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Welcome, everybody to LeaderGov's podcast. We're so excited to have you today and have another great guest and great topic to talk about for local government leaders, whether you're a city manager, county manager, Sheriff, Police Chief Fire Chief finance, community development, whatever your area in city or county government, we really are glad you're here. We have today a great topic and it's on transformational leadership. My name is Bill Stark. I'm with leader gov. And we enjoy promoting and publishing these podcasts to help really inspire and encourage local government leaders in their leadership skills. So our guest today is Chief Sean burns. Just read a quick bio of Sean he was born and raised in Texas, began his law enforcement career in 1993. After graduating from Panhandle regional Law Enforcement Academy he began his career with West Texas a&m University Police in 95. As an officer worked his way up after a national search. In 2003. He was selected as Chief of Police at a young age of 32. And today, what are you like 34? Something like that? Yes, barely, barely. Charlotte has served as an officer in the Texas Association of College and University Police administrators. And during that time, also represented the board of directors as well. Sean's active in the High Plains Police Chiefs Association or he's past president and current secretary treasurer. Sean graduate graduated from West Texas a&m University with a bachelor's degree in political science. So you had been in law enforcement for a good while I say right, Sean. Yes, sir. Yeah, welcome in. Thank you for participating. Thank you for being here today. I just have one quick question for you. Where is for all of our listeners and all around the country? Where's Canyon, Texas and What are y'all kind of known for?
And Texas is a small residential community located 11 Miles give or take south of Amarillo, Texas here in the Texas panhandle. Most of the business here is agriculture related. A majority of the beef from the from the United States is located in this geographical area. We're also seeing a big increase in dairies and cheese plants in this area because of the wide expanse of land we have around here. So it's a very strong agriculture, farming ranching community, Kenyan in particular as a small kind of a bedroom community located just south of Amarillo, which is where a lot of folks used to work and commute. Canyon is known as being a very safe community nationally. And so a lot of people do flock here because of our strong school district. And because of the small town values,
yeah. And having a having a local college university, there's always makes the environment lively. So yeah, great topic today. And this, this whole idea of transformational transformational leadership. And I guess just start out, Shawn, what, how would you define transformational leadership? What what does that mean to you?
Transfer. Transformational Leadership, to me means basically, just that you're transforming the organization to stay current, and applicable as things change in the world today. And, of course, this last year, has been even more so indicative of the need to constantly reevaluate what you do and how you do it. And so for me, transformational leadership is simply making sure that you are constantly evaluating how you do business, to make sure that it's the most efficient and most effective way for you to engage in your community.
Yeah, yeah, a lot of I hear the word change, and all of that, you know, sort of the future. And we, when we talk about leadership, we think of leadership as sort of, where are we going? What's the future? What's what's, where are we headed? And this transformational leadership style? Certainly, as can be a great style to have when you're trying to transform and change where you are. What have you seen some of the benefits to your team? You know, you got folks on your team, you're trying to transform the environment, your department, the way you do things? How, you know, what's, what's been some of the benefits to your team have of your being a transformational leader? Have you seen it play out in terms of benefits?
You know, the biggest benefit is simply that, that they have a voice. I don't know everything, which, you know, some people, some people seem to think that I do, but I don't have all the answers. And I rely heavily on the team that I have. And I have a fantastic team. And the thing is, is when you when you recruit and hire quality individuals, intelligent, intelligent individuals, you're doing them a great disservice when you don't ask for their input, and take that input, because they have fantastic ideas. And I I am very quick to acknowledge that it has been a long time since I have written shift in a squad car being promoted back in oh three to achieve. And so it's, it's crazy, it's critical for me to listen to those guys that are doing that job on a daily basis, because it's changed in the last 17 years. And so getting their input on how we need to modify things or how we need to change things, gives them a voice. And it doesn't take long for them to understand that if they do see a way to make things better, or to change things for the better, that they bring that forward and it's accepted and move forward.
Yeah, I like what you're saying this here, kind of a transition. So you're a transit transformational leader, but in being that type of leader in wanting to have change, you're seeking their input into the change. Okay. So as a result of that they feel heard they feel listened to, they feel respected, they feel valued. Got a question for you, though. What if they don't want to change? Or what if you know what if they're slow to change? What if they feel like you're just going a little too fast, with all this change business, this transformational business?
