Don’t Become a Good Cop/Bad Cop Leader
“Go ask your mother.”
“Your father is not going to like that!”
“You’ll need the boss’ approval.”
“If the leader of that department is okay with it, I’m okay with it.”
We do this all the time. We pass the buck. We play good cop/bad cop.
Some of us are wired for mercy.
Some of us are wired for justice.
And because of that wiring, we usually become either the good cop or the bad cop for those we lead.
Good Cop/Bad Cop Philosophy
When we perpetuate a good cop/bad cop scenario, we create heroes and villains.
The philosophy doesn’t emerge from dysfunction. It comes from that natural wiring, and at first, it even seems balanced. We need mercy and justice. We need grace and truth. Since both exist, there appears to be an equilibrium in the organization. For a time, there might be the illusion of such, but in reality, you’re enabling a dysfunction that will wear down the relational chemistry of your team.
The “Good Cop” Role
The leader who plays the “good cop” role, while well-liked, will become less respected. That person can never be relied upon to speak the truth. The team eventually catches on and realizes that in the desire to be the “good cop” this leader is never coaching you for improvement or constructively giving you feedback. The “good cop” leaves that to the “bad cop.”
The “Bad Cop” Role
The leader who plays the “bad cop” role wears down the organization. As the person who is always delivering the bad news, this leader is avoided. People dodge when they see them coming. People know that whatever they have to say, it’s not going to be good.
Embrace Both Sides of Leadership
Good cop/bad cop leadership philosophy divides teams. It perpetuates unhealthy alliances and ultimately severs relationships.
As leaders, we can’t delegate the good or the bad. Healthy leadership is embracing both sides. It’s part of our leadership responsibility.
As leaders, we must be willing to be merciful and just while being both truthful and gracious.
Keep leading well.
Jenni Catron and The 4Sight Group
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Jenni Catron is a writer, speaker, and leadership coach who consults churches and non-profits to help them lead from their extraordinary best. She speaks at conferences and churches nationwide, seeking to help others develop their leadership gifts and lead confidently. As Founder and CEO of The 4Sight Group, she consults with individuals and teams on leadership and organizational health.
Jenni is the author of several books, including Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence and The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership.