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Opinion - The relevance of strategic thinking in top police leadership

2022-11-25  Staff Reporter

Opinion - The relevance of strategic thinking in top police leadership

Kennedy Mabuku 

With increased research in the police field, there is a cogent realisation that strategic thinking has the fundamental base for well-sought decisions in the police. 

It is a tale as old as time to possess other leadership qualities and skills such as critical thinking, effective diversity management, problem-solving, conflict resolution, motivation, listening skills and team building, to mention but a few, without mastering the art of strategic thinking. 

Nowadays, police organisations are increasingly facing complicated problems, and the need for proper thinking to offer modern solutions has been at the helm of police leadership focus. 

My experience attests that in some cases, the attempts made by police managers could temporarily overcome the policing problems, sometimes leading to more severe problems and even worsening the previous ones. 

Mabuku (2019), in his article, titled ‘Strategic thinking the way to successful policing dealings in the 21st century’, argues that there are instances where the strength of knowledge may not necessarily imply that police managers possess strategic thinking abilities. 

He stresses that where knowledge exists without the art of thinking strategically, performance may be short-lived, resulting in an insidious legacy experienced in top leadership in many police organisations. On this basis, one may note the essentiality of policing practitioners in learning strategic thinking. 

Succinctly, in some police top leadership, there is a realisation that despite the unmatched focus on police operation tactical and interpersonal issues, the shift has been accelerating in acquiring strategic thinking skills. Compared to many years ago, there is an unceasingly understanding that the police’s ability to complete projects timely and successfully, solve challenging crime problems, explore new technology, resolve squabbles among subordinates, engage with the community and overall provide police service requires them to think strategically. 

It is not a coincidence that this realisation has led to incorporating a strategic thinking module in some leadership courses offered in some Police Colleges internationally, continental, regionally and nationally. 

Undoubtedly, t h is key characteristic correlates with agility and decision-making in police topography. Moreover, strategic thinking involves thinking about larger, long-term issues of the police organisation. 

It entails concentrating on how well the police organisation will do in the future in undertaking its core mandates. For strategic thinkers, tough questions raised such as, “Do we have the right resources and skills in place?” how do micro and macro issues impact our police operations “Why are police competitors excelling?” “are the police strategies employed for example to curb crime effectively?”, and “What contingency plan may signify the evolution in police undertakings?” These simple yet sophisticated questions are answered with strategic thinking undertakings. 

Firstly, it is undeniable to say that strategic thinking brings along powerful communication in the police organisation. To this end, top leadership hold a laudable and unprecedented prominent role in listening, gathering and sharing information. Therefore, it is through strategic thinking that notable improvements in possessing a strategic perspective into most of the police conversations to link the current trend to what the future requires may be realised. 

Secondly, police may foster innovation through strategic thinking skills, especially considering that the globe is in constant change, disruption is everywhere, and innovation may be influenced to a greater extent by strategic thinkers. This is even more relevant in police organisations with great diversity (individuals with myriad skills, expertise, ideas, knowledge, education and exposure). 

Thirdly, strategic thinking compels police leaders to focus more on customer service. To do this, the need to involve those with a stake in the police service become a must-do. In most cases, only those that are strategic that their intuition recognises the importance of the customer’s involvement in police service, taking into account what it contributes to improving police service for the future. 

In fourth place, many are inspired and motivated by police leaders that are strategically positioned. 

One of the essential aspects of strategic thinkers is motivating those who need to perform particular tasks. Through their burning desire to propel the police organisations to a high-performing entity, they successfully advocate and lobby to influence subordinates to develop achievement syndrome and enhance member engagement. 

Without the art of strategic thinking, police leaders may have less knowledge about motivating people who matter most to complete tasks successfully. Strategic thinking is also required for a lower-level police officer but is more fundamental for top police leaders. 

For instance, when those in lower positions become focused on the police strategy, they may fail to accomplish the operational targets, consequently negatively impacting their career. 

On the other hand, if top police leaders tend to focus on operational targets rather than strategy, their career is impacted negatively, and the police success is affected too. Today it can be acknowledged that quite a number of those that have made it to the top structure of the police in some African police organisations possess strategic thinking skills. 

For strategic thinkers in top positions, their maturity in matters related to strategy has positioned them as great contributors to the greater good of the police. I can confirm that the police strategical thinkers do not allow their interests to supersede that of the organisation. 

In this way, decisions made are always in the best interest of the police organisation, even if they are contrary to their interest. The preceding can only be possible through the artificial genes that compel them to align not only their thinking into strategical perspectives but also lead with great strategic agility to manage in navigating the policing challenges with ease. 

While this is the case, some are still operating with an old resume and have no strategic direction. Their existence at the top is merely by the mercy, and they struggle to impact the police organisation and contribute less to the 21st policing solutions. 

Sadly, there are not interested in developing themselves and operating on account of mere existence, while the inherited seeds of rigid practices shield their position in the top leadership. These police leaders who lack strategic thinking grapple with managing conflict, stress management is out of bounds, and they are challenged to manage organisational diversity. Consequently, producing fewer results. 

From the above postulation, it is logical that drifting away from the demystification of strategic thinking in the police terrain is a no question for those in top police leadership positions, especially those with strategic thinking capabilities. In another way, an important ingredient in their strategic thinking is the upskilling that breed the art of influencing their subordinate. 

Therefore, their nest of potential is mainly on their untiring efforts to ensure that they are surrounded by high-performing individuals and teams whom they see not as a threat to their position but as assets for achieving organisational goals. They rely on the diversity network and the organisation’s intellectuals to position their contribution to supremacy. 

The preceding attributes have become the major tools and nest in the already-mighty arsenal chambers[police strategic thnkers] in tangibly impacting the organisation fully. 

Unfortunately, the notion that strategic thinking is only for the business industry, not for police organisations, has become an unjustified fairy-tale in the 21 century. However, this monumental assumption has yet to be fully and effectively understood by many. 

It is now acknowledged by not only police practitioners but scholars and researchers alike that police organisations or security institutions are breaking the bearers which other like-minded strategic thinkers lead. For example, well-implemented tactical or operational police undertakings without proper strategy only yield short-term results. 

Finally, for those who want to lead with unceasing impact in police organisation, acquiring strategic thinking skills through formal and informal learning is compulsory. 

2022-11-25  Staff Reporter

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