would start. He really is excellent. It might sound like a simple thing but I would start there. In that, he walks you through on how to do a self-analysis. A lot of this comes right from him. Take time to look at yourself and to see what are your values, your styles, how do you look at things. Quite frankly, it’s a lifelong endeavor. You have to purposely do it — it doesn’t happen by accident. You have to be aware of it.

Ask other people — but you’ve got to be careful who you ask. I don’t have any problem asking somebody who would give you an honest answer you can trust. I was in a situation once where I had a sergeant, my best sergeant — he was hard-charging. He wasn’t laid back. People didn’t like him as much because he was more of a leader. Unlike the other sergeants who didn’t push things or make corrections as much as he did.

I had a trooper who worked for me. He and I got along fine. For some reason, he respected me a lot and didn’t give me a hard time. But the sergeant and trooper were sitting in the office and they were butting heads a little bit. My sergeant said, “I want you to tell me what you think of me and why.” And I thought that’s dangerous. The trooper laid into him and told him a lot. He wanted it, I’m going to let him do that. When that was done, I had so much more respect for my sergeant because he sat there, he let him have his time and get off the steam. And I had less respect for the trooper. He beat him to death undeservingly.

You’ve got to be careful when you ask for that kind of criticism. If somebody says, “With all due respect…”, that’s not really what they mean. I’ve never heard anybody say “With all due respect,” and then become respectful. There’s a lot of different things. Have a good confidante and mentor — just be careful whom you ask to critique you.


Audience Question: What do you think of the method of journaling as an approach to introspection? What should I be journaling about? 

Dr. Jeff Fox PhD:  I’m not a big journaling person, but that’s a good idea. Historically, that works great especially if you go on and you become very successful and they look back and they write books about you. If you get to that level. There are people who have done that. When they did that they didn’t do it for that purpose, they were just doing that because that was their habit. I’m not opposed to that, it’s a good idea, but it takes time.

As far as the thing we’re talking about, you can take the things that we talked about here and you can put this into a form. You can sit down and do a self-analysis on yourself just by taking these things and putting them in there and asking it. One thing I want to mention from the last question, and you probably have done this.

I went to a leadership and management school where you do the 360 evaluation where I had to evaluate myself, my subordinates did, and my supervisors evaluated me. The evaluation was phenomenal, I gave myself the lowest scores than everyone else did because of the reasons we talked about here today. If I would have done that same evaluation two years earlier in a different area with a different group of people, they would have thought I was Captain Blackbeard the Pirate because I was going through a different set of circumstances. I was having to go through being a change agent, dealing with all sorts of discipline. Whereas where I was now, I had created a team of people. You might be the same person in two different situations, you get two different sets of results


Audience Question: Now that I thought of my leadership paradigm and I realized that I’ve adopted some not so nice attitudes or traits from past managers, how do I change these habits and move from being a manager into being the leader I want to be? 

Dr. Jeff Fox PhD: You already made the first step to recognize it. But now you have to consciously work at it every day. You have to do that introspection. You have to do kaizen. Even if you have to write it down, make a note of it in a place where you’ll see it every day. Maybe you have a partner, a mentor, somebody who can be your checks and balances. There are different ways of doing this.

You’ve made the biggest step right there by acknowledging that you have some things that you’ve been doing and shouldn’t be. Sometimes you fall off the wagon. Fifty percent improvement is better than no improvement. Don’t wait for perfection. This is a step by step process. Write this down, take this presentation and put in on a 3×5 card and carry it around with you. Ask yourself, “What’s your analysis?” “Are you satisficing?” “What are the things you’ve got to work on?” Maybe every week change something, work on it.

There isn’t really a magic formula, it takes time and work. But you’re on the right track right now, just keep on working at it.


Audience Question: I’m so busy, when in the world would I have time to reflect like you’re describing? 

Dr. Jeff Fox PhD:  You got to prioritize your time. You’ve got to ask yourself what are the things that you’re doing that you should not be doing, and what are the things you’re not doing that you should be doing. Look at it both ways.

You really only have 24 hours in a day. It doesn’t take a long time to do this — if you spend 5 minutes a day on this, it might be 5 minutes more than you have. It doesn’t have to be a huge process. Maybe, in the beginning, you spend an hour on it and after that a couple of minutes every day. You got to get that piece of time to do it.

