Identifying effective leadership is a major issue facing law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S., especially as officers are faced with many life-threatening situations during the average workday. Strong leadership in these organizations can lead to organizational and cultural unity that protects officers and allows them to do their jobs more effectively. It behooves these organizations, then, to encourage cultures that can cultivate leadership qualities in officers prior to them being promoted to leadership positions. To do so, personality characteristics consistent with strong and positive leadership skills must be identified. This research project studied and compared the indicators of potential leadership in U.S. law enforcement. The purpose of this study was to explore these indicators from the perspective of selected, highly experienced leaders from various federal, county and local law enforcement agencies throughout Southern California. The study employed Sequential Mixed Methods Exploratory Design, using one on one interviews to gather qualitative data from eight selected leaders in law enforcement. For a purposive sample, after using qualitative analysis and coding, a survey questionnaire was designed and distributed to police officer recruits at the LAPD academy. Four items emerged as critically important for future leader in law enforcement: (a) strong interpersonal skills that allow leaders to interact positively with employees and the community, (b) an interested in organizational goals and agendas outside of the leader’s own, (c) the importance of leading my example, and (d) acknowledgement of the important of public and media relations and how they impact policing. The findings of this study may be utilized by current and aspiring Police Chiefs at the local, county, and state level, as well as Senior Executive Service members of federal law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, the results of this study indicate the need for additional research that explores interviewees’ expectations regarding future law enforcement leaders as well as methodologies to effectively identify and select candidates that are likely to be successful as leaders in law enforcement agencies.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Leadership -- Psychological aspects -- Case studies; Police training -- Evaluation -- California -- Los Angeles; Leadership -- Psychological aspects -- Case studies

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Stephens, Ronald;