The Concept of Servant Leadership

In 1955 the Los Angeles Police Department adopted the motto “To Protect and to Serve.” The long standing mission statement of the Orange Police Department has been, “To protect life and property and to serve the public, always with integrity and professionalism, striving to achieve an atmosphere of mutual respect, trust and cooperation.” What does it mean to serve, and what part does leadership play in this notion?

The concept of servant leadership is one that I firmly believe is the true essence of leadership. Simply put, servant leadership means to meet the legitimate needs of those whom you are leading. This does not mean that a leader should try to make everyone happy by attempting to grant their every wish. What it does mean is that leaders need to serve and sacrifice for others, making the legitimate needs of others a priority that is put above all else. There has been a general deterioration in American society of leadership principles and concepts, with a corresponding lack of responsibility on the part of many of our country’s leaders. The media has been full of stories about leadership failures in all segments of society: parental, community, religious, corporate, and public service. While there are still many leaders that members of society can look up to, the failures in leadership are foremost in the minds of the general public. Leaders at all levels need to put aside their personal ambitions and self-serving ways; and in doing so, they can build the respect, trust and cooperation that is so crucial to effective leadership. It is in doing for others that we gain their loyalty and increase our ability to influence. When you consider the greatest leaders in history, those who come to mind are those who have served and sacrificed for others: Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, to name just a few. This formula for successful leadership is simple, yet highly effective. It truly is in giving that we ultimately receive.

The concept of servant leadership is one that we strongly believe in at the Orange Police Department. Our supervisors have been familiarized with this concept, and are held to the highest standards as they lead our officers. In turn, we hold our officers to the highest standards, encouraging them to put the needs of the public first, as we perform our public service. In doing so, we work to build the mutual respect, trust and cooperation called for in our mission statement.

The successful future of our society is incumbent upon the enormous responsibility that is entrusted to our leaders to create an environment in each of their respective areas of influence that puts the greater good above individual aspirations. By creating these environments, we foster the positive development of future generations, thus giving our lives meaning and purpose. When we choose to put others first, we build influence with them that results in the cooperation that needs to exist in order to achieve the accomplishment of our lofty goals.



gagne Robert J. Gagne has over thirty-five years of law enforcement experience with the Orange Police Department and has been the Chief of Police for the Department since 2006. He is a 2012 graduate of the Master of Arts in Leadership program at Albertus Magnus College. He is a member of the FBI’s Law Enforcement Executive Development Association, and has served on the Board of Directors for the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association and as past President of the South Central Chiefs of Police Association.

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