Leadership Adviser & Police Expert
A Bit About Me
In the early 2000's, Hesser had the opportunity to attend Leadership Academy at West Point Military Academy to learn how to teach the United States Military Academy model of leadership. “They treated me like a soldier,” he said. “They treated me like one of them. They socialized me and I left holding the motto, ‘Duty, Honor, Country.'” That motto stuck so well that Hesser got permission from West Point to put “Duty, Honor, Community” on the police cars at the agency he was leading at the time.
It was the mid-90’s when Hesser started noticing a change in the academy cadets that were training to be part of his agency. “I’d take them to lunch and ask them what they had been learning. That’s when I first heard of ‘get home safely.’ I told them that that’s not a goal, it’s a given!” he said.
Of course, no one enters this profession wanting to die, and believe it or not, the vast majority of police officers don’t want to have to discharge their weapon or injure/kill anyone. “If your goal is to get home safely at the end of your shift, that means that officers who have died in the line of duty have failed at their goal,” said Hesser. “Do you want to go tell the surviving family that? Of course, they didn’t fail! They were still protecting and serving. That’s just another reason why this goal doesn’t work for me.”
Hesser has had a long career in policing. He spent 29 of his 39 years in the field as a police chief in Georgia, Colorado, North Carolina, and Texas. In retirement, he’s used his time to go out and educate other chiefs and supervisors about aspects of leadership. He bases his teaching on what he learned at West Point and also incorporates the work of Dr. Elliott Jaques and Dr. Kevin Gilmartin.
“The bottom line here is that there’s an attitude problem in the field,” said Hesser. “Police work cannot be just a job [chore] or a commodity [way to earn a paycheck]. It has to be a calling [Hesser credits Ret. Chief Don Hanna for this concept]. And the leader in any department needs to be committed to a higher purpose, not money or power, or policy. When your leaders are committed to the higher purpose of protecting the Democracy, they can’t help but influence those within the ranks to look to the same higher purpose,” he added.
Hesser feels confident that many solutions lie in the re-focusing of leadership back to, “the nobility of police officers – as guardians of the Democracy.” He feels that most agencies have lost sight of this and the seriousness of the task, and urges them to re-focus on it. In his teaching, he encourages agencies to take a hard look at the relationships between leaders and followers and group dynamics. “Good working relationships and trust are crucial,” he said. “We need to get back to the basics…remember why we went into this field in the first place.”