ByGeorge! Online

March 4, 2003

Exercising Leadership Under Fire

Chief Moose Delivers Talk to SBPM Community

By Thomas 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 Management’s annual leadership retreat.

The theme for the 2003 retreat was “Rising as a Leader Through Periods of Change.” According to Melissa Lera, co-chair of this year’s 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 didn’t 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 Moose’s 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 weren’t 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 force’s performance.

He also emphasized the need for “situational leadership” — tailoring one’s leadership toward each particular situation or person. In day-to-day management, there’s 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 hadn’t 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.


Send feedback to:

GW News Center