“I weigh the man, not his title; ’tis not the king’s stamp can make the metal better.” ~William Wycherley
I read an article this week about a Vancouver Police Officer who was caught on security video pushing down a woman with a disability and it brought to mind how so often title, power and specific roles have potential to create entitlement attitudes. We can only see the visual which offers the appearance of a lack of empathy, human judgment and minimal compassion, and I will add that none of us know the whole story – but what followed was certainly a day in PR hell for the Vancouver Police department.
All steps taken by the department as mentioned in the article are cleanup steps for an act most of us wish did not appear so blatantly unacceptable. The organization quickly puts into place responses from the Department as well as the officer in aftermath to the situation. I don’t envy the Vancouver Police Department role at this point, but it did bring to mind a few overall questions about leadership.
- What draws employees in trusted roles of responsibility to believe they have the right to a lack of empathy and discriminatory behaviour toward others?
- What is it about the crowd mentality that stops the companions of that person from challenging or counteracting poor behaviour?
I know some very incredible people who serve as Law Enforcement Officers and who are there for the right reasons and whom do not abuse their position or their power. They are good citizens who put their lives at risk for my protection. I also know one or two who make me nervous. The video of this incident should make us all a bit nervous of the few and remind us there is no hierarchy in humanity.
A leadership position does not make you better than anyone, it carries with it the responsibility for service to others and asks that leaders in every role, in every corner of every organization, understand that we are all deserving of respect and compassion as human beings.
An organization that fails to build a culture of respect, empathy, compassion and service fails to understand leadership.
No mention in the article speaks about the role of the two officers accompanying the officer in question, but they carry as much responsibility for the act as the officer who performed it by their lack of action, they also are members of a force who’s “…mission is to serve.”
A title, a raise, celebrity, money; these are not permission to live by different rules than the rest of society.
“Status” does not afford the right to bypass respect, honour, consideration and compassion at any level, in any organization or within any community.
Those few who choose to feel entitled to breaking societal rules unfairly blanket their peers with an ugly cloth of distrust.
Each of us is a leader; we are asked to serve every time we are put into a position of responsibility for the well being of another. Any time we behave to others with disrespect, we disrespect those peers who are doing their best to do the right thing, champion diversity and who care to take their mission to serve seriously.
Leaders, choose your actions wisely.
Patti is a strategic advisor in Leadership, Customer Service and Small business. You can book her to speak at her Speakers Page.
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