Leadership is Visibility and Credibility

In my direct experience, Leadership is a form of a social compact between individuals who are members of the same organisation, department or team.

Leadership means knowing those you are responsible for as people and vice versa. This knowledge about WHO we are rather than what ROLE we are playing at any given time is critically important in developing the trust and confidence in each other that is essential for sustainable, high-quality performance. This is especially the case when our decisions put our colleagues in physical or psychological jeopardy.

In essence, it’s about being able to look people in the eye and know that we have a shared understanding of the stresses and pressures of our work environment.

There is a mistaken belief that you can manage or lead, by email or by Diktat.

We can choose the extent to which we entrust our livelihoods, sometimes lives, in the hands of people who regard us as numbers or names on an organisation chart. We can create the illusion of engagement, sufficient to ‘keep them off our back.’

I came to the realisation of the importance of visibility and credibility early in my role as a Police Inspector. The insidious effects of poor culture played their part in my original mistake in following ‘the way we do things here.’

Public Order Policing, in a city centre awash with drinking establishments, food joints and places for people to ‘mingle’ is fraught with challenges. The potential for confrontation, violence, and distress are the core ingredients of such an environment. Crime prevention, and ensuring the safety of the public and officers is key.

Every Friday and Saturday, the Late Turn Tour of Duty for officers was 10 hours; that is 1700 to 0300 hours. Incidents such as arrests generated a workload of several hours, often meant that officers would overlap the Early Turn, who started at 0700 hours. Refreshment Breaks where officers could relax and eat without interruption became a dream.

As a newly arrived Inspector, it was suggested by a number of colleagues that it was ‘overkill’ for Inspectors to perform such duties as it would inhibit the supervisory skills of Sergeants! The practice was for these Inspectors to work their 10 hours so that they finished at 2200 hours. To my shame, I fell in with this practice a couple of times. I convinced myself that this was the right thing to do.

I realised, when I paraded with my team the following day, that I had abdicated responsibility as I had no idea as to the nature of their experiences between 2200 and 0300 hours. I felt a fraud and felt that my colleagues had been let down by me. When I informed my team that I would be with them throughout their Public Order Duties, there were some raised eyebrows.

What I learned by being visible and accessible to those I was responsible for was invaluable. It was possible to truly get to know each other as people and that created a trust that cemented the team together. It was a lesson that I never forgot.

I felt more confident in my decision-making as I considered the impact on colleagues as people I knew and had responsibility for. I was also far better placed to encourage and support their development.

I felt that it would have been an admission of failure if I had to rely upon my rank to ensure my orders were carried out. Rather, colleagues had trust in my judgment and knew that I considered their wellbeing as well as that of the public, extremely seriously.

If I had to place colleagues in harm’s way, I shared that potential peril with them.

In business today, there are relevant lessons to be gleaned from my experiences.

Digital communication has its place. However, nothing replaces human interaction between colleagues who know each other as people, engendering the necessary trust and confidence in the Leadership.

Tony Munday
Tony Munday
TONY developed his expertise during his Police career of 34 years. Whilst a Senior Leader, for 15 years, he recognised the challenges and pressures faced by Leaders, including those which were of his own making. Tony was a ‘maverick ‘as a Leader. He became accredited in, and practiced, coaching as a Leadership Style, and Situational Leadership (adopt a style relevant and appropriate to the context). This was unusual amongst colleagues and peers, who maintained a firm adherence to a ‘command and control’ style, on most occasions. Tony recognised that it was impossible for him to effectively lead and micromanage. In order to develop appropriate trust and motivation amongst those he had responsibility for, he ensured that he knew the person behind the role. This enabled Tony to effectively performance manage, with fairness. Where appropriate, Tony practiced a ‘service’ style of Leadership. He saw his role, as providing the strategic direction, the environment, setting the values and developing the people, so they took responsibility for delivery of their own and other’s performance. The subsequent trust gained, enabled Tony to save significant time compared to peers who micromanaged. Tony used this time on strategic planning and development of people, enabling them to maximise their potential, including out of his teams or departments. This was unique amongst his peers. Many peers behaved as if the first responsibility of their team was to make ‘them’ look good. This stifled development of their teams. Tony’s teams and departments consistently outperformed their contemporaries.


  1. Having high quality human connections in the workplace is good for people and consequently for business. When leaders adopt a human-centered vision of business that emphasizes respect, trust, compassion and wisdom, the organization’s performance also increases along with individual well-being.
    Human leadership is based on self-respect and unconditional love. It understands and honors the equal right of all to equity, dignity and integrity. He recognizes all people for who they are, accepts their unique contribution, treats them with respect and recognizes their value.

    • Thanks Aldo.
      It’s also a better place to be, particularly in stressful times.
      When we are ‘in the zone’ as a team, it’s invigorating as a Leader to know we are all freely choosing to deliver our highest quality of performance.

    • Thank you Len.
      I never felt it necessary to refer to my rank when implementing decisions of significance. It wasn’t about being casual or flippant. It was about the shared Values and culture that we had created collectively.

  2. Tony: I agree with you 100%. There is no substitute for one-on-one and face-to-face communication. That is true in all relationships, but especially so in supervisory situations. I’ve never been a fan of working from home, media-based conference calls, and other remote communication situations. Yes, there is a place for such, but I agree that much is lost when the remote replaces personal contact vs. being an adjunct.