CPA 3 | Understanding The Why


It is one thing for leaders to tell team members what they need to accomplish and how to proceed with them, and it is another thing entirely to inform them of the reasons they should accomplish those things. Janine Hamner Holman is joined by the former Boston Police Chief Daniel Linskey to discuss how understanding the why can lead to a better and even more meaningful collective response. He narrates how this mindset impacted his leadership when he oversaw the police response to the Boston Marathon bombings on 2013 and the Occupy Movement of 2011. Dan also explains how he inspired his men to always choose peaceful proceedings over resorting to force, which starts at the most trivial things like using soft hats during protester confrontations.

HOST: Janine Hamner Holman | [email protected] | LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter | Subscribe to my Newsletter! Book me to Speak!

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Daniel Linskey On Understanding The Why To Achieve A Better Collective Response

Former Boston Police Chief Dan Linskey Talks About The Boston Marathon Bombing

What am I paying attention to today? The difference between nice and kind. When I was growing up, we were always told to be nice. One of the things that I’ve realized, especially in the work that I do is that there’s a big difference between being nice and being kind. We always want to make sure that we’re kind, that we’re caring about the people that we’re talking with, and being conscious of the way that we are with them. Being nice can sometimes mean pulling our punches and not saying the things that need to be said in order to have them be their very best, which brings me to our guest.

Talk about being your best. I had an opportunity to hear Daniel Linskey talk and I knew I needed to get to know him. I grew up across the river from where Daniel was serving the people of the City of Boston, Massachusetts. One of the many things that I’ve come to respect about Daniel is his drive to be the best leader he can possibly be while also developing his team. He combines strength and humility, vulnerability and compassion, relentless drive and effective leadership. His quest for leadership took him to the swamps of the US Marine Corps Bootcamp at the Crossroads Training Program of the Marine Corps at Quantico. It had him climbing trees and hiding in dumpsters as he led squads of undercover officers, conducting operations against violent street gangs and drug dealers. It led him to the halls of Harvard’s elite executive development programs. His work ethic, knowledge, ability to drive results and effectively developing teams, and his ability to be at his best in challenging circumstances led to his appointment as the Chief of the Boston Police Department at the age of 43.

Chief Linskey is a leader on the front lines of cultural change happening in American policing and is a leading law enforcement trainer. He was part of a team set by the Department of Justice to assist the St. Louis Police Department in its efforts to maintain safety and restore confidence after the events of the officer-involved shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. He has worked with local communities and law enforcement agencies to combine those best practices of deploying officers while at the same time, building community collaboration and conducting outreach efforts. He’s done this on the local state and international levels. Welcome to the show, Dan.

Thanks for having me, Janine.

You’re welcome. What’s one thing that you’ve become aware of that you weren’t paying attention to or a time when you were afraid that you weren’t paying attention to something that was important?  

It was my seventh year serving as the Incident Commander for the Boston Marathon and I pretty much pay attention to a lot of details. I maybe have a reputation for being a micromanager and nitpicking a little bit. That’s okay. I’ll take that as a compliment. On that morning, we brief the troops. We come up with our plan. We change the plan as we’re putting it out because plans always change. It’s not about having a perfect plan. It’s having a team that can plan for the challenge in front of you. The tradition I do every year is I walk that route. I go out from the finish line 1 mile out to Copley Square. I cross the street and come back in. I’m doing two things when I’m walking that route. That’s the initial walk I do.

Later on, after the lead runners come in and the international participants finish, I drive my vehicle to Newton where it comes into Boston from Brookline. It goes into Boston from Newton before it goes into Brookline, and I walked the route there as well and say hello to all my officers out there. I go into Audubon Circle and walk the last of the route from Audubon Circle to the rest of Fenway Park. I have two goals when I do that. One, I want to make sure that our explosive ordnance detection teams and our special operations teams are doing what they have to do, that we are looking for the plan, we are looking for threats and challenges. I’m always very concerned, probably no more than concerned police official in America than myself of potentials for explosive devices at a special event in the United States of America post-2001.

