Police Leadership: Understanding Motivation

A good police supervisor should understand how and what motivates their officers, and develop strategies to keep officers motivated and moving in a positive career direction. Getting to know your officers will allow the police supervisor insight into the personal motivation and career aspirations of the officers under their command. Figuring out what motivates others shows you care about your officer’s career success. Here are a few strategies to figure out what motivates officer personally.

  • Talk privately with each officer about what he or she values, and what type of career the officer wishes to establish.
  • Check-in with your officers regularly about how they are feeling, especially if there has been high-profile case or department changes.
  • Stay in-tuned to your officers and know if they have a life-changing event occurring in their personal life.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is referred to as “self-motivation”. Intrinsic motivation comes from participating and engaging in activities that enhance an officer’s self-image and self-confidence for no reward other than the satisfaction and joy that participation offers.

The police leader must provide an opportunity for the officer who is motivated intrinsically to work towards personally meaningful and relevant goals. Work with the intrinsic motivated officer to set goals.

  • Establish meaningfully goals
  • Create a path to making those goals reality
  • Providing timely and supportive feedback on performance
  • Establish goals that align with the officers individual self-esteem

Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is offered referred to as external motivation. The officers who is motivated externally desires to be the officer of the year and recognized for performance among peers. All motivation comes from within; however, the officer motivated by external means desires recognition within the organization as a way of belonging and acceptance.

When officers feel they are being supported they feel empowered in their career path. The police leader can foster growth by allowing officers to take on additional responsibilities and accountability for decision-making.

Police supervisors develop their own leadership style in time. Understanding officer motivation allows the police leader to work with their officer to find ways to motivate and maintain motivation as officers set goals for a successful career in law enforcement.

About the Author

Mark Bond

Mark Bond has worked in law enforcement and has been a firearms instructor for more than 29 years. His law enforcement experience includes the military, local, state and federal levels as a police officer and criminal investigator. Mark obtained a BS and MS in criminal justice, and M.Ed in educational leadership with Summa Cum Laude honors. As a lifelong learner, he is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in education (EdD) with a concentration in college teaching and learning.  Mark is currently an assistant professor of criminal justice at a university and adjunct professor of administration of justice studies at a community college.