Leadership Without Title

By Chief Jonathan B. Flores  |   Oct 9, 2018

Leadership is a vital component to any given organization and it can be argued that leadership or the lack thereof can lead to the success or demise of an organization. Throughout the years in my law enforcement career I have noticed a couple of key takeaways about leadership.

One thing that’s become evident to me is that not everyone understands the true meaning of leadership. There are many who believe that leaders have to possess a title in order to lead. I’ve found that this could not be further from the truth. According to Dictionary.com, leadership is defined as “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.” Nowhere in the definition does it mention that it has to be a chief, captain, or lieutenant. I’ve witnessed many who possess the innate ability to lead regardless of their position within the organization. These are the people their shift mates call when they need help instead of going to the supervisor for guidance. These individuals also put themselves out in front offering up new innovative strategies and techniques via their chain of command to help further their organization. These individuals typically have a genuine belief that their organization comes before self, and their attitude and demeanor reflect. This appeals to their peers and sets them apart as natural born leaders. 

If you’re in a position of authority within your organization and have identified the type of leaders that I’ve described in this article, be sure to foster their professional development and not hinder it. It’s very easy to put out an individual’s fire. However it’s very difficult to ignite it once it is gone.

I’ve seen many natural born leaders in an organization get discouraged by toxic supervisors who were threatened by change or new ways of thinking. Such supervisors are set in their ways and revert to saying things like, “We’ve always done it this way, and that’s not going to change.” This type of mentality can cause the demise of an organization by hindering future growth. A good leader should welcome new ideas, assessing them fairly, and recognize that the individual that’s providing fresh thought is a leader. They’re putting the organization first. This is just the sort of person who should be valued and provided with mentorship that will help them continue to grow as they continue to progress in their careers within the organization.

Bottom line: The ultimate goal for a leader is to build future leaders and this is part of that.

In my sixteen-year career in law enforcement, I’ve learned that it can beat you down if you let it. I am sure we’ve all been stuck in a rut. We’ve all had bad days and been, frankly, disgruntled. I can honestly say that although I’ve had these days as many others have, I haven’t let that feeling take over the joy of the profession I love. A big reason for that is, when I’m having a tough time in my career, I always take it back to why I started in the first place. I think that if you always go back to the feeling that you got when you first had your badge pinned on your chest, you will never lose your fire and passion for the profession that you love.

All of this is to say: If you’re stuck in a rut and feel that you’re under appreciated within your organization—because you aren’t valued, because things within your organization are bad and will never change, because someone else was promoted ahead of you and you felt that it should have been you, because you want to be a leader and you aren’t getting the opportunity—whatever your reason—you need to change your perspective. You’re being a victim of your own mindset.

If you’re stuck in this type of thinking what you really need to do is to find that passion that made you start your career in law enforcement in the first place. Once you have found it take the necessary steps to progress within your organization. You may think that this is impossible if you are experiencing toxic leadership and supervisors who are set in their ways, but you can overcome.


I recently attended an FBI LEEDA training. Our instructor Dean Crisp spoke a lot about mindset, and remembering your why. I will close with one of the most important things that Dean said during our training and it applies to what I am talking about: “Your YES has to be louder than your no.” 

Be a leader. You don’t need the title to do it.