Leadership Lessons from a Chicago Police Commander

The process of becoming a leader is, if not identical, certainly similar to the process of becoming a fully integrated human being.  ~Warren Bennis (a pioneer of the contemporary field of leadership studies)

On February 13, Chicago Police Commander, Paul Bauer, was shot and killed. As his life played out before us for the remainder of the week, I kept thinking about Warren Bennis’ statement that the process of becoming a leader is similar to the process of becoming a fully integrated human being. The stories I heard were a testament to Bauer being a fully integrated human being.

While he held the title of Commander, what I heard and saw, was a focus on the man, not the title. People gathered and supported the family, not so much for the title or position he held, but for the man – for the fully integrated human being – for a true leader.

Here are just a few quotes from the media about Bauer this past week.

  • Thousands attended the funeral at Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church, where the two-hour service and subsequent procession combined for one of most impressive — and stately — civic farewells in recent memory.
  • The city laid the fallen officer to rest with stories of his selflessness.
  • His dedication to his family and community has been well-documented in the days since his death. He walked his daughter to school each day, made sure wounded veterans had the best spots for viewing at the annual Air and Water Show, and declined to attend his own promotion ceremony because he disliked the spotlight.
  • A few days before his death, he purchased a snowblower so he could clear the sidewalks on his block.
  • “Those who served under him felt like they served alongside him.”
  • As the funeral procession took more than two hours to snake its way to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in south suburban Alsip, Chicagoans — many of who hadn’t known Bauer’s name a week ago — lined the streets to honor him.
  • Community members remembered Bauer fondly, some getting to know him through his “Coffee with a Commander” meetings in his district. “He really seemed like a genuine, honest man, more than anything,” said Tucker Brookshire, a barista at Eva’s Cafe, where Bauer held those events. “I just think the fact that he would stay so long and talk to everybody.”

We don’t see enough public examples of true leadership, so I wanted to highlight Paul Bauer. Even in his death, he brought together political adversaries. He was, in the words of Warren Bennis, a fully integrated human being. I am grateful for his exemplary leadership.

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