Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Leadership: Breaking from the pack

By Bryan Avila, 
Backgate Contributing Training Author

There will always be people that will tow the company line. Although this is a necessary evil sometimes, at what point do you break from the pack? What if you are a person in a position of authority?

Hypothetical situation for you to contemplate:

Your supervisor is talking to you about a task that was due on a certain day. During this conversation your supervisor tells you that his supervisor knew nothing about a project. Your supervisor also informs you that his supervisor informed his supervisor (3 rungs up from you) that he knew nothing about it.

As you start to tell him that his supervisor was present during the assignment of the project and a conversation about it that took place afterwards, your supervisor tells you that he does not want to hear about it and that his supervisor is always right and will always do the right thing. Now, at this point you are completely flabbergasted at the fact that your supervisor does not want to know all the facts, only what he wants to hear. Do you keep your mouth shut or do you stand up for your beliefs?

This scenario has played out many times over the years and will always continue to play out. Unfortunate as it is, some people are just like that. What can possibly lead them to abandon their principals (assuming that they had some to begin with) just to fall in line with everyone else? Is it the possibility of a future promotion? Is it that they may not want any type of conflict? I am sure that the answer will vary from person to person.

I am going to paraphrase here from a great book that I read years ago: Every Man a Tiger by Gen Chuck Horner, USAF Retired. The true virtue of an individual is the ability to make decisions when everyone else is unwilling to make one. The true testament of an individual is the ability to make a decision that you know is right even when everyone else thinks that you are wrong.

This passage from his book has stuck with me throughout the many years since I first read it and I am reminded of it every time someone either refuses to make a decision or is unwilling to make the right decision because they do not want to be seen as going across the grain.

I believe that it is truly sad that so many of our so-called leaders these days lack the intestinal fortitude to make a decision, albeit the right decision, for fear of either being wrong or having a complete lack of integrity and succumbing to the pressure of the popular opinion.

These “leaders” (in some cases they are barely a manager) have not found their own voice yet and do not truly believe in what they say. How can we trust, follow and believe in a leader that does not believe in themselves?

It can be argued that having the ability to lead is something that we are either born with or can be taught. Others believe that you can’t teach leadership. If we truly look at ourselves, we will find that we are all leaders at some point in our lives.

I believe that having the ability to lead in a successful manner boils down to having the ability to look beyond oneself and see the bigger picture on how we are affected by the circumstances around us as well as the effect that not acting will have. We may be thrust into a position of leadership and never had wanted it, yet be more successful than someone that wanted it in the first place.

Acting on behalf of the greater good is something that we may not want to do but may have to do. The most effective leaders of our times, past and present, all had something in common. They truly believed in what they were doing. They believed in their message even though they faced a great opposition from society. They knew what had to be done and were willing to do it. They took the bold step and continued their fighting for the plight with their values, morals and ethical beliefs intact in the face of adversity, whether we personally agree with their message or not.

These leaders were willing to listen to what others had to say, especially their critics and understand their point of view even when few wanted to understand them and their point of view. They were able to ask others about how they are viewed and accept the criticism in order to improve themselves.

The type of leader that you want to be should reflect who you are and not what someone else wants you to be. You have to be able to articulate what it is that you want and how you are going to get there. Be true to yourself. When you believe in yourself and find your inner voice others will believe in you and willingly follow.

What type of leader are you? Do you even have a voice?

Editor's note: Corrections.com and  Backgate Website Contributing author, Bryan Avila started working as a Police Officer in 1994 while attending Norwich University in Northfield, VT. In 1999 he began working for the Vermont Dept of Corrections while still working as a Part-Time Police Officer. In 2007 he left public service until 2009 when he began working for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.  - Note; the views expressed within this article are opinion and do not reflect those of  the TDCJ (Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice) in any way. 


  1. Mr. Avila has excellent points. Perhaps I would add that believing in ones self is not always a virtue. I am sure that Hitler, Stalin and Mao believed fully in their chosen mission (ie: themselves) and the horrible and violent methods they used. We must always be on guard for these type of people who believe that the means are justified by the ends striven for. I personally believe that our current administration fits this mold.

    I would also add that working for the common good is the ONLY method to be logical. No matter how successful you are, you will eventually discover that YOU are also the common man or woman.

    I totally agree with Mr. Avila if I understand correctly that we must all have moral lines we will not cross or corrupt. I was saddened one day when I apologized for wrongly "chewing out" a subordinate to have the man tell me I was the only Warden in his entire career to do so. He was actually grateful. It should be rare for leaders to NOT have the courage to admit their errors, not the reverse.

  2. Try doing whats right when the higher rank pulls all the "wrong" to suit their needs.....great examples of leadership we have today. Screw em all! Crooked leaders = crooked future leaders!!!!

  3. Take a stand?? Family comes first, and that means how you provide for them. Taking a stand gets you blackballed and fired. Show me a better job, and ill take that stand!!!