Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Visible Leadership

Austin recently hired a new police chief and his name is Art Acevedo. Chief Acevedo came to Austin from California where he was the assistant chief of the California Highway Patrol. He takes over a police department that in recent years has been mired in controversy and has a significant public perception problem.

From the first day that Chief Acevedo took over he has been visible. A trait apparently that won him much fan fare within the Los Angeles community. Chief Acevedo pledged to earn the trust of the Austin public and so far he appears serious about this commitment. Most recently making public a video where a police officer stepped over the line and used excessive force to show both the police department and the public that this kind of action could and would in the future, be avoided. Furthermore, he took what I perceive to be a publicly embarrassing situation for the department and choose to use it as a training opportunity and a public omission that his officer's don't always get it right.

Visible leadership enables those that you lead to watch and see how you respond publicly. They get to see the rhetoric and motivational mumbo jumbo that is often retorted behind closed doors put out there and tested in the stern eyes of public perception. That takes guts and a real belief in one's own ability that the changes that they as a leader are expecting to make, can and will work.

Listening to the morning drive time news the other day there was a half minute story about Acevedo's desire to show more of a police presence during this upcoming holiday season. Statics have shown that alcohol related incidents increase during the holidays and that an increased police presence makes people think twice before drinking a little too much and jumping behind the wheel.

What impressed me most about this story was the fact that every available police office would be out on patrol throughout the holidays and that included the Chief himself. If I was one of Austin's finest and the boss was asking me to work and be away from my family during the holidays I might tend to be a little less upset when I looked across the parking lot and saw the big cheese himself jumping in a squad car to join the fight. That's truly putting his money where his mouth is if you ask me.

Visible leadership is more than just big words and big promises. It's about moving people enough to want to move the football from point a to point b. And yes as a leader, sometimes it means calling the play and keeping the football yourself just to show the team you can and you will. Real leadership isn't "do as I say or else." Well maybe it is by perceptionary (another Steveism ) and that's why so many organizations are seemingly mired in perpetual failure. But I contend that many a CEO and organizational leader could learn from the good example that Chief Acevedo's visible leadership is offering.

I suspect Chief Acevedo's visible leadership is creating a pretty big Ripple Effect. Not only is he getting the attention of the entire police force but it has to be getting noticed by the criminal element as well. Maybe they will think twice before deciding to pick Austin as a place to do their crime. The police officer that will catch them may very well be the Chief himself.

Welcome to Austin Chief Acevedo. I hope our paths cross one day....in a purely good way!

Ripple On!!!


jen_chan, writer MemberSpeed.com said...

Wow. Where I come from, the police aren't the most reliable. What's really amazing about this guy is that he really has a clear direction. I like the fact that he managed to foresee a lot of cases like drunk driving associated with the coming holiday. And because of that, he was able to make preventive measures. I think he's a wonderful leader. Hopefully, the rest of the men under his command follow his example.

Lisa Grinstead said...


This is one of the best blogs you have written. And, I am glad that others are getting the same good vibes about our new Chief. Talk about Ripples - I think he's making some of his own.

May everyone have a safe and happy Thanksgiving -

Lisa G

Steve Harper said...

Thanks Jen for your comment! I think this Chief is a good one and I am going to enjoy watching how many more lessons of visible leadership he shows. I have a sneaking suspicion that if his officers under his command don't respond, he will replace them with some that do.

Thanks for reading!

Ripple On!!!


Steve Harper said...


Thanks as always for the positive comments. It truly means a lot coming from you!

Happy Thanksgiving my friend!