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Public safety officials share success of Daniels leadership course

Chief Vince Line with Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t know of an executive leadership course he hasn’t attended. Line has taken courses offered by the FBI and Northwestern University and has received his MBA. Commander Lance Enholm with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office calls himself a student of leadership. Chief Don Lombardi with West Metro Fire Rescue said he’s gone through numerous leadership classes, and stays on top of leadership trends with articles, workshops and seminars. Same for Captain Tim Palmer with the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office. Yet all four public safety officers say the Public Safety Leadership Development (PSLD) course offered by Executive Education at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business has had the most meaningful impact on them and their teams.

Captain Tim Palmer

“This is huge for us,” said Palmer, who took the PSLD in 2011. “I see it as basic training for all the supervisors in my building.”

“The instruction was remarkable,” said Line, who was in Palmer’s cohort in 2011. “I really believe in this is training, advocating in my own agency to get all our command staff there.”

Executive Education at DU has taught leadership to CEOs and organizational executives for decades. But you might wonder why business professors are in the business of teaching leadership to public safety experts.

Chief Don Lombardi

The program was developed in 2008 after the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in collaboration with George Heinrichs, co-founder of Intrado’s E911 system, and the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Department. First responders (police officers, sheriff’s deputies, paramedics, firefighters) recognized a need for different agencies to work more closely together, have a common language and develop public safety leadership in our local communities.

A key part of the program takes attendees through the Insights Discovery System, which is a tool used to improve emotional intelligence and business communication. While it categorizes communication styles into four colors—blue, green, red, yellow—it provides a comprehensive read out on their strengths, weaknesses and how they process information.

“I remember getting my analysis from Insights and reading the narrative. I was certain someone was following me around,” Palmer said. “I couldn’t believe the accuracy of the information; it is exactly who I was.”

Commander Lance Enholm

Lombardi said he thinks everyone he’s put through PSLD has commented on how life-changing it is to go through the program and through Insights specifically.

“I’ve had people go through the program who were disengaged, just going through motions. They came back and were markedly changed,” he said. “We’ve even improved marriages too, it can help your home life. We profess we’re a family, so that’s important to me.”

But how does knowing your color have a true impact on these officers, and in turn, public safety as a whole? Enholm, who completed the training in 2013, described how he sees it work at the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office in special operations.

“It gives us tools and techniques for us to work through challenges with each other’s leadership styles; we understand each other a whole lot better, and arrive at better, stronger supported decisions,” he said. “When we all go to a similar leadership course, we also speak the same language. This improves the way we interact with our employees—they hear a consistent method of how we speak to issues and that all leads to harmony within the organization.”

Chief Vince Line

Chief Line uses the Insights profiles in Arapahoe County to build teams when planning operations or putting together a committee or work group.  

“This is not only a benefit to my team or my agency, but this is helpful across Colorado when you’re planning an operation with lots of agencies in the room,” he said. “We might need a red to help drive a project, but balance them with a strong blue to analyze things and check the details. We may also need a green to make sure our folks are taken care of. This is valuable [information] to assemble a team and understand each other during planning or in the midst of an operation.”

Lombardi, who also completed PSLD training in 2013, said he’s seen how the program improves emergency outcomes.

“The program allows you to better understand your leadership style and have confidence in it,” he explained. “We have assistant chiefs who used to struggle on calls, but after the program were able to cultivate solid relationships with their teams. Then, it transcends to the fire on the ground. People who used to struggle on incidents are now confident in themselves and their teams; what a change it’s been!”

Since 2008, more than 800 first responders have gone through the PSLD program. Executive Education hopes to continue to partner with the public safety sector for many years to come and views this as one of the most impactful programs offered at DU. Visit the Executive Education website for more information: