Wayne Dennard retired as our Chief of Police in Acworth, Georgia this past week. Through his twenty years of service, he epitomized what it means to be a Community Leader. He is someone who uses his influence to better others and the world he lives in.
We held his retirement ceremony on Wednesday afternoon to honor him. It was an hour-long celebration of his accomplishments and service, but more importantly him as a human being.
In this week’s post, I wanted to honor a special person and share eight leadership lessons from the influence he has had on my life and the lives of so man others:
Stewardship of the Seat
I often wonder how you can possibly sum up twenty years of someone’s faithful service in a few minutes of comments at a retirement ceremony…now a thousand word blog post. Retirement ceremonies are a stark reminder that we are simply Stewards of the Seat we currently occupy. In our community, Chief Jesse Evans has now assumed that seat and one day someone else will. No one will occupy a seat forever.
Too often in leadership we are taught to exhibit ownership in our positions. This is a noble effort, but somewhat misguided. We own the responsibilities, but not the seat. We are simply temporary stewards of it. Chief Dennard served the seat well while he sat in it.
Do What Is Right
Plastered across the squad room wall is, “Spend time and always do what is right.” This is something that he always emphasized with his team. There is so much simplicity in that brief statement. As leaders, if we could apply that principal daily, our effectiveness would greatly improve. Those were not just words he spoke, but ones his actions displayed.
Deflect Credit, Accept Responsibility
As the leader of an organization, we too often receive most of the credit. On the flipside, we can receive a fair share of the criticism. He always deflected the credit to others and personally accepted responsibility when things didn’t go as planned.
Be a Little-Known Hero
There are Little Known Heroes in this world like Wayne Dennard. They will never stand on a national stage, have a statue erected, or be written into the world history books. While they may not make the history books, people like him are forever etched into the fabric of local communities. Their impact is forever felt for generations to come where it matters most, locally…at home.
Stand in The Gap
Leaders stand in the gap for others. Heroes are known to run in when everyone else runs out. That is why he and so many others wear the badge. They arrive at the right time, not a second too late.
He stood in the gap for me at a very critical point in my journey, on an extremely tough day. I will NEVER forget that…EVER. (Editorial Note: No…I didn’t get in trouble with the law!)
Lead in Any Direction
I watched him lead those who followed him, lead peer to peer, and lead up. I was a beneficiary of the peer to peer for the first twenty-one years of my career, and for the last two, I benefited from him leading up as I transitioned to City Manager. His decision making, humanity, and wisdom was something that every level of our organization benefited from.
Find Complimentary Differences
He and I are wired completely different. Wayne is fast paced and decisive. I am calculated and methodical. That combination can produce dynamic, yet productive conflict. The more our relationship grew, I found it to be one of the most beneficial relationship dynamics I had. Although we are wired differently, we were both wired to the same circuit, one that desired to make Acworth the greatest place to live, work, and play for everyone.
Follow Your Burdens
A story was shared at his ceremony regarding how he got into law enforcement. Back in the early 2000’s a mobile home caught on fire in the city and six people tragically died. It was one of the worst days in our community’s history.
He was working in the private sector at that time. As a member of his church, he felt burdened to come to the site and see if there was anything he and his church could do. He was greeted by a group of Acworth Police Officers who advised him that the best thing he could do is leave.
From that point forward, he was burdened to make a difference. He attempted on many occasions to join the department, but wasn’t welcomed with open arms. He decided to put himself through the police academy. On day one of the academy, it all came together as it was destined to. During roll call, another recruit stood up and introduced himself as Mike Wilkie, the new Chief of Police for the City of Acworth. His burden was eased, the rest is history.
So back to the original question at hand. How do you sum up twenty years of faithful service at a retirement ceremony or in a short blog post? I firmly believe you can do that with the answer to two simple questions:
- If they disappeared tomorrow, would anyone notice?
The day of this posting will be the first time in twenty years I have not served on the same team with him. I will notice, our people will notice, and our community will notice. The answer is YES.
- Did they leave it better than they found it?
The Acworth Police Department is not the same organization that it was when he showed up to the site of the mobile home fire. We have a community-orientated department that takes time, and does the right thing. Wayne Dennard left the people and the organization better than he found it.
Chief…thank you for leading well. Thank you for being a tremendous community leader. Thank you for being a positive influence on my life. Thank you for being a solid friend.