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The importance of critical thinking in public safety leadership

The uncertainty of complex problems requires flexibility when crafting responses

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Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for all my public safety friends.

Over the past several years, public safety agencies have been dealing with an increase in complex problems. Recruitment and retention challenges, the COVID pandemic, civil disorders – none of these have simple solutions.

Many of you recognize the terms Semper Paratus and Semper Fidelis. They’re the mottos of the Coast Guard and the Marine Corps: “Always Ready” and “Always Faithful.”

To those I would add, “Semper Gumby”: Always Flexible. The uncertainty of complex problems requires flexibility when crafting responses.

Leaders who must craft a response to a complex problem face unpredictability, multiple unknowns, imprecise information, and the need to quickly identify responses. This takes place across health, economic, social, political, and cultural elements.

Today’s public safety leaders can no longer simply pick up policy and procedure manuals to find the answers. Complex problems may require inputs from many sources. More challenging is deciding what legacy material to keep and how to identify new information that should be added to craft a solution.

After that, the implemented solution needs continuous evaluation. What is working? What is not working? And how quickly can the solution be modified?

What does this mean for you as a leader in your organization? Start with being a life-long learner. You then need to be decisive, innovative, culturally astute, adaptive, and an effective communicator. While this list appears daunting, these are all skills that can and must be learned.

Public safety leaders can expect the frequency of complex problems to increase. So remember: Semper Gumby – Always flexible. For today’s complex problems, it’s a necessary quality for success.

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Until next time, Gordon Graham signing off.

Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.