Establishing Authority – Lessons from America’s Finest

We all know the song: sing it with me. ♪Bad boys, bad boys, Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do, When they come for you♪.


Law officers have been in the news recently, some for good, and some for bad. I’m not going to link to a bad story. Just check your Facebook feed or any television news publication because they only seem to show negative stories. In fact, according to a 2014 article published in Psychology Today, “media studies show that bad news far outweighs good news by as much as seventeen negative news reports for every one good news report”. So they certainly don’t need my help.

To put that into perspective, (as of this posting) the Kansas City Chiefs have an 18-1 chance to win the 2017 Super Bowl, so there is a slightly better chance that you will hear a positive news story than the Chiefs will win a championship. I know, I know, there are infinitely more news stories reported daily than NFL teams or games, dramatically increasing the odds of hearing a positive news story, but I was trying to give you hope since no one, including Chiefs fans, thinks the Chiefs are going to win the Super Bowl. Quit being so negative!

Anyways, this post is not about being negative, it’s about being positive. Despite the negative coverage, law enforcement officers continually put themselves on the line to better the public. Although not to the same degree, doesn’t that sound like something directly out of a business mission statement? Maybe yours?

The difference between your business and law enforcement officers is that they are excellent at establishing credibility and authority, and there are several lessons that you can learn from the boys (and girls) in blue to help establish authority for your business.

Let’s take a look at some of the strategies detailed in the 2011 Toolkit for Police Executives published by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (or COPS[1]) handbook, and how they can be applied to your business.

1. Community Oriented Approach

I bet you couldn’t guess that one of the fundamentals of an organization called the “Community Oriented Policing Services” is to be community oriented could you? Although not technically one of their strategies, because it is their actual name, this is an inherently important concept I didn’t want to glance by. In your business, in order to establish authority, you have to be community oriented. Whether it is in your actual physical location, via your social channels, or within your area of expertise, you need to be involved in your community and take steps to lead, influence and better it.

Many businesses say they want to be seen as an authority, but really have no grasp as to what that is. Authority is leadership, and you have to define who you want to lead if you have any hopes of rising to that status. Think about how you immediately perk up and pull over to the side of the road when you see flashing police lights. You do this because you instantly recognize that something important is taking place (or you were driving way too fast in which case, I am sorry for the ticket, hopefully you were just let off with a warning). This is how you want your customers and competitors to see you. Every time you post something to your social accounts or release a new product or service, you want them to immediately pay attention. This only happens if you have a strong relationship with your community, and you have taken the steps to define cues, such as the flashing lights of a police vehicle, that let your audience know something big is coming their way.

Once you define the community or communities you want to pursue authority in, make sure that you are constantly reaching out to them to set these cues. Every time Apple releases a new product, there are countless people writing articles, or posting information trying to get the scoop on new features or updates. You can do that with your business as well. Unless you are a multi-billion dollar organization, it won’t be to that extent, but figure out what success looks like for your organization. The better you communicate with your community, the better they will communicate on your behalf.

2. Problem-Based Learning

COPS uses problem-based learning to tackle complex issues. This is a method of teaching that presents real life problems that have no easy solutions and encourages people to ask questions, hypothesize, research, and then solve the problems.

Utilize this approach in your quest to build and establish authority. If you are asking yourself, ‘How to I become an expert in X’, there is no easy answer. Unless you are creating an entirely new product or concept, and these are few and far between, than you are not going to be seen as an authority from the start.

If you want to be an authority, encourage the communities that you engage with to ask you complex questions that they themselves cannot derive answers to. Use your network and expertise to hypothesize and research innovative solutions for them, and solve their problems.

There’s that old adage, feed a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime. Let your customers and network know that you are a person that knows how to fish and knows how to fish well, and they will continuously come back to you every time they need to eat, and it will feed you for a lifetime.

3. Scanning, Analysis, Response, Assessment

A commonly used problem-solving method within the COPS training platform is the SARA model (Scanning, Analysis, Response and Assessment). It can be used to help you build authority by giving you definable and actionable steps through which to evaluate and solve the problems for your customers or community outlines above.

The SARA model contains the following elements,


  • Identify recurring areas of concern for clients
  • Identify the consequences
  • Prioritize those problems
  • Develop broad goals


  • Identify relevant data to be collected
  • Take inventory of how the problem is currently addressed and the strengths and limitations of the current response
  • Narrow the scope of the problem as specifically as possible
  • Identify a variety of resources that may be of assistance in developing a deeper understanding of the problem
  • Develop a working hypothesis about why the problem is occurring


  • Search for what other communities with similar problems have done
  • Outline a response plan and identifying responsible parties
  • State the specific objectives for the response plan
  • Carryout the planned activities


  • Determine whether the plan was implemented (a process evaluation)
  • Collect pre– and post–response qualitative and quantitative data
  • Determine whether broad goals and specific objectives were attained
  • Identify any new strategies needed to augment the original plan
  • Conduct ongoing assessment to ensure continued effectiveness

By utilizing this method, you clients and prospects will see that you not only have a process, but a well-defined an actionable one that will get them results. They will come to you knowing that you will deliver results, which will help further enhance your authority.

4. Success Stories

The police have an enormously complex job. They deal with a wide range of issues of great importance to individuals and the community at large. Their performance is judged in each interaction with citizens, many of whom have little real understanding of what the police do beyond what they see on television or read about in newspapers and magazines. The strongest and most lasting impressions may come from personal or family member contact with police officers and the stories they tell about the interaction.

The same is true of you and your clients. Every business is complex, and most people may only utilize a single product or a small part of your service, but you have to make sure each interaction is positive, and that those with these positive interactions are telling others. Encourage your clients or customers to share stories of your success with them to their network. This will only serve to expand your community, and help establish your authority. If they post a positive interaction to their social channels, make sure you or someone within your organization is monitoring it so they can like, favorite or share these experiences. Remember, authority is leadership, and you lead by example.

These are only some of the lessons that we can learn from the men and women that put themselves on the line for us every day. Now it is time for you to put yourself out there to establish and grow your authority. So, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do?


[1] Since 1994, the COPS Office has invested more than $16 billion to add community policing officers to the nation’s streets, enhance crime fighting technology, support crime prevention initiatives, and provide training and technical assistance to help advance community policing. More than 500,000 law enforcement personnel, community members, and government leaders have been trained through COPS Office-funded training organizations.