The CopDoc Podcast: Aiming for Excellence in Leadership

TCD Podcast Dr. George Reed, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Ep 52 Session 2 - Toxic Leadership

December 20, 2021 Dr. George Reed Season 2 Episode 52
The CopDoc Podcast: Aiming for Excellence in Leadership
TCD Podcast Dr. George Reed, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Ep 52 Session 2 - Toxic Leadership
Show Notes Transcript

In our second session with Dr. George Reed, we discuss toxic, destructive leadership. Dr.  Reed now serves as Dean at the School of Public Policy at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.  A U.S. Army military veteran, George retired as a Colonel in the Military Police Corps.  George had assignments that included MP posts, Criminal Investigation Command (CIC, formerly CID) leadership posts, and correctional facility posts.  His last assignment was as a faculty member of leadership studies at the Army War College in Carlisle, PA.

Dr. Reed also worked at the University of San Diego focused on leadership studies.  Our chat focused on toxic leadership, relationships, looking for experiences and literature from outside of policing and their value for police organizations. 

[00:00:02.810] - Intro 

Welcome to the Cop Doc podcast. This podcast explores police leadership issues and innovative ideas. The Cop Doc shares thoughts and ideas as he talks with leaders and policing communities, academia and other government agencies. And now please join Dr. Steve Morreale and industry thought leaders as they share their insights and experience on The CopDoc Podcast.


[00:00:33.130] - Steve Morreale

Once again, Hello, Steve Morreale. I am here in Boston and for a second opportunity, have the chance of talking to somebody in Colorado. And I'm talking with Doctor George Reed. He is a Dean at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. Hello again, George.


[00:00:48.270] - George Reed

Hello, Steve. It's good to be with you.


[00:00:49.610] - Steve Morreale

Thanks very much. When we spoke the last time, there were so many things that always run out of time, which is great because the conversation always twists and turns and who knows where we're going to go. But one of the reasons that I had reached out for you in the first place was because a recommendation from a colleague using the snowball effect to say, who else is the thought leader? Who else is playing in the sandbox? Your name came up. And one of the reasons you are a leadership guru, leadership scholar, a leadership student.


[00:01:16.880] - Steve Morreale

And again, what we haven't said yet. And I'd like you to remind people of your background you were in the military for a long, long time. Now the Dean talk about how you ended up in academia. I would render that you are not an academic. No offense. You are a pro academic, somebody with practical experience and academic credential and therefore having a blend of eerie and practicality. So talk about that.


[00:01:40.310] - George Reed

I have to say that nothing that's good that's happened in my life was ever part of my plan. I've just had the good sense to walk through a door of opportunity when it was presented to me. But I entered the army as a young man right out of College, into the military police Corps. And 27 years later, I was still there. And I said to myself, I'm only going to do this for a couple of years. And then I'll go do something else. And what I followed that up with was as long as I'm having a good time, I'll stay.


[00:02:05.120] - George Reed

And that took me to 27 years. And it was a great run. It really was. I had a lot of experience in a lot of areas. I did everything a military police officer can do. I did corrections. I did criminal investigations in a crime lab, maximum custody prison, worked with some of the finest people to ever put on a uniform, in my opinion, jumped out of airplanes with a bunch of military police. It was a great ride. It truly was. And it was a leadership laboratory.


[00:02:29.620] - George Reed

It was a great place to learn about leadership. I mean, every couple of years, you're getting a new supervisor, you're moving or they're moving. So there's incredible personnel churn in the United States military that gets you an opportunity to experience a lot of different people and a lot of different leadership styles. And then I had an opportunity to get a PhD and be on the faculty of the Army War College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. So the army sent me off. They paid for my PhD. I came back with a six year service obligation, served all of that obligation teaching on the faculty at the Work College, which was an amazing and wonderful experience personally and professionally and then retired from the army, went to the University of San Diego Department of Leadership Studies.


[00:03:07.760] - George Reed

And then after eight years there, I came to the University of Colorado Springs to be the Dean.


[00:03:12.750] - Steve Morreale

It's interesting that you say that because anytime you have the opportunity, I've been able to do some lecturing over at the Naval War College in Newport. And the military is so big, so vast, has resources, as you know. And that what I would find fascinating is that you will work with a team. But there's so much ability for the Army to Commission research.