Sometimes that does happen, you know, police officers, especially experienced police officers are not always known to be very receptive of change in our world. I think the benefit for us is that the educational setting and the institutional setting the institution itself is constantly striving to make things better and to stay ahead of that curve and be leaders in that area. And so I see our department as being the same thing. You know, we we had body cameras before any other agencies did in the area we had in car cameras before any other agencies did in the area. Because we wanted that transparency, we want it to be out ahead of that. And so there are times that that becomes a little difficult. And what, what eventually happens is those officers either, you know, catch the vision, or they catch the bus, so to speak, they either get on board, or they end up finding another place to work that's more reflective of their desire to stay in the status quo.
Yeah, I get what you're saying here, it's a little bit like the culture. So the culture you're creating, or fostering is a culture of change and a culture of transformation. And I can see, though, where, you know, if there's a lot of change going on, at one time, we work with the county right now, Chief, where they haven't had changed for years, and years and years and years, right, no change. And all of a sudden, they have a transformational leader come in. And it's all about change, and the people just aren't ready for, you know, massive change, they kind of have to ease into it. Do you? Do you see that in, in other circles, where people have to kind of be careful not to push change too fast?
Oh, absolutely. You can't, you know, you can't come in and just change something every day just for the sake of changing it. When we look at, you know, small things that are those are easy to do. And when you have buy in from your crew, it's easy to make those changes. The bigger things that are really going to affect operations are really going to challenge that status quo. Those are the ones that we have to be much more slow and deliberate about, and much more educational about, we have to be deliberate in informing our folks as to why that change is necessary, why it's important. And rolling those out a little bit slower. You can't you know, you can't come in and change everything. And in a short period of time you some things you do have to kind of work into.
Yeah, yeah, that's good. I appreciate that. We definitely mean, you think about the pace of change in the United States, just in modern society. You know, things didn't change too much in the 17 1800s. It changed very slowly, of course, here, we're in this modern age, and everything's changing around us it like warp speed. And so the whole concept, whole idea of being a transformational leader is very in step with our culture, I mean, we have to change or we just fall behind. And so there's a lot of, you know, good sort of essential need for this type of leader. Now, any story you would share about how transformational leadership has really helped helped you lead certain type of change that you've been real high on, or it's been important to you?
You know, there's a whole lot of things that have been, like I said, I've got a great team. And so, you know, they're constantly come up with new ideas. But I had one one employee in particular, that was that was struggling a little bit. And getting with with my, with my command staff, we made the decision to give that employee a project, an assignment, so to speak. And we gave them the overall mission and direction that that project needed to accomplish. But we did very little in the area of governing that we allowed them to take that project on that project and take it to fruition. And that project went exceedingly well. That employee did adopt it, embrace it. Initially, there was some reluctance, but the employee did adopt it and embrace it and that particular program, and that that particular employer employee, was recently recognized by his peers and the community for the outstanding performance. And that's, that's completely attributable to that employee and his intrinsic motivation to do better and exceed. And it was, it was the ability for us to stand back and allow him to do what he needed to do and how he needed to do it. All the while watching watching the success and so I'm I'm very blessed to have a great staff. And they and they tend to take care of things. They tend to do the right thing when it needs to be done and with very little oversight.
Yeah, that's a really cool story because here it is you You're maybe having a little bit of a challenge with change with transforming something. And you almost do the opposite. It's like here, we'd like for you to sort of manage this process. Basically, you're giving the person some latitude, you're giving them a little authority, you're giving them some ownership. And in the process of doing that, they actually became the change, they actually implemented, the change you were looking for, is that,
get that right. That's exactly right. Yeah,
very, very smart. I like that. So good. That's a great idea for anybody listening, you know, if you've got an employee who's a little resistant to change, give them authority, give them leeway, give them some ownership of whatever the project is, by being, you know, a part of the change maybe the owner of that project, and let them sort of do it at their own pace, perhaps. So yeah, that's a great story. One last question I had for you about about trans transformational leadership, you know, obviously, we're talking about change today. You know, how do you encourage and promote openness to change? How do you keep this sort of Top of Mind? How do you let your team know that this is important? Is it just part of your culture? Is this part of your vocabulary? Or how do you do that?
