Our view: McQueen shows leadership 'on the streets'

July 20, 2012 10:17:39 AM



Selvain McQueen has yet to reach his one-year anniversary as the Columbus Police Department's chief. In any organization, gaining a full understanding of your environment, personnel, relationships takes time. 


But it seems more and more apparent that McQueen has already made the most critical choice: Bureaucrat or leader? 


We are encouraged to note that he has chosen the latter role, which often is the most difficult. Evidence of that choice is plenty, but his most recent move speaks most emphatically of his choice to lead. 


"Everyone, including myself, is spending less time at the office and more time on patrol," McQueen told The Dispatch on Wednesday. 


Invariably, when a new manager arrives to take over an operation, you begin to see evidence of who that person will become early on. Leaders are inclined to maintain close ties with their principal "customers." That is true for police chiefs, mayors, school superintendents and, yes, even newspaper editors. Effective leaders tend to streamline procedures. They spend time "in the trenches." They want to know their people and, more importantly, know the people they serve. They are accessible, quick to know when something is wrong, quicker to take steps to correct those errors. They tend to assume responsibility rather than avoid blame.  


The best of them are intensely interested in the people they are called to serve. 


McQueen called it "taking it to the streets." 


Bureaucrats, conversely, are all about insulating themselves from the foot soldiers and the general public they serve. They surround themselves with sycophants and retire behind closed office doors, immersing themselves in procedure and papers and protocol, inventing layers of separation between themselves and the real work in which they are entrusted to supervise. 


The advantage in this approach is that it removes the manager from direct responsibility. If something goes wrong, there is always a policy or procedure or surrogate that can be blamed. 


But in distancing themselves from accountability, they also remove themselves from reality. They are the last to know of a problem, slow to react to it and quick to make excuses. 


You can certainly see both kinds of managers in Columbus and it doesn't require much insight to know which are the leaders and which are the bureaucrats.  


McQueen, although certainly not flawless, has shown himself to be leader. 


We wish others would follow his example.