[00:03:33.920] - George Reed



[00:03:34.360] - George Reed

And that research can be done by private organizations or by contractors, and that we can learn from that your experience with research and driving change at, let's say, the War College in Carlisle. What happened when you first walked in there? What was your assessment as you walked in? What do they want from me? What's this all about? What's my role going to be?


[00:03:56.490] - George Reed

I had a real advantage. I was a student there. I was selected to attend as a student. And after I finished my year as a student, I then went off and got the doctorate and then came back. So I had a real head start. I didn't come into the organization as a faculty member, flat-footed.


[00:04:13.600] - Steve Morreale

Right. You were already a user. You had been a user of that training? Yes. Go ahead.


[00:04:17.610] - George Reed

And I knew what I liked about it, what I didn't like about it. And it was just an intellectual awakening for me. The whole process and question was, how am I going to make this better? I mean, that was the driving question. The institution is there before you get there. It's there after you leave. How am I going to make it better while I'm here?


[00:04:32.920] - Steve Morreale

Right. And I think that's what drives us. For me, it's about using your intellect and being able to be creative and certainly as a leader or whoever was in charge of you. If they want to put a muzzle on you or put pull back on the reins, they're not going to get as much out of you. And so I want to talk about the things you have written on toxic leadership. But I also want to remind you and I know that you know that and the listeners that this is really intended to be focused on policing, as you know, it quite well because you were in the military police for so long.


[00:05:02.900] - Steve Morreale

Let me start by asking this, you're in a situation you're promoted, you come in. We're talking about a police department an MP unit. And is it your experience that one person can make a difference? One person in a leadership position, both positive and negative?


[00:05:17.680] - George Reed

Absolutely. They can both a single person as a leader and as a follower can make a difference. It's just that I focus on leaders and leadership because of the outsized impact that they tend to have. They're put up in front of everybody else. As an example, they are the organization's example of what we want in terms of success. They're who we want to be. They're who you want to aspire to. So as a result, they carry a lot of importance with them. When they first walk in the room, every organization that I'd led or was responsible for, I'd like to think that I'd led some days are better than others.


[00:05:49.760] - George Reed

But every organization that I went into on day one, when I was in charge, everybody else in that organization knew more about the work that I did every single time.


[00:05:58.470] - Steve Morreale

So let's talk about that. In a military career, you can be rotated every three to four years, sometimes every two years. And so in a period of time of 27 years. My assumption is that you could easily have had command of ten to twelve to 15 different places. Or am I underestimating that?


[00:06:16.600] - George Reed

Well, in terms of formal command, you would only have about three or four opportunities in that period. But you would certainly be in key roles and key positions. That's the difference between command, management and leadership. Right. When I was at the work College, the Department that I served in was the Department of Command, Leadership and Management, which meant that there are three different things, which is kind of brilliant if you ask me because they really are. But as an army officer, wherever you were, you led whether you were in command or not.


[00:06:44.310] - Steve Morreale

Right. And that's my bad about using that word. So that's not intended to be misinterpreted, but I understand.  What I'm saying is, and the question I'm looking for is you're a Lieutenant and you're walking in and you've got this new group of people. You've never met them. And that turns over probably ten times in a period of 27 years, my guess. And so the question is, what did you learn along the way? What were the mistakes? How did you develop and was listening an important element?


[00:07:09.690] - George Reed

Countless mistakes. I mean, because day one, you're responsible. You're in charge. My first day as a military police officer, we got a call that a vehicle had been stolen, ignored it because I'm the duty officer. And there's a lot of calls. And that's not one I need to pay much attention to. And then it came back that it was a military vehicle. Then it came back that it was a tracked vehicle. Then it came back that it was Chaparral antiaircraft missile carrier. That changes the fact a little bit.


[00:07:34.200] - George Reed

It had exited the gate and was going up Academy Boulevard toward the Colorado Springs Airport. Now we have a crisis, and it's my first day, my very first day. The drill Sergeant took pity on me because he put me with a private drive the car because he knew where to go. And I didn't. So we were involved in this Keystone Cops operation chasing this armored vehicle around that we really couldn't stop very well. And one of my MPs, I saw him Sticky's hand out the passenger side window and request permission to use deadly force.


[00:08:03.410] - George Reed

He said, Sir, I can shoot him out of the hatch. What now, Lieutenant? I had been fairly well trained. I was a criminal justice major, and I'd gone through the military police officer base, of course. So I remembered my minimum force necessary instruction, and I informed him that he was not to pull the trigger. And we later got the vehicle stopped and it was a drunk GI, who was going home to Kansas from Colorado.


