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Police Chief Lesson: The Mission and the Men Come Before Me

Leading with Humility is not a sign of weakness. It is a true demonstration of confidence. - Chief (Retired) Terry Nichols

One of my colleagues from a different law enforcement agency and I worked together for many years. We worked together in narcotics, SWAT, and training. Joe had a military background which I did not have. I always respected him for his work ethic and no nonsense attitude when it came to our profession. He was a straight shooter, tell it like it is, kind of a guy and supervisor. Our working assignments would change over the years and we would go separate ways. However, we always seemed to find ourselves partnered up again on a new adventure and assignment.

One day after I had been promoted into a new role, Joe was in my office. I was struggling to develop a new scheduling process for instructors in our training program. This scheduling dilemma also affected the pay for these instructors. As I talked to Joe about the plan I had developed, he quickly stopped me. Joe then proceeded to show me the problems and ramifications of my new plan.

He went to the white board hanging on the wall in my office and in the upper right-hand corner wrote three words, one below the other: Mission. Men. Me. Joe went on to tell me I should always make decisions using the “3 M’s” as a guide. He made it perfectly clear that it was not about me, but instead our mission first, our instructors, and then ourselves. This is something that had been ingrained in Joe during his military service as a non-commissioned officer.

Before our conversation that day I liked to think I served with Humility. Looking back, I can say this was not always true. I had let my ego and job title corrupt my thinking at times. Joe’s comments that day stung a little, but it was what I needed to hear as a leader. Who I thought I was and actions I had taken in the past were not always putting the needs and desires of others before my own. It was a powerful lesson I will always remember. Those three words on my marker board stayed there until the day we moved out of that office.