Both its culture and vocabulary, but it's it's basically taking that time to visit with them? And asking what's going on? What's going right, what's going wrong? And when you get to the part that's, that's going wrong, or not going as well as it could, then asking the question, what, you know, what can we do to make that better? How can we act? Can we resolve that? Is there a way to resolve it. And sometimes there are obviously limitations that you can't, you can't do everything. But a lot of times some of the most, some of the things that shocked you the most. Or it's the little things that annoy people that make them unhappy, and those are some of the easiest things to fix. But you said a while ago and empowering your employees to make those changes, especially if it's small and insignificant, but it improves their life, giving them the authority to do those, and then stepping back and not micromanaging the process. Let it letting them make those changes to do increased performance and productivity, and getting out of the way, because they're going to be pretty efficient at doing what they do, because they know how to do it and do it. Well. You just have to get out of the way and let them do it.
Yeah, yeah, I've heard this theme. Now. I think you've said it two or three times. In this whole idea of being a transformational leader, it's getting feedback from the team talking to the team, where are you? Are you okay with this? Is it good, bad? Are you indifferent? Let's hear from you. Let's hear your perspective. Because I've got a I've got to know where they are, and where their head is, and all this change, and deal with whatever those challenges are that they're having. Is that that what I hear you saying?
Absolutely. I'm for the, for the naysayers, you know, the ones that you have the sometimes those that become toxic employees, the the way that you address those is when they want to complain. And one of the mantras around the office is is don't don't bring me a problem without a solution. I want to hear your solution to the problem. And so when we're having our divisional meetings, when we're having our command level meetings, it's when we get to those things that aren't going right, you know, how can we fix them? And that includes the line officer as well. If you're complaining about something, tell me how we can make it better. Yeah. And a lot of times, it's totally feasible to implement those changes.
Yeah. Great, great idea. Great. Hey, last question for you, as you think about all the leaders that you work for, or maybe someone that you have never even met that you just see from afar that you would say as a great leader, could it could be your grandfather, or could be a friend even who comes to mind for you, that you would just elevate up, you know, well, that person I believe they were a great leader, but more than their name, and you don't even have to tell us their name. What what made them special, what made him a great leader?
Well, my predecessor was my mentor. And that was one of the biggest things that he did was he asked you how to how to make things better. He listened. And if if it was a if it was a good idea it was implemented. And that was I mean, that's the bulk of the reason that that I lead the way that I lead in that I don't sit behind a big desk and pretend to know all the answers. And, you know, pontificate. You know what, what should happen. I go back to those folks that are out there doing the job. Because when the university is recognized as being safe, it's not about what I do on a daily basis, it's about those employees. So you have to value your employees, you have to honor and respect your employees. And then you have to part of honoring and respecting that team is to get rid of the ones that are toxic, and that are bringing the team down. And that's another important part. But he would he would be, he would be the person that immediately comes to mind because he always wanted to be out there on the leading edge, he always wanted to be at the front of the curve, he always wanted to be the one to try something first. And I've adopted that philosophy and that mentality.
Well, that's great, great. And I noticed obviously, the theme again in there, you know, let's listen to let's implement let's, let's let's be open to change. In even this mentor of yours, great, great topic. You know, this whole thing about transformational leadership for us at leader gov. Shan is we, we have a workshop, we have a 12 month workshop program, it's a one workshop every month for 12 months or hour and a half long. And in the early part of our workshop series, we talk about situational leadership, which is this whole idea of you know, there are seven or eight or nine different types of leadership, Democratic leadership laws, a fair you know, situate transformational leadership, transactional leadership, autocratic leadership, I could go on. And one of the things we find in our workshops is that a lot of people get stuck in just one way of leading and never sort of open up or consider other ways of leading their team based on the situation based on the time based on the environment. And so I appreciate you sharing with us a little bit today, just what it means to be a transformational leader and not not really what it means just how to do it. You know how to do it so that it doesn't come across as onerous, or you're going to do it my way or the highway. It doesn't sound like you're doing any of those kinds of things. It's a very inclusive sort of process you go through and I appreciate you sharing any final thoughts, anything you would just share with the folks as we as we head out?
No, sir. Probably the biggest thing is just take care of your employees. I mean, they're, they're the heart of the organization.
Yeah. Yeah. Well, thank you so much, chief, I appreciate you being with us today. I think all of our listeners who are listening today, thank you for your continued support. And we hope this has been informational to you and sort of helped you maybe get a better sense of what it means to be a transformational leader. And do it in a way that that inspires others. That includes others that empowers others. The world is changing, and we've got to change along with the world and we're going to end up being irrelevant and we don't want that do we, Chief? No, sir. Have a great day. Good. Good to have you. Thank you, sir. You too.