Lt. Daniels Teaches a Young Cop about Leadership – THE Leadership Challenge, from The Wire

I’m a little late to the game.  Seems like I’m always a little late.

I just finished watching the first season of The Wire.  I’ve read for years that it was a great show.  Some have written that it may be the best show ever on television. It is definitely gripping, and revealing.

For me, it was just a little overwhelming in the profanity department.  But insightful? — yes, very!

So, at the end of season one, (Episode:  Sentencing) there is a remarkable scene with Lt. Daniels and a young cop in his unit.  This may be one of the greatest paragraphs on leadership I’ve ever read.  I’ve edited out some of the profanity.  (You can read the script for the full episode here — the site has scripts for most of the episodes, it looks like).

Read this carefully:

Lt. Daniels speaks to Detective Carver
Lt. Daniels speaks to Detective Carver

Couple weeks from now you’re gonna be in some district somewhere with 11 or 12 uniforms looking to you for everything.
And some of them are going to be good police.
Some of them are going to be young and stupid.
A few are going to be pieces of _____.
But all of them will take their cue from you.
You show loyalty, they learn loyalty.
You show them it’s about the work, it’ll be about the work.
You show them some other kind of game, then that’s the game they’ll play.
I came on in the Eastern and there was a piece-of-_____ lieutenant hoping to be a captain; piece-of-______ sergeants hoping to be lieutenants.
Pretty soon we had piece-of-_____ patrolmen trying to figure the job for themselves.
And some of what happens then is hard as hell to live down.
Comes a day you’re going to have to decide whether it’s about you or about the work.

“Whether it’s about you or about the work.”  Pretty good challenge for “what kind of leader will you be?”


Here’s the video of the scene…


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