[00:08:29.150] - Steve Morreale

What about the gas, the mileage and those things has to be horrible. Have this about ten times.


[00:08:34.440] - George Reed

The vehicle broke down before we could get it,


[00:08:36.340] - Steve Morreale

I'm sure, which is always good.


[00:08:38.330] - George Reed

But that's the point. You're in charge. You are responsible and you know very little other than the basics. But I think what all great leaders do is they hold pretty tightly two things in their hands. On one hand, it's the task. Get the job done, accomplish the mission, in the other hand, is take care of your people. And sometimes taking care of people means doing harsh things, pushing them when they don't want to be pushed or addressing poor performance or disciplining.


[00:09:04.020] - George Reed

But it can all be done from a position of care, sincere care for their welfare. I used to tell my people all the time I could be easily confused. I'm a nice guy, and I'm perceived as a nice guy because I am a nice guy. So I had to teach them. I'd say, look, you need to understand I care about you. But if you disgrace the badge, if you act in a way that is detrimental to this thing, that is more important than all of us, I'm going to crush you.


[00:09:26.880] - George Reed

You just need to understand that front, okay? Because otherwise you get misunderstood. People will say, Gee, did you see what he did to Jones man? He dropped a building on Jones. I thought he was a nice guy. Well, I am, but there's something more important.


[00:09:39.620] - Steve Morreale

You've got a duty to act for sure. So we started to talk about the fact that you've learned some lessons along the way. I suppose when you walk in a new unit that you are responsible for, did you sit down with the people who were now entrusted to you to understand them and the unit and the new place that you had been dropped in whether it was in Germany or it was in North Carolina, or was in Colorado or wherever the hell you've been.


[00:10:05.170] - George Reed

Absolutely. I think all leaders coming into a new position, even if they've been in the organization for a long time, have to put themselves in a hard learning mode, and you have to learn very fast and you have to adapt to the existing organizational culture very fast. I like to say the good leaders organizational chameleon because they will move and adapt to the organization, make a diagnosis. But I think to your point, not only talking to everybody, but having the individual conversation. Everybody wants to be seen as an individual, as a human being of value.


[00:10:36.200] - George Reed

And when the leader sits down with them one on one, even if it takes six months to get there right, go through and talk to your people, pay them attention, hear what is motivating them, what they like and what they don't like. One of the questions I like is if there was one thing you could change in this organization, if you had the power, what would it be? And then if you can change a couple of those, actually, you'll establish a lot of credibility. Here's another concept I like to think about for new leaders.


[00:10:59.650] - George Reed

And that is think about the bank of goodwill, okay. And think about every decision you're going to make as either a deposit in the bank of Goodwill or a withdrawal. So you're going to make decisions in the course of time that are perceived as being in your team's best interest. And occasionally you're going to have to make a decision that is clearly perceived as not in their best interest. Every time you make a decision that everybody recognizes that's moving the organization forward, you make a deposit in the bank of Goodwill, and every time you make a decision, we all make bad calls.


[00:11:32.310] - George Reed

So you make a mistake. That's a deposit. You always want to make sure that there's more in the bank of Goodwill on deposit than you're withdrawn, because if you come in on day one and make a series of bad decisions, you've got nothing in the bank.


[00:11:46.730] - Steve Morreale

You're overdrawn.


[00:11:47.710] - George Reed

You're overdrawn. And now you have a problem. So that framework has served me well. And what it means is that sometimes if you're going to have to make a very unpopular decision to make that withdrawal, maybe you time that maybe you don't do that today. Maybe you wait until you've established some confidence with your team before you have to go there.


[00:12:07.040] - Steve Morreale

What seems to be very, very important in moving a police agency, let's say forward, is to allow feedback. Here's what strikes me. I talk to Sergeants and I'll ask the question. I just had a group of 25 or 30 from New England, and I said, okay, how many of you as sergeants have actually sat in a car with the people you work with right around and I think one or two people raised their hand. Tell me about that. What happened when you first walked in, what was the reluctance and resistance to it?


[00:12:33.520] - Steve Morreale

Because I'm sure at first if you've never done it, it means they think you're being called to the principal's office and you're going to get slapped, as opposed to How's it going, Johnny, we used to work together. I want to tell you I'm the new Sergeant. These are the new expectations I have on me. And so I have to pass them on to you. Tell me how you think I can do my job. Those kinds of things. It's about relationships and building relationships. I know. And I'm seeing you shake your head.


