A command and control culture?


Can Maverick Leadership deliver energised and engaged teams in a command and control culture? I believe that not only that it can, but it is desirable to do so.

Benefits of being a Maverick Leader?

I believe that there are a number of benefits of becoming a Maverick Leader, here are, in my opinion, the most important ones:

Knowing yourself and others, with the resulting reduction in unnecessary stress on both sides.

Your reports will be more energised and engaged with your strategic direction and operational decisions.

Saving time by empowering your reports appropriately.

By delegating to your reports appropriately, you will develop people to their maximum, some will become future leaders.

You will enjoy your role as a leader, knowing that your reports are delivering their maximum quality of performance.

You will realise that leadership is not knowing everything about everything or being the best at everything.

You will become a better person by being more authentic in your role as a leader.

My journey of discovery

It can be a concern for process driven managers who regard emotional intelligence as ‘soft skills that are irrelevant to performance’ on how they can go about change and why they should bother in the first place. They can be worried about how to change their behaviours and leadership style in a way that their credibility is not undermined, or the performance of their direct reports.

“If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re probably right.”

Henry Ford

When I was a senior leader in the police the prevailing culture was Command and Control, Targets and Micromanagement. Initiative was never sought or encouraged but stifled by the dead hand of ‘this is how we do things here’.

Then when I was promoted to Inspector, I recognised that the prevailing culture did not sit well with my values. However, I was unclear as to what I could do to resolve this conundrum. I was deeply unhappy and felt fraudulent in my adopting the characteristics and behavioural traits of my colleagues.

The lightbulb moment for me came when I attended a particular module of an external executive diploma in leadership. The module was entitled ‘Coaching as a Leadership Style ‘. It was invigorating and refreshing to hear the concept described. I was then asked to participate in a role play with a colleague.

I played an Inspector. My fellow participant played a poor performer who was reluctant to admit it. In real life, he was a high performer, who despised poor performing people. The role play concerned a meeting with the ‘poor performer’ at my request.

I could not use any of the standard phrases of Command and Control: ‘This is what we do here.’ ‘I am ordering you to …’ ‘I am a higher rank than you so pin your ears back ‘and the like.

I had to focus on the body language and Non-Verbal Communication indicators, and to listen to what he said, how he said it, and crucially, what he did not say.

There were some 30 fellow Inspectors in my cohort who were observing us.

The intensity of my focus on my colleague and his comments was such that in effect, the room faded from view, and it was just the two of us sat in chairs, about 1 metre apart. There was no desk between us as I did not want to create any unnecessary barriers between us. I’d offered him a drink and checked that he was comfortable and had no distractions, in terms of an impending commitment, before we began. I asked how he was and why he thought that I’d asked to see him.

I listened intently to the words and their intonation from my colleague. Within 10 minutes we had achieved the purpose of the role play and it was concluded by the facilitator. She asked my colleague, “What was that like? 

He replied, “Tony’s questions matched and mirrored my answers.” He continued, “It was obvious that Tony was listening to every word that I said.”

“It was like a funnel affect. Tony used my answers to his questions in such a way, that it was like a funnelling affect. I was reducing my opportunities to escape the implications of my answers, thus limiting my excuses.”

When I was asked for my perspective, I said “It took a lot of concentration for me to follow what he was saying as opposed to waiting to ask my next question. That is Active Listening.” The important lesson for me that day and subsequently in leading different teams or departments was this; it was essential that both my reports and I got to know each other as people.

I was regarded as a ‘maverick’ by other colleagues because of the critical importance that I attached and gave to this requirement.


Upon taking responsibility for a new team or department, I ascertained as objectively as I could, those who were wilfully poor, toxic performers. I then dealt with their issues on an individual basis, to resolve them. I created an environment of confidence and trust in my authenticity and integrity amongst my reports. We then developed the culture where their suggested challenges and opportunities for enhanced quality of performance were evaluated, piloted, reviewed, and then implemented accordingly.

Fellow Inspectors acted as though they ‘owned ‘the high performers in their teams or departments. Their qualities made their Inspectors look good in senior management meetings when comparisons were made between business units.

I took a different view and path.

I didn’t ‘own’ my people, rather they were leased to me by their families for the duration of their duties. I had a duty of care towards them to ensure as far as possible, that they returned home, safe, and well. It was also my responsibility to facilitate the development of my reports, including out of my teams or departments.

Leadership is knowing ourselves and those we are responsible for as people, and behaving accordingly. What do you think?

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Anthony Munday was educated at Alleyne’s Grammar School, Old Stevenage, and the University of Sheffield. He ‘served and protected’ for 34 years with Hertfordshire Constabulary as a police officer. Anthony was regarded as a ‘maverick ‘senior leader. He learnt and developed coaching as a leadership style. This was in contradistinction to the prevailing culture of command and control. Anthony is an independent leadership consultant. He has recently published a book which distils his leadership expertise. It’s called ‘The ESSENTIAL Heart of a Leader’. Anthony is also an independent ACAS accredited mediator. His expertise is to bring tranquillity out of trauma, amongst conflicted senior teams. Anthony is accredited in Structured Debriefing. In essence gathering the relevant people together to ensure lessons are learnt by organisations, and change ensues. In 2006, he conducted the structured debrief on behalf of the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) into the significant protest involving climate camp activists. The subsequent NPIA Report formed the basis of ‘Adapting to Protest’ Manual of Guidance, this utilised the lessons learnt from the debrief. It is still relevant today.