Edward Brown, M.S.
If you can remember the police TV show “Kojak,” starring Telly Savalas, that says two things about you. One, you have been around for a while. And two, you have accumulated a great deal of experience, personally and professionally. But, for those who may not know, who and what Kojak was, here’s a brief history lesson. “Kojak” aired 1973-1978 and captured the imagination of the nation because the character was the ultimate Alpha male with an understated compassion for the underdog. Kojak represented the uber male that was characterized in the 1970s. This was the era of Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood and Jim Brown. These testosterone filled characters celebrated the strength and bravado of manhood at that time. Of course, these characters were flawed, but loved, because despite the circumstance, you always knew where they stood and where the line was drawn.
Kojak exhibited a type of charisma by which police supervisors could benefit. Three lessons police supervisors can learn from Kojak’s charisma are:
Cultivate a commanding presence. Lieutenant Theodore (“Theo”) Kojak was always nattily dressed with a complimentary fedora to accentuate his attire. When he said “Who loves ya baby,” or called Detective Bobby Crocker (“Crockaaaa”), it was always with a sense of purpose for achieving a specific goal. Kojak didn’t mince words and everyone knew that his communication stemmed from deeply held beliefs that were formulated long before he joined the New York City Police Department. Kojak created a family of detectives, where it was clear that he was in control, but the love and respect he had for his men wasn’t necessarily stated, but understood. Consequently, his detectives modeled the excellence reflected within Kojak’s leadership style.
Adapt to any environment. Kojak exhibited a self-confidence that was reflected within his interactions with diverse communities. A great deal of this self-assurance came from his Greek background. Telly Savalas’ Greek heritage was emblematic of New York City as a melting pot. It wasn’t only natural for Kojak to feel comfortable among diverse ethnicities, but various political and business circles. This cosmopolitan flair permeated throughout his detective squad, which would make closed-minded attitudes oppositional to that department’s culture.
Demonstrate a high degree of intellect. Kojak was a smart cop. He was a combination of intellectual insight, analysis and wit. It’s easier to buy into a leader whose intelligence you respect. Also, you can gain employee compliance and loyalty when they respect the critical thinking skills of the leader. Did Kojak have all the answers? Of course not. The beauty of the show was that it was an ensemble, made up of men who were leaders within their own right. After serving under Lt. Kojak, those detectives could have led any division within the department.
Kojak may reflect and era that’s bygone, but his leadership qualities are timeless. You may not have the swagger, finesse and charisma of Kojak, but by cultivating a commanding presence, adapting to any environment and demonstrating a high degree of intellect, you can increase employee engagement and productivity within your department.
Edward Brown, M.S., is a content marketer and researcher for Core Edge Police Pro (a subsidiary of Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute, Inc.), which develops web copy and digital products for law enforcement agencies.
He has advanced legal training from the University of Dayton School of Law and a master’s degree from Mercer University in Public Safety Leadership.
Ed is the author of over 30 books including: Police Leadership: The Morale Driven Police Department and The A-Team: How to Be a Top Police Department in Recruiting, Training and Retaining Employees available at Amazon Kindle.