The Canadian Review of Policing Research (2004)

ISSN: 1710 6915


Deborah Doherty

Deborah Doherty manages middle management learning in the Police Executive Centre of the Canadian Police College. This summary is based on her 2001 Masters of Arts thesis in leadership and training taken at Royal Roads University. She can be reached at 613.998.0793 or at


Demographic trends in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), as in most other large organizations in North America, demand that we examine the leadership development needs of the organization. Effective succession-management strategies are designed to develop a pool of leaders who are ready for promotion to positions where they will have responsibility for directing people using strategic vision and sound judgement.

Building the next generation of leaders in the RCMP has been identified as one of the human resources priorities in the multi-year Human Resources plan for the organization1 . The target group for leadership development strategies consists of senior non-commissioned officers, newly commissioned officers and civilian equivalents with leadership responsibilities. This study looks at what those future leaders need in order to be successful and how the organization can provide the development that is required by these emerging leaders.


Research on leadership competencies and the effectiveness of leadership development programs has been done in many organizations. An extensive literature review was conducted to identify best practices and to understand the current processes for developing leaders in an organization. In this study, learning circles and direct interviews with groups of leaders and potential leaders were used to determine if the established competencies were appropriate, and if the existing developmental strategies were succeeding in preparing members to assume leadership roles in the RCMP.

Senior non-commissioned officers (NCOs) who were deemed ready for promotion, newly commissioned officers and civilian managers with responsibilities similar to commissioned officers (civilian equivalents) were interviewed for this research. The people questioned were representative of the diversity of the RCMP. Gender and minority status were considered when selecting interviewees. Subjects were also selected from contract policing units, administration and geographically distributed locations so that the sample used in the investigation was inclusive of many different perspectives.

The learning circles brought groups together for discussions on leadership. The discussions averaged three hours in duration and observations were recorded from each to form a series of themes. The themes were then used to develop a series of interview questions. Interviews were conducted with newly commissioned officers to determine competency profiles and to obtain input on preferences for gaining knowledge and learning new skills associated with leadership. Recommendations were derived from the responses recorded in all phases of the project. Recommendations pertained to two main themes:

  1. The qualities and behaviors of leaders and their relationship to the competency profiles used in leadership development and promotional decisions
  2. The essential content and methodology needed in a leadership development program for officers.


The competencies required to lead people in today’s RCMP are different from those used in past succession-management systems. The literature and the insights gained from this research suggest that recent changes in competency profiles used for succession decisions in the RCMP are justified. The shift toward competencies associated with modern comptrollership, such as accountability for results and effective stewardship of resources, means that emerging leaders will need knowledge and skills beyond those required to be an effective police officer.

There is a need to change the way that leadership development is provided to emerging organizational leaders. Current practices are not meeting the needs of leadership candidates. Classroom delivery needs to be augmented by web-based learning and other, non-traditional means of education. Action learning, work-based learning, coaching and mentoring are all developmental strategies that could be more effectively employed so that each candidate is able to develop the required competencies in her or his preferred style.

More research and pilot programs are needed to establish the competencies for leadership in the RCMP and to put the right programs on the menu for those who have been identified as potential leaders. Fifteen recommendations have been made to improve the leadership development program in the RCMP so that future leaders can be effectively identified and deployed. They are shown in the order they appear in the research paper.


  1. Review the present eight core competencies established by the RCMP for its employees, to ensure that they reflect the “modern comptrollership” competency profile.
  2. Define the competency of knowledge of law, policy and procedure as it pertains to the roles, responsibilities, rights and obligations of RCMP managers.
  3. Use aggregate data from competency assessment instruments to provide base-line data to measure improvement in organizational leadership capacity.
  4. Integrate leadership development with succession planning by using the human resources system to assign priority to individual leadership development (using individual learning plans to determine access to development programs).
  5. Increase the amount of “just-in-time” learning opportunities for middle managers by including self-directed learning modules, video-conference series, secondment opportunities, links to government leadership development web-sites, and discussion groups in the RCMP on-line “University”.
  6. Provide opportunities for officers2 to increase their education level by increasing access to commercial, government and university leadership development programs.
  7. Provide non-commissioned officers in the officer candidate program with access to the orientation level of the middle manager program map.
  8. Implement and monitor the revised Officer Orientation and Development Course (OODC) which includes a problem-based learning component.
  9. Increase the number of spaces available for qualified civilian members on the OODC.
  10. Develop additional RCMP-related training opportunities for experienced officers and their civilian equivalents that allow them to reflect on their application of modern management practices (action learning programs and leadership simulation exercises based on RCMP specific experiences).
  11. Integrate mentoring and coaching into the leadership development program as appropriate (building systems that allow experienced officers to guide less experienced officers as they develop).
  12. Introduce competency assessment and tools for assessing leadership style at the appropriate stages of leadership development program to increase the self-awareness of candidates.
  13. Design an automated competency assessment tool that will link to the RCMP on-line University and generate individual learning plans.
  14. Ensure that employees review their learning plans with their supervisor and career managers.
  15. Outline the responsibilities of the organization and the individual in the case of organizationally funded learning opportunities.

Further Research

It is important to establish baselines for leadership learning so that we can validate changes made to developmental programs. Some effort needs to be made to quantify the development of leadership competencies so that return on training investment can be evaluated in the future.

Additionally, more research should be done to determine the viability and strategic value of action-learning and work-based learning programs. Organizations such as Alcan, Nortel, the Government of Ontario and Alcatel have used these practices effectively and demonstrated the effectiveness of such approaches in achieving organizational objectives while developing potential leaders in the process.


1. Chief Human Resources Officer, RCMP Multi-Year Human Resources: 2000-2005, Ottawa: 2000, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, page 2.

2. In the RCMP, ‘officer’ is not a general term but means, as it does in military organizations, that the member has received a commission from the Queen. The first rank in the officer cadre is ‘inspector’.