[00:12:54.150] - Steve Morreale

It seems to me that we hire people the best people that we can. And very often police departments will say, Great, you're new. Sit there, shut up and do what you're told. And we do not use the creativity or the intellect or the ideas from them. What are we missing by doing that?


[00:13:09.060] - George Reed

Well, if you want people to merely comply, then you don't have to do those additional things. Right. But policing is hard work. Policing is demanding. It requires more than mere compliance by your people. You want creativity, you want innovation, you want people that are willing within bounds to try new things and be confident in their approach. And you don't get that by merely enforcing compliance. People are not machines. I had a friend of mine, good friend, but terrible leader. He was a chemist, and he one time asked me.


[00:13:41.260] - George Reed

He said he was in a supervisory position, and he said, Why is it that I can't just tell people what to do and have them do it? Why does it have to be so complicated? And I said, the fact that you're asking that question is a good evidence that you're not suited for this leadership role. You need to go back and work on the bench. And he did. But nonetheless, the people are not machines. They're not point and shoot, and they play silly human beings who we all have to deal with and getting to know them.


[00:14:09.150] - George Reed

Understanding their aspirations and setting high standards and enforcing those standards is basically at the heart of it.


[00:14:15.510] - Steve Morreale

What drew my attention to you, as our colleague, Darl Champion had suggested, I get in touch with you was your writing on toxic leadership. And actually, you've written a couple of times. You've written books,  Talk about what drew you to that. My guess is you experienced the toxic leader.


[00:14:33.060] - George Reed

I did. But I got to tell you, that wasn't the motivation for the research. The truth is, it did astonish me. As a young officer, United States military, you get a lot of leaders. Over time, you experience a lot of different forms of leadership. And early on, I had supervisors who are the best that you could possibly imagine. Working for them was an uplifting experience it made me a better person for being in their orbit. And at the same time, in the same organization, I had the worst possible leaders that you could ever think about.


[00:15:06.500] - George Reed

Malicious, malevolent, cut people down to lift themselves up. They berated, they humiliated, they destroyed everywhere that they went. And I thought to myself, way back, I said, Why is that okay? Why is that okay? In a world class organization that you have both ends of that spectrum and to some degree, the bad ones were just as likely to promote it as the ones that had this just incredibly positive effect on it.


[00:15:30.700] - Steve Morreale

George, one thing I've experienced it myself, and it really infuriates me when somebody will say, that's just George. No, that's not just George. Why are you tolerating that? So continue, please, because I want to know what continued to lead you towards helping the army, helping us, helping society understand that toxicity, the toxic leadership and what could be done, how it could be identified, how it could be thinned out, how it could be teamed.


[00:15:54.670] - George Reed

Well, here's the precipitating event. I'm on the faculty at the Army War College in the Department of Command, Leadership and Management. And one of the things that that role brings is that occasionally the high level leaders in the army, the Secretary of the army, the chief staff in the army, have a question, and they say this would be a good question for the War College. So they send it down for research study. And we received a request from the Secretary of the Army, Thomas White. His question was, what are we doing to identify and deal with destructive leaders?


[00:16:24.360] - George Reed

Now you talk about a generative question. The answer was nobody had ever asked that question before. Not like we have an organized process to do that. We just depend upon the personnel system, which is a supervisory centric evaluation system. In other words, the only person's opinion who matters in terms of evaluating other persons is their supervisor. So peers don't get a vote. Subordinates don't get a vote. It's all what the supervisor thinks of the subordinate, which is a flaw. There's a flaw on that. So we are research partner Craig Bolas, Dr.


[00:16:56.000] - George Reed

Craig Bullas from the Army War College and I were assigned this question, and we went out and we started talking to people. And one of the things that we found was that when you take a group of senior military leaders together and you start asking them about leadership and destructive leadership, the stories that they can tell, it was shocking, actually and completely inconsistent with the quality organization, much less a world class. And they would say it with a laugh. It's almost like as if it was a rite of passage.


[00:17:21.290] - George Reed

So that led to a report back to the Secretary of the army that went on some shelf and is probably collecting dust still today. But I said, this is too good. I can't take what we've just learned about this and hide it and let it die. So I published an article in Military Review called Toxic Leadership and threw it out there to the world. And, oh, my God. The response that came back hundreds and hundreds of emails from people wanted to tell me how bad their boss was.