Another thing is to read about it, take classes on it, read the books that we talked about. Just get that reflection. Talk to somebody about it. If you got somebody you can work with, your wife, your husband, maybe somebody who works with you. It’s good to talk about it.


Audience Question: How does leadership in a law enforcement agency different from leadership in a private organization or for-profit company? 

Dr. Jeff Fox PhD:  I talked about this at the beginning of my book.  The biggest difference is there’s no profit-driven mentality there. I’m not against profit, but law enforcement is not profit driven. It’s for the greater good. You are serving the public. That’s the biggest difference.

When it comes to a lot of things it really shouldn’t have a lot of difference. In customer service, they say the customer is right. In the line of our work, the customer is probably isn’t normally right. Normally, the customer is wrong. But how we treat the person should remain the same. We didn’t talk about it much here today — you have to define not by accident what do you want your leadership style to be.

Your leadership style is a mix. I like to integrate theories, it’s transformational leadership, servant-leadership, and situational leadership. Blend all of those three together. Also, put a touch of transactional in there. In our line of work if you’re in fire, EMS, policing, sometimes, we can’t sit around a campfire and have a vote. Sometimes it’s “this is the job, now let’s go do it.” We’ve been trained that way, that’s how we react. So there has to be an element of transactional leadership in there.

I went from policing and military to academia and it is like night and day. In policing, it’s pretty much, this is what you’re told to do and you do it. In academia, it’s like “would you please do this if you don’t mind? If you don’t want to do it, don’t worry about it. You can think about it.” That’s not where I came from. It took a little bit of getting used to. The biggest thing is that there’s no profit-driven mentality there. It’s the facts and the rule of law, and everybody’s equal. I don’t care who you are or what you are or where you came from, we’re equal before the law. That’s probably the biggest difference I see.


Audience Question: A supervisor that I work for comes from a strictly management paradigm. I struggle daily with the fact that it does not build the team across the agency. How do I encourage that kind of growth? What do we do after we’ve reflected on all these and we realized that our own philosophy and paradigm does not match with our leaders or organizations?  

Dr. Jeff Fox PhD: Welcome to the club, I’ve dealt with that almost my whole career. We had one supervisor we used to joke about. We used to say “If you complain to the boss about your boss, it’s like Atilla the Hun complaining to Hitler.”

Within my sphere of influence, I manage the way I want to manage. I will tell you there were times when I got frustrated — not most of the time, but once or twice I shot myself on the foot. I had a supervisor who worked for me, who was the best sergeant I ever had work for me but he could not control his mouth. And he was right on everything he always said but he couldn’t do it diplomatically. He would use a few extra curse words and say “this is what I think” and it didn’t go very well. But he didn’t do that to me, he respected me too much to do that and knew I wouldn’t tolerate it. He would look at me and grin and say, “I shouldn’t have said that should I?” And I’d say, “You shouldn’t have. It didn’t help anything. You didn’t help yourself.” But he never did that to me.

There was a time where I was out at a meeting and I was just frustrated because of exactly what you were talking about. We had a policy where if the guys hit three or four different categories, we would send the information to the captain who would write a letter saying “great job” for this quarter. But then, they kept upping it, raising the bar. And instead of if they got one category, it had to be three or four categories. The captain was sitting one day and chatting, and I spoke up out of frustration and I shouldn’t have done this and I said, “Well, this is what I’d do, that my guy getting on one of those categories, I’d give them an ‘atta boy letter but I don’t say it to ya’ll because I don’t want to be told I can’t do it.” The captain slammed his hand on the table and said, “Jeff, you do what you want to do in your area and I’ll do what I want to do, and we’ll just stay friends, alright?” I probably shouldn’t have said a word because I was doing it my way. My philosophy was if I could get my guys motivated in one area, maybe I can motivate them in another area. But I truly didn’t want them to tell me I can’t do that.

Within my sphere of influence, I manage my way using management and leadership. I can’t control what people above me do but I can control my own area. And as much as they would let me, which is pretty much pretty good for the most part, sometimes I had to take a beating. If I had to take a beating for the guy that was fine. If I had to go to bat for the guys because they didn’t do anything wrong, then I would do that. If they were wrong, I would tell them they’re wrong. As a leader, that’s what I’m saying. You’re going to get hit sometimes, maybe it’s deserved, maybe it’s not deserved, but that’s what you do.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of  “Creating a Leadership Paradigm.”



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