In August of 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton led the Endurance Expedition on a voyage to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent. Prior to the expedition, Shackleton needed to raise a crew and posted the following help wanted advertisement:
“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in event of success.”
Even after posting such an unflattering advertisement of the trip ahead, sailor’s responded. In the book, “Quit You Like Men” by Carl Hopkins Elmore, Shackleton said that the response to the advertisement was so overwhelming that “it seemed as though all the men of Great Britain were determined to accompany him.”
By January 1915, the Endurance had become trapped in the thick Antarctic ice and began to break apart forcing Shackleton and the crew to abandon it. They had to set out on foot dragging lifeboats and supplies across the ice for any chance of survival. Eventually they located a suitable place to establish a camp. Shackleton realized that in order to survive they were going to need to take matters into their own hands; so they developed a rescue plan to seek out help.
Prior to Shackleton leaving on the rescue mission, a crew leader told Shackleton, “Whatever happens, we all know that you have worked superhumanly to look after us.” Shackleton replied, “My job is to get my men through all right. Superhuman effort isn’t worth a damn unless it achieves results.” To make a great, long story short, it was only through the crew’s dedication and Shackleton’s leadership that they were eventually rescued over a year after the ship had become trapped. This is a fabulous story of leadership, sacrifice, and survival, but what really caught my attention was still the unflattering help wanted advertisement that attracted such a positive response from prospective sailors.
With the current climate surrounding law enforcement, how would a help wanted advertisement have to read in order to be just as truthful and unflattering, yet attract exactly the type of people we want in policing? Maybe it would read something like this . . .
HELP WANTED: Men and women wanted for hazardous 20 – 25 year career. Long hours during all times of day and night enforcing laws created by politicians you don’t necessarily agree with. Low to moderate wages protecting and serving a community that you may not even live in. Solve problems and risk life regularly for people that you don’t know and possibly don’t even like you while constantly transitioning between the roles of counselor, guardian, enforcer, educator, warrior, caretaker, and community representative. All interactions with the community must be recorded on video. Actions, especially mistakes, will be highly critiqued, criticized, and possibly penalized. Honor and recognition in event of success.
Honor and recognition in event of success . . . is that all it takes? Yep, along with being part of something greater than yourself and believing that on each and every call you have the ability to make a difference in another person’s life. Those are the results that we, those that call ourselves police officers, are looking for when we chose this career. As Shackleton stated, “Superhuman effort isn’t worth a damn unless it achieves results.” That is why we make the “superhuman effort” for a job that has this kind of description.
So, how do we maintain this level of effort? We remember our “why” . . .
Why did I chose to be a police officer?
Why did I chose to be a leader of police officers?
If you read those questions and cannot articulate an answer, or worse don’t remember, then I challenge you to sit down, brainstorm some ideas, and seek the words that describe why you were inspired to choose a career with this type of help wanted advertisement.
As soon as the right words come together and you can clearly articulate them, put them somewhere very safe where they cannot be forgotten. Your “why” will get you through that 20 – 25 years career just as it got Shackleton and his men through their expedition without a single life lost. If you get the privilege to lead officers through their policing careers, share your “why” often to motivate and inspire greatness in them so that they too may receive “honor and recognition in event of success.”
The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement supervisors to be the best leaders they can be by providing positive leadership tactics and ideas. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time and Thin Blue Line of Leadership is here to help.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have ideas to share or suggestions for improvement. Share your thoughts or comments on this blog below or on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter at @tbl_leadership.
Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!