“Managing threat and risk completely changed” – an in-depth look at reactive police force leadership

Written by Chief Superintendent Paul Griffiths CMgr CCMI Tuesday 15 December 2020
Police Chief Superintendent Paul Griffiths CMgr CCMI, president of the Police Superintendents' Association, talks about his leadership style during the Covid-19 crisis

I am very proud to be a leader and feel privileged to have learned – and to continue to learn – from the leaders that have influenced me.

When I took on the role of a leader in the Police Service some 23 years ago, I was always very clear about the type of leader I wanted to be, and this has never changed. It is grounded in a desire to connect, to respect and to support – something I continue to be guided by in my role today.

Value-driven leadership

Good leaders never claim to have all the answers, but hold the right values to influence the way they should behave. Values are at our core, present in everything we do, and I honestly believe that the values we hold as a Police Service have helped us protect the important relationship we have with the public throughout this Coronavirus pandemic.

When the pandemic took hold, policing leaders found themselves entering the biggest health and economic emergency of our lifetime – and it meant that managing threat, harm and risk completely changed. The pace and scale, and the protracted length of this ‘national crisis’ has meant it has cut across everything we do, putting pressure on every part of our Service.

What has been quite profound as a result is that our people have looked up to their leaders for guidance and direction when the leaders themselves have felt as exposed and vulnerable as the very people they lead. What I have seen, through the Police Superintendents' Association members and across the wider police family, is examples of leaders connecting with their staff in new and innovative ways, finding ways to safely support them, with a focus on wellbeing and a resolute commitment to helping one another.

Unifying forces

Our workforce has looked to its leaders for guidance; members of the public have looked to police for direction; and we have all looked to our Government for support and reassurance about how we should move forward.

Covid-19 has been the greatest of levellers, showing with clarity that we are all equal, vulnerable and exposed to risk in completely the same way – but it has also revealed examples of incredible leadership, based on adaptability, agility and flexibility as we have responded to deal with the many unique problems we have faced.

We have come together in a way I have never previously seen. All police forces and organisations have opened their arms to bring communication, engagement and information sharing together. This hasn’t always been smooth, but the intention throughout has been shared – to get through this together, to support our people and to unify as leaders.

Good leaders continually learn. Coronavirus has been the biggest learning experience of our lives and if we are to take positives from this tragedy, it is the sense of togetherness to take on this challenge as one.


Find out more about your own leadership style here, or log into ManagementDirect (CMI member access only) to find more resources to help you embed positive values within your organisational culture.

Chief Superintendent Paul Griffiths CMgr CCMI is a Gwent police officer and president of the Police Superintendents’ Association, which represents superintendents and chief superintendents in 49 police forces. He is a senior investigating officer, strategic firearms commander, authorising officer and a negotiator co-ordinator. He has also led one of the largest modern slavery investigations in the United Kingdom. He is a Non-Executive Director of the College of Policing and a trustee with Police Care UK, National Police Memorial Day Charity and Police Arboretum Memorial Trust.

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