If leaders forget to tell the why to the team, they can sometimes get a lot of pushback. Share on X

I have a unique experience with that that caused me to be so hypersensitive to explosive devices. October 28th, 1991, as a young cop, I responded to two police officers down. When I got to the scene, there were two bomb techs. There was a device that was under a car. They were examining it and it exploded when one of them was handling it. One officer lost his eye. The other officer’s wrist was blown off and his leg was pretty well mangled. As he was on the ground, he was screaming that there are secondary devices and he was telling us not to render any aid to him because he thought there were other devices that could hurt other officers. We heed that warning. We picked up pieces and he was taken to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

I’ll never forget when the ambulance arrived at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the doors opened up, my wife was there. She was an emergency room nurse, and I had pretty good confidence in my wife’s doctors. I thought they were the best in the world at the time. I still think that, and I thought that they could save this officer’s life. Unfortunately, they couldn’t. After six hours, that officer died because of his wounds. That officer was Jeremiah J. Hurley. He was my best friend’s dad. He’s the reason I pin a badge upon my chest. He was mentally involved in my life growing up and I became a cop because of Jerry and unfortunately, I watched him die in a bombing. The threat of bombings was first and foremost in my mind. I go out to make sure we’re doing things, dotting I’s, crossing T’s. Looking for devices, abandoned bags, and making sure we’re doing our job.

The other reason I get out is I used to be a cop and I was a real cop and arrested bad guys. I’m a boss and I have meetings and PowerPoints. On that day, I can walk down the street and I get to talk to my cops and thank them for what they do. The great arrest of a gang member that was going to shoot somebody. Thank you, detective, for the great testimony to put somebody away that has beaten us a couple of times and no good investigation. I got a call from a judge about how professional it was. I talk to an officer about if he’s feeling better, he’s coming from a bad back. He injured his back, smashing his third cruiser in three months. I threatened to put him on a walking beat if he keeps matching up police cars. I was doing that that day.

I walked that route and came to a young officer and I forgot his name. I’m getting older, they’re getting younger. I wish him a Happy Patriots Day. As I went to walk away, he said, “Boss, I just bought the house five houses up from you.” I spent twenty minutes talking to my new neighbor about his house and our neighborhood, and where to get steaks, prime rib, dry cleaning, all the stuff that you need to know in your neighborhood. I went back to looking for threats and concerns and doing my regular routine. I went all the way up to Copley Square across the street, shook all those cops’ hands, both out and in.

Now we’re good to go. Marathon happened. The lead runners came in. The governor put the laurel wreaths on their heads. There was a national anthem played, all the VIP started leaving and for me, the threat was over. I had additional officers standing on that route, looking into the crowd for a potential threat, an active shooter attack, a bombing attack, whatever it might be. Once the lead runners were over, I assumed that we were done, that it was just a road race. We didn’t have to worry about attacks coming. I went out to Brookline and shook on my cop hands in Newton and Brookline, and then the Boston line and went to Audubon Circle. I was walking over the bridge when I heard the radio transmissions of my cops in trouble on Boylston Street.

One of them is a very level-headed street cop that I’ve been through a number of bad days at the office with. He’s a former Marine as well. I’ve never heard him out of control and screaming on a radio. I don’t know what they had on Boylston Street but I knew my friend needed me there. I ran and got in the car. I get briefed up that there might’ve been two explosions at the finish line. I get out of the car. At the end, the officer told me, “Boss, they hit us twice.” They blew a device and as people were running away, they blew a second device. He had been directing the scene and kept his calm. He maintained the street, didn’t allow police vehicles, fire vehicles to block the street.

I got on the radio and implemented our emergency action plan. He did an amazing job. When he saw me and he said that to me, he stopped talking. He essentially said, “Tag, you’re it.” I never liked being it when I was a kid. I certainly didn’t want to be it this day. As he’s telling me that they blew a device, and as people were taking off, they blew a second one. We’re in the front of a restaurant that’s right where that young officer and I had a conversation, my new neighbor. Unfortunately, next to him was an eight-year-old little boy and a young woman who were devastated by what these terrorists had done to them. That young officer was wounded. He had an injury in his leg.