[00:17:47.570] - Steve Morreale

You wrote about this? I got something worse, right?


[00:17:50.840] - George Reed

Yeah. I did not want to become the father confessor for everybody that had boss, but it kind of turned out that way.


[00:17:56.780] - Steve Morreale

It's cathartic, it's cathartic. I live through this, Jackass.


[00:18:00.250] - George Reed

That's exactly right. And here's the thing about toxic leadership as a subject. My focus was United States Army, and then later the military. But it's no different in policing organizations or in banking organization.


[00:18:13.740] - George Reed

You pick the context.


[00:18:15.200] - Steve Morreale

Health care, it goes on and on, you're right


[00:18:16.540] - George Reed

Health care, it's an organizational phenomenon. It exists everywhere to some degree. And the dynamics, although the context may change, the dynamics are largely the same.


[00:18:25.500] - Steve Morreale

So why do we tolerate that? What were you finding? Because it seemed to me. So you're sitting there talking. So my experience is I walk in. You may do exactly the same thing. Let's talk about this good boss. Bad boss. I'm going to throw some things. I'm going to give you 30 seconds a minute. I want you to write this down. I want you to think of the worst boss, the worst teacher, the worst coach you've ever had, or an amalgamation of them and write down whatever comes to mind the way they treated you and others.


[00:18:49.270] - Steve Morreale

And then what happens is now let's talk about your good boss. We've all been lucky to have good boss. And now when that's done, I know you've done this in work groups. Let's sit and talk about it with one another. And let's build a master list. And what's funny as you walk around, are you listening to the students at this point in time? Sometimes they're students in a College class. Sometimes their students in a leadership development class. What I find is they start chuckling same thing you experience when they're talking about the bad boss, because I think what they realize is, Holy shit.


[00:19:19.440] - Steve Morreale

You worked for the same guy. I did, right? It's the same asshole. And I'm sorry, but there's the same asshole that I had in my organization that you did. Go ahead, talk about that.


[00:19:28.530] - George Reed

No, it's absolutely true. But one of the reasons I wrote the book is because the people that are crossways with the toxic boss think they're alone. They really do think that they're the only one. And when I go into a group, I'll ask them, I'll say, how many of you have left an organization or sincerely considered leaving an organization based upon how you were treated by your supervisor and a lot of people raise their hand. And what that tells me is that those of us in the leader development business have job security for sure.


[00:19:57.180] - George Reed

There's a lot of work to be done around this because we talk about leadership, and this is something that happens in law enforcement as well as the military. We talk about leadership as a universally positive construct. Leadership is good. Good leaders fix things. If it's leadership, it's good. If it's bad, it's not leadership. Well, that's just nonsense, because people in positions of authority treat people in ways that are inconsistent with the values of the organization all the time. It's a fairly common experience. So there's something to be learned from the negative.


[00:20:24.060] - George Reed

And the uncompromising focus on the positive of leadership leaves a lot of learning on the table. We need to learn from these negative cases. We need to learn from the bad examples. That's the silver lining in all of this. If you work for a bad boss, you learn a lot about what you'll never do. I'll never do that when I'm in charge. That's a good thing. And the other positive is that you develop interpersonal calluses and having worked for a real blowtorch, when your boss gets mad and barks at you, he's not toxic.


[00:20:52.830] - George Reed

He's having a bad day. It happens. And you understand the difference. And so those are the only two positives I can think of working for a bad boss. There's certainly so many negatives.


[00:21:03.540] - Steve Morreale

So what can police agencies and leaders learn from the development process in the military?


[00:21:10.730] - George Reed

Well, I think the major lesson is the military is faced with this real problem, and that is they're bringing people from all over the place. You're dealing with a high percentage of really young people 18 years old, and they require a lot of control, and they turn over there's. This incredible turnover, 25% of the army turns over every year. So it's an institution that is constantly on the move. So they focus on leadership. They talk about leadership all the time. It's in their doctrinal publications. It's almost a religion in the military.


[00:21:43.400] - George Reed

But that focus on the phenomenon could be quite helpful. The second thing that they do, which is not existed in police organizations, is at every level of advancement. If you're going to go from enlisted to junior non-commissioned officer, from junior non-commissioned officer to non-commissioned officer to senior non-commission officer, there is a school or there is a developmental experience that is tagged to that transition point. I work with a wonderful guy, Rod Walker, 30 plus years, Colorado Springs Police Department. He's instructor for us.


