VULNERABILITY = STRENGTH: The RCMP Commissioner on authentic leadership

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“I am exactly where I need to be for my organization right now,” said RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki at an event on January 8 at the IOG, noting that the most important thing for public organizations is to be ready to adapt to the inevitable change of the 21stCentury; the RCMP is no exception.

“The public sector cannot afford to be slow and static,” she said. “It must be ready to make dynamic adjustments to keep pace with the rapidly-changing world.”

Speaking to participants in the IOG’s signature Executive Leadership Development Program, as well as colleagues from Stepping into the Executive Cadre, Commissioner Lucki added a quote she heard during a meeting of the Assembly of First Nations: “You can’t drive a car by looking in the rearview mirror.”

However, remembering the past is important, she noted. “The Government of Canada has a troubled past with Canada’s Indigenous peoples,” she said. “And the RCMP was often the purveyor of that trouble.” She reminded her audience that the RCMP was also one of the last police forces in the world to include women in its ranks. “These realities shape the context in which the RCMP operates, but they must not be dwelled upon without simultaneous reconciliatory progress.”

The Commissioner also reflected on some other issues that have impacted her organization. “The RCMP has learned that it must be better at dealing with internal conflict,” she admitted. “Many public sector organizations, including the RCMP, do good external work that is in the public interest, but they fail to effectively manage their own internal issues.”

She said that this inhibits possible change within an organization, something she demonstrated with a powerful exercise. She began by asking everyone present to stand; then she went through various demographic factors such as gender, age, marital status, ethnicity, until everyone was seated. Based on these factors, nobody in the room would have been eligible to serve in the RCMP some 50 years ago, compared with today, where almost everyone in that room would be eligible to serve. “This shows that the public sector is capable of change,” and as we saw, “that change is already occurring.”

Born and raised in Edmonton, Commissioner Lucki joined the RCMP in August 1986. Throughout her career, she served all across Canada and internationally, contributing to various parts of the RCMP, such as: federal policing, undercover criminal investigations, peacekeeping, traffic services, and community policing. She also served on the United Nations Protection Force, and was an instructor at the RCMP Training Academy where, in 2016, she was named Commanding Officer. On March 9, 2018 it was announced that she would become Canada’s 24thRCMP Commissioner, and the first female to hold the position.

Commissioner Lucki has learned that, ultimately, a leader should strive to accomplish three things: (1) make a workplace better than it was when you arrive; (2) take care of yourself so that you can (3) take care of others.

“Vulnerability is a strength,” she said. “A leader should be authentic and open to criticism: it improves both their own character and the overall strength of the organization.”

She left those current and future public service leaders in the room with a positive takeaway: the RCMP – and the public service as a whole – must look ahead with optimism while remembering the context in which it works. This seems to be something Commander Lucki has lived by her whole career.

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Institute on Governance

Institute on Governance

Founded in 1990, the Institute on Governance (IOG) is an independent, Canada-based, not-for-profit public interest institution with its head office in Ottawa and an office in Toronto. Our mission is ‘advancing better governance in the public interest,’ which we accomplish by exploring, developing and promoting the principles, standards and practices which underlie good governance in the public sphere, both in Canada and abroad.

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