CPA 3 | Understanding The Why

Understanding The Why: Police officers hate two things: change and the way things are.


I was made chief at 43, a pretty critical crisis responding personality, and do my best in crisis. I’ve seen a lot of bad things. It was playing out someone was screaming about secondary devices, and I’ve been in a bad scene prior in my life where someone screamed about a secondary device. That was a horrible experience as well. As a former United States Marine Chief of the Boston Police Department, I realized that I had spoken for twenty minutes to that young cop, and that I might have failed in finding a device because I took my eye off my mission. That little boy and that young woman, and the loss of their life and their family’s injuries were possibly on my watch and because of my negligence.

With that overwhelming images and that wave of shame and guilt, I froze. I punched my radio tight and I stuttered stepped around and I wanted to run. Someone was screaming about secondary devices. I was trying to figure out how to get out of there, but I couldn’t run and I didn’t have a plan. I froze and was just standing there watching a slow-motion movie play around me. This woman appeared and had a leg injury. I know how to do first aid pretty well. I grabbed the napkin off a table and I bent down and started putting pressure on her leg. A medic and a firefighter showed up. They had actual pressure bandages and things that could treat the wound more appropriately than I could, but I wouldn’t let go of her. I was keeping her foot in the elevated position to keep the blood from coming down because I knew how to do that. I was comfortable doing that.

A Massachusetts state trooper grabbed me by the collar of my jacket and pulled it and said, “We need you in the middle of the street, Chief.” I’m a Boston cop, I’m the Chief of the Boston police and he’s a person from another agency and he’s going to tell me what to do. I was furious. I wasn’t furious at Mark Horgan, who was a buddy of mine and Lieutenant from Mass State Police for telling me to be the boss and reminded me to do my job. I was furious at myself for having to be reminded. I stood in that street and just swore at him and he said, “Danny.” I said, “Mark, I know exactly what you are suggesting.”

I racked my body with tension, shook it, and took four of the deepest cleansing breaths I’ve ever taken my entire life. I learned down the road talking to doctors and biologists that oxygen will get into your brain, will dump the cortisol and the adrenaline out of your brain. My file cabinet opened up because I didn’t have any idea what to do here. My cabinet opened up and it was right in front of me. Every training I ever did, and how to train with our brother and sister officers, police, fire EMS, and what to do with an explosion or active shooter event, it was there. Every leader I look to in my career when I was in the military or police or simply in life where I said that person is a great leader. I’m going to take those bits of knowledge and put it in my file cabinet, and it was there.

Every year I said I will never be that idiot in crisis there. It just opened and I start pulling those things out. One of the things I talk about or what I was trained in and brought it out was in the middle of crisis there are 5,000 things to do. Pick the five most important you need to know right now. What’s important right now, this minute, this motion, this time, pick them, and more important than the five things you pick is the manner in which you deliver your message to your troops about what you’re doing and why. You want to write your script ahead of time before you say something on the radio or the lectern. You want to be the calmest and coolest you have ever been in your entire career. That’s what I tried to do.

I love that story for many reasons. I was trained several years ago. On my 40th birthday, I decided to become a scuba diver and then eventually went through the ranks, and then flipped over and became a divemaster, which is the lowest rung of the professional track. I can help certify somebody to be a scuba diver. I can’t certify them all by myself, but I can assist, which is so much fun. One of the things that I learned because scuba diving while it’s wonderful and fulfilling, and the closest I’m ever going to be to being an astronaut in that feeling of weightlessness, there are also a lot of things that can go wrong. People die every year. In the training that you undergo to start learning how to teach people how to do this, you learn how to calm down and how to do the first thing first. In a crisis, that’s what we’ve got to figure out. Just like you were talking about the first five things, what’s the first thing that needs to be done? Underwater where we don’t have oxygen, the first thing is to make sure everybody can breathe.