[00:22:13.820] - George Reed

And I asked him one day because I know he went from dog handler on the road to watch commander. And I said, what was the preparation for you going from dog handler on the SWAT team to watch commander? He said the transition was 24 hours. There was no preparation. You were to roll into the job and do it.


[00:22:31.940] - Steve Morreale

George is not unusual throughout law enforcement. It's crazy. The biggest transition is making sure you can go to the uniform store to get the proper patch or bars or stripes to put on your uniform.


[00:22:44.100] - George Reed

Exactly. But I would offer what we should do is we ought to recognize these transition points and that we ought to at least spend some time talking about what we are going to ask you to do is going to be different from what you did. And here's the difference. If nothing else, at least do that.


[00:23:01.860] - Steve Morreale

And for whatever reason, there are some agencies that are catching up, but there's so many that basically will say we go back to knowledge management. We don't do a good job in policing, in my estimation of sitting down with somebody who's leaving, who's moving on, who's moving up to do almost some knowledge engineering, because the question that I love to ask is, what do you know now, maybe as you were leaving from Lieutenant Colonel, what do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started the job?


[00:23:30.250] - Steve Morreale

Imagine capturing that, documenting that and allowing that to be read and to pass that institutional knowledge on and on and on.


[00:23:38.780] - George Reed

Well, and here's another mistake that we make is that we look at leadership as something that's constant throughout a career. So if I'm a good Sergeant, I'm going to be a good Lieutenant. If I'm a good Lieutenant, I'm going to be a good captain. And that's not necessarily true, because what we ask of our first line supervisors is significantly different 20 years later, what we ask of the chief of police, and if the only developmental period that we have is the police Academy, and we've missed an awful lot from that point on.


[00:24:10.260] - Steve Morreale

So do you continue your work with Toxic leadership or what are the things that you are looking at now, when you have time? I know that you are now an administrator, but what are your questions? Are you continually scratching your head about as it relates to leadership?


[00:24:24.780] - George Reed

Toxic leadership is a fascinating subject because most people have experienced it and we're trying to make sense of it. We're trying to make sense of the experience, but I like to look at it not from an individual perspective, but from an organizational perspective. My unit of analysis is at the organizational level. So what I am most interested in at this point is if we agree toxic leadership sucks and we don't want it right. If we come to that conclusion, what must we do organizationally to minimize its presence in our institutions?


[00:24:54.610] - George Reed

And that is a question that continues to drive me and I'm interested. I think we have a lot more work to do. Robert Sutton is a professor at Stanford who wrote a book pretty good book called The No Asshole Rule.


[00:25:06.610] - Steve Morreale

Yes, I read it.


[00:25:09.230] - George Reed

And maybe we should adopt Sutton's rule, which is basically and I won't do him justice. Sorry, Robert, but if I don't care how good you are, I don't care how well you can shoot I don't care how many arrests you make. I don't care about those things. If you're a jerk, you're not appropriate for my organization. And once you get your head around, that like I say, it's not a bad rule, but it's not the mode under which we have operated for an awfully long time.


[00:25:33.500] - Steve Morreale

Talk a minute about micromanagement and the deleterious effects that it may have on organizations and understanding the difference where you've got somebody new who has a willingness to do the job. I'm doing situational leadership but doesn't have the knowledge or the preparedness that requires some micromanagement to a point. But you've worked for micromanagers. And I'll ask that same question, how many of you have been micromanaged? Everybody raises their hand, how many of you like it? Everybody raises their hand. How many of you have done it? It's that hesitation because I said, now be Truthful with yourself.


[00:26:03.130] - Steve Morreale

If you're still doing it, are you able to catch yourself before doing it constantly? What do you think?


[00:26:09.100] - George Reed

No, you're absolutely right. I mean, micromanagement is also a fascinating subject, and I've been one. But I would also say that if you look at what we ask of our first line supervisors, okay? I mean, the very first level of supervision. What do we want from them? Well, we want them to know what's going on with their subordinates. We want them to intervene early and correct behavior that may be going off of the rails. We want them to identify and deal with little problems before they become really big problems.


