March 4, 2003
Exercising Leadership Under Fire
Chief Moose Delivers Talk to SBPM Community
Kohout and Megan Doscher
Montgomery County Chief of Police Charles Moose addressed an audience
of undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty eager to hear his
thoughts on crisis management Jan. 31 in the Marvin Center amphitheater
as part of the School of Business and Public Managements annual
The theme for the 2003 retreat was Rising as a Leader Through
Periods of Change. According to Melissa Lera, co-chair of this
years retreat, the team responsible for organizing the event selected
a theme that recognized the evolution leadership takes as an organization
develops, drawing in the many aspects of change management.
She added, Chief Charles Moose was asked to speak on the topic
of crisis management, as this is one example where a leadership style
may be modified to reflect a certain situation.
Although he made his mark through his leadership in the recent Washington
area sniper crisis, Moose believes that what makes a leader truly successful
is the management of everyday tasks.
The really important leadership is after the crisis, and
in day-to-day responsibilities, explained Moose.
To illustrate his point, Moose recalled a lesson on effective leadership
he learned as chief of police in Portland, OR even brief interaction
while riding the elevator can have a major impact on employee morale.
A few moments of idle conversation between floors, said Moose, could
earn him high marks as an administrator. On the other hand, if
I was preoccupied with other things and didnt chat with employees,
they might return to their desks thinking they had done something wrong,
wondering when the hammer was going to fall.
What struck me about Chief Mooses lecture was his recognition
throughout the investigation that every action was put under a microscope,
and not just by the media, said Lera. Even within his department
he realized that asking for assistance from the FBI and other agencies
might be interpreted as a weakness.
Moose explained to the audience how he was concerned that the FBI and
ATF might take over the investigation, but he also was wary of inadvertently
sending the message to his employees that they werent good enough
to get the job done. So Moose stopped and discussed his decision with
his deputies, who then passed the message on down the lines that the
involvement of outside help was not a reflection on the police forces
He also emphasized the need for situational leadership
tailoring ones leadership toward each particular situation or
person. In day-to-day management, theres limited need for conversation
with his assistant chiefs, for example, because they know their job
and feel confident in it. New recruits, however, require more attention
and lots of communication, he said.
In a crisis, type A [personalities] become type triple-A,
he said, adding that trust becomes more difficult, because the risks
to the leader are so tremendous. If the sniper case hadnt been
solved quickly, Moose said, he knew he would henceforth have been considered
a failure, regardless of his decades of successful service in law enforcement.
The leadership retreat, including the Moose lecture, is one of a slate
of co-curricular programs offered by SBPM each academic year. Other
co-curricular programs include Project SBPM (March), the New York Trip
(October), the Mintz Sophomore Getaway (September), and Back to Business
(September). The initiative behind all co-curricular programs is to
provide students with a unique learning experience outside of the classroom.
Later in the semester, the school will host Project SBPM: Students
Believe People Matter. The program brings together freshmen, along
with their mentors, upperclass students, faculty, and staff for community
service activities in the Washington region.
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