The part of what I love about the way that you tell that story is we’re all in situations as leaders, as frontline employees, where something goes wrong. We’re called upon to figure it out. We all often have that moment where that file cabinet is just closed. We cannot access what we need to do. Part of what I love about that story is that you, as the Chief of Police with all of this training, former Marine, been at Quantico, been at Harvard, all the different places where you have been and trained, and that even someone who is as trained and qualified in emergency situations as you are is going to get thrown. It gives us all permission to be like, “I got thrown, that’s okay. Dan Linskey got thrown too so it’s all right. Now, what do I do? I remember Dan said he took four of the deepest cleansing breaths he’s ever taken in his life.” As you said, you’ve learned that that does do something and it does.

In times of need, look deep in the file cabinet within yourself and hope there are files containing the answers to your questions. Share on X

Several years ago after scuba diving, I decided to get into neuroscience. One of the things that you learned that I also know is that when we are in that state of fight, flight or freeze, and you were in the freeze portion, we are in the most ancient part of our brain, our limbic system, which was formed millions and millions of years ago before we had the ability to talk. When we take a deep breath, it cleanses all of those chemicals out of our brain. It puts us back into our prefrontal cortex so that we can think. That’s what you did. You took those deep cleansing breaths and it got you then to be able to access your file cabinet, which is what we all need to do in those moments. Access all the information, all the training that we know that we can’t have any ability to connect to when we’re in that state of freak out and shut down.

Given that you thought you had not paid attention to something so important, and you realized you had. You had cleared that part. Everything had been fine when you were there. Things happened afterward, which is the way that life goes. You were in this horrific situation and needed to figure out how to move through it and how to support your team. How to support the fine people of the great City of Boston and all of the people who come into the city to be part of the marathon. You have another great story that I want to move on to, but before I do that, I want to ask you if there’s anything else from that first story that you want to share or anything that I said that made you think about something else.  

I think you summed up the leadership style and program they teach over the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard School of Public Health called the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative, where we talk about a meta-leadership and it’s exactly what I did that day. I went to the basement. When you’re in crisis, you go into the basement. You get where you’re safe and you look out and observe what’s scares you around you. Every human being is going to go to the basement. We’re wired that way. It started out when we come out of the caves and dinosaurs showed up. The first person went and said, “What’s that?” Everyone else said, “Don’t go out, there are dinosaurs.” It’s a survival instinct that does us well. Except for the fact that you went to the basement, I don’t care. Apollo 13, they went to the basement but then they went back to the training. They took a deep breath. It’s how quickly you can get out of that basement that the amygdala hijack, where your system is overwhelmed, take control, and put your thinking back into your response. That’s exactly the point of what I was trying to say. Take a deep breath and hopefully, you’re constantly training, updating, and planning so that when you do open that file cabinet, you’ve got some files in there that are filled out and ready for use.

There’s data in your file.

That’s part of it too.

I love that image of you went to the basement because that’s where it feels like we go. We go to this deep place. Thank you for that. The other story that you and I talked about some time previously is the story of what happened in Boston when the Occupy Movement paid you all a visit.  

Boston was visited by Occupy, just as cities around the country were. We took an initial hands-off approach and let people occupy the space. That caused some concern in the culture. In my police department, I had some police that was upset that we weren’t going in and arresting these people because essentially, they’re challenging our authority. I had some police officers who were like, “Why are you kowtowing to these people? Why aren’t we going in and arresting people?” I said, “Arrest them for what?” “Violation of public park ordinance. They can’t be in the park after 11:00 PM. You can’t sleep in a park overnight. It’s a violation. Violation of the city ordinance is an arrestable offense. Why aren’t we enforcing the law?” I would say to the officers, “There were homeless people who sleep in that park all the time and you never have taken any enforcement action against them. It wasn’t a problem for you. Because this group is challenging authority in general and we’re the authority, now we want to enforce the City of Boston ordinance? What are we doing?”