[00:26:35.370] - George Reed

And guess what. If you're a mid-level manager, if a mid-level manager knows more about what's going on in your team, then you do that's a bad thing. So you put all that together. And what we really ask of first-line supervisors is to be micromanagers. To a certain extent. It certainly drives that kind of behavior. And in some cases, situationally it's appropriate. Inexperienced people do tasks I get all of that is true. But typically, what happens is because you've been a good micromanager. You're promoted and you're made a mid-level manager, and now you're responsible for multiple things, multiple people.


[00:27:09.600] - Speaker 3

And you have supervisors reporting to you. Here's the point where we usually screw up the middle managers have been really good micromanagers, right? So they tend to backslide and they're in this new role and they have to lead through other people, and it's different. And it's difficult. So what they tend to do is go back to what they know and be a great technician and reach down and put fingers on people when they're not their people, especially when things go wrong. Right. Especially when things go wrong.


[00:27:35.010] - George Reed

So what that can result in is entire organizations. And I work with a major police Department in the United States. I won't use their name, but they had fallen into that problem. They had things go wrong. And every time something would go wrong. They would elevate the decision making to a higher level in the organization. So decisions that used to be made by sergeants were being made by lieutenants, and decisions that used to be made by lieutenants were being made by deputy Chiefs and to some degree, that's natural.


[00:28:00.910] - George Reed

But it's a problem because if you're a first line supervisor and your boss is going around you and directing your people, what the hell are you there for? And what you can end up with our first line supervisors to step away from the plate? They're like, I'm not going to make a decision because I'm going to be overruled. And you have just emasculated one of your most important tools to keep the organization on the rails. And that's a serious mistake.


[00:28:25.820] - Steve Morreale

It certainly is, but we're running out of time. There's a couple of questions I want to ask you beforehand. So we have been lucky to be listening and talking with George Reid, who is a professor and the Dean at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. We've been talking about leadership and toxic leadership. And George, as we wind down, I appreciate your time and having a second opportunity to talk with you and talk about micromanagement and such. I want to ask you, what are you reading Besides leadership books?


[00:28:52.570] - Steve Morreale

What do you do? I know how busy we get, and sometimes we can't read full books and we're reading lots of articles. But where do you look for those articles and what are generally the topics?


[00:29:01.170] - George Reed

I still like history. History is instructive and helpful, and I'll read anything that's been written about Winston Churchill because I find him such a fascinating subject, and I'm not into hero worship. I'm not into great man theory at all. These are flawed individuals. But I think Churchill is as interesting for his flaws as he is for his greatness. So I like complicated people, and I like reading about them and the challenge they faced in the times that they were in. I think history is instructive. You can't take history and template it over today wholesale.


[00:29:32.050] - George Reed

It's a mistake. But I do think that you can learn when I'm feeling bad about myself. I can read anything that was written about Lincoln and feel a whole lot better when I'm facing a big challenge. And I think I'm not up to it. I look at Churchill, who was terribly afflicted with depression. He called it the black dog that haunted him. And I think, wow, if a guy like him could suffer like that and still do the great things that he did, maybe there's hope for me.


[00:29:56.720] - Steve Morreale

Well, I was just going to say, is your spouse thinking that you're a complicated kind of guy? Probably so?


[00:30:00.720] - George Reed

So she's figured me out a long time ago. 


[00:30:04.190] - Steve Morreale

Mine, too, for sure. Well, you know, it's interesting because I think as scholars, and certainly we want to drive that down to people who are aiming to become better leaders or to understand how to help organizations and its people move through to be better at interpreting, to adapting and to applying. And so I think police. If I can utter this, I think police do themselves a disservice. I'll bet if you were CJ major way back when that you read Iannone, The Supervision of Policing that's in the 65th edition.


[00:30:32.660] - Steve Morreale

I'm kidding. But Iannone has been dead for 20 years. Like, who's writing this? Who's the ghostwriter? I think there's so much to be found in other literature, history, for sure. But business literature where you have to Peel it back and say, what might we be able to gather and apply it to policing? Would you agree?


[00:30:50.820] - George Reed

It's a mistake to believe that it has to be about policing in order to have value to policing? It's a huge mistake. And also, I think it's a mistake. And I have profited from this perspective that only a cop would understand what I'm up against. So I'm only going to listen to other cops. So because my MP experience cops will sometimes let me talk to them and engage with me on these subjects. And I love it. But the truth is, people in other walks of life have a lot of things to say.


[00:31:16.300] - George Reed

One of the great things that we did in our public safety initiative here was we brought in the CEO of Children's Hospital, who gave an incredibly compelling presentation on how they went from error avoidance to the acceptance of error and went to what can we learn from errors? She stood up in front of our group and said, I'm the CEO for Children's Hospital, and we kill children. Now, that got my attention at the whole room. You could have heard a pin drop. And she said, we don't want to kill children.


[00:31:44.920] - George Reed

We want to help children. But we make mistakes. And then she took us through this process that they went through and how they went from hiding their mistakes to highlighting their mistakes so everybody could learn from them. So they had fewer mistakes. That was not a cop talking to cops. That was a medical person talking to cops. And everybody in that room took a great deal away from that.


[00:32:04.410] - Steve Morreale

Well, I appreciate you saying that. I think that's probably - don't mean to say that's one of the most important things you've said in us talking. But what it illustrates is that we're in a people business. Policing are in a people business, and hospitals are dealing with people and their staff are people, and they have multifaceted jobs and they have to make decisions on the quick. So there's a lot of similarity between certainly the medical model and the police model, but we don't talk with one another. And if we did, we could certainly learn.


[00:32:31.620] - Steve Morreale

I understand that. So that's extremely helpful. Now, there's one question I want you to focus on you for a moment, not on me. And that is, who would you want to pick the brain of who would you want to talk to that is here or gone. You think sitting down with that individual would be of great value to you and your understanding of the world and of life?


[00:32:53.110] - George Reed

Well being from Boston, it might not surprise you that I would say Benjamin Franklin because he was brilliant and he was a funny guy. He had an incredible sense of humor. And I think humor and fun is something that we need to pay a lot more attention to. And I think Ben Franklin and I would have a beer together. He was a beer drinker and we would have a laugh. And he was also a person that worked on himself. He, too, was a flawed individual. We tend to put these founders on pedestals, but he had flaws.


[00:33:19.830] - George Reed

But he also understood he had flaws. And he worked on those very deliberately over time. And you've heard of getting a black Mark against your name? Well, that's what Ben Frank. That's where it comes from. Ben Franklin kept his little book, and he had these virtues. He called them things that he was working on, and he would check him off if he didn't meet his own standards. In that virtue, he would put a black market his book. And finally, he wrote, at the age of 73, I have achieved all of that, which I set out to do.


[00:33:44.080] - George Reed

I've become the person that I want to be. Except for humility. I can't get my head around humility. I think we could hang out and have a good time.


[00:33:54.550] - Steve Morreale

That's terrific. Well, as we wind down, I would thank you very much for being here and for allowing us to talk not once, but twice, because I think there's such value as we get ready to leave. We've been talking to George Reed, and he is out in Colorado Springs at the University of Colorado there.


[00:34:11.250] - Steve Morreale

George, what would the last word be about the hopefulness of police organizations, especially given what they are up against at this point.


[00:34:20.110] - George Reed

Yeah, policing is always going to be hard, but it's a Noble profession. There are so many opportunities to do so much good for so many people in policing that it is still worthy work, despite its many challenges and take away, I guess, is that I don't know how many times we have to learn this, but I'll reinforce it once again, and that is that relationships matter. They matter within your organization, and they also matter between your organization and other people. So be a cultivator of relationships whenever you can be and treat people right.


[00:34:50.440] - George Reed

Treat people with dignity and respect, even when they tick you off, the world would be a better place.


[00:34:55.740] - Steve Morreale

Well, George, I'll leave with this thought - you're a lot smarter than you look.


[00:35:00.530] - George Reed

Thank God this is not on video.


[00:35:03.290] - Steve Morreale

Well, I'm glad to be able to see you, but I do appreciate everything you have said and offered to myself and to the audience from all over the world. So thanks very much. This is Steve Morreale. I've been listening to the copdoc Podcast. Another great episode. Stand by for a note and we'll see you on the next episode first.


[00:35:22.280] - Steve Morreale

Thanks for listening. I'm so gratified to see the downloads rising in the last few months, not only from the US but from across the globe. It's surprising and humbling to find students, colleagues and practitioners listening. We have a growing number of listeners in Canada, Ireland, England, Northern Ireland, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Colombia. We appreciate your time and energy and welcome feedback. Please feel free to reach out to me by email  at


[00:35:50.930] - Outro

Thanks for listening to the copdoc Podcast with Dr. Steve Morreale. Steve is a retired law enforcement practitioner and manager turned academic and scholar from Worcester State University. Please tune into The CopDoc Podcast for regular episodes of interviews with thought leaders in policing.