CPA 3 | Understanding The Why

Understanding The Why: Peaceful protests, as much as possible, must not be met with violence or suppressed through force.


Part of it was selfish. I didn’t want my offices to wind up on the news appearing to be militaristic where they were going in. I’m smart enough to know that the peaceful protest is going to resist and scream and yell. We’re going to put hands-on and even somebody who just goes limp and doesn’t want to cooperate and walk to a petty wagon when four cops have to pick you up and drag you there, that’s not a good image. If I’m the chief marketing officer of law enforcement, I want to avoid that image as often as I can. We were seeing violent confrontations across the country where law enforcement get engaged. There are people who were there for peaceful protest, and there were people who use those crowds as human shields. When protesters are doing what they’re doing, they’re throwing rocks and bottles. The police respond to that. You wind up engaging, not with the troublemakers, but with the peaceful protesters.

Commissioner Davis and I have a very much hands-off approach. That wrinkled some folks. I ran a public patrol squad. I wore the right gear and was out there with kids throwing rocks and bottles, and flipping cars on fire. We used to go out before the Red Sox celebrations. We would prepare for large-scale disorder and distress by putting on our turtle gear because you look like the Teenage Ninja Turtles. We are putting on our helmets, our sticks, and our shin pads. We would be trained, “Don’t talk to anyone. Don’t take a bait, be very stern, just be like a soldier in a war.” We would march up and down the locations where we thought we were going to have problems. We’d bang our stick on our shin pads. The message we were sending is we’re ready for a fight. The problem is, and I’ve learned this, there are a lot of people who want to fight you in law enforcement. They just need to know where to go and if you show up with 500 guys banging sticks and saying this is where the fight is going to be, you’re going to find those people who want to fight you. There are also a bunch of people who don’t want to fight you, but they love to watch a good fight and get it on their video camera and put it on YouTube or Twitter.

We were creating some of our own challenges by coming in ready for a fight. We found a fight and we try to change that by going in first with pamphlets and educational campaigns. We’re handing people out with officers in a high visibility vest, no protective equipment handing out, “If the Red Sox win there might be some streets close. Can you do this? Can you do that?” Getting Red Sox in the world series tickets, $400 a ticket, getting an opportunity to go to Northeastern University $60,000 a year, being arrested for rioting during the Red Sox championships, price list being thrown out of school. We did a lot of messaging. The thought was if we go in soft approach and we’re saying hello, thanking people, talking about what we’re going to do and why, and we’re kind, it’s hard to throw a rock and bottle at some police officer that was friendly, kind, and talk to me about the Red Sox, I’ve thought before.

We tried and used the same methodology with Occupy. They had no permits to go down the street, no parade permit. We could arrest everyone who was on the street if we wanted to, “Why? What do we care?” We’ll block traffic off. It’s about a peaceful protest that started in Boston where people throw in teas in the harbor. We let them do a lot of things. At one protest, they used to tie up my resources on Columbus Day weekend. They went and took another portion of the park that had just been redone. You have to set limits. I went in and talked to them and said, “You can’t stay here.” They said, “What are you going to do about it?” I said, “I’m just telling you can’t stay here. Here are the reasons why. You’re over there. We’re accepting that. If you stay over there, we’re not going to take any enforcement action. You stay here, I’m going to take enforcement action. You got to stop and there are going to be consequences for it.” They said, “What are you going to do about it? Make us.” We hadn’t taken action because otherwise, it would have grown. It was causing vandalism.

We were seeing violence and assaults amongst the Occupy group. People went down there with these good ideas and thoughts, “We’re going to take care of the mental health issues. We’re going to take care of the homeless.” They’re dealing with homeless people with mental health issues who are assaultive and stealing things. Now they’re like, “We have to throw him out of the park.” “The homeless guy just assaulted me and stole my stuff. I want to throw him out of the park.” “You want him to run out of the park that he lives in, that you’re here at a protest while you go to school.” We were working with messaging with them and trying to get them on board. I had to send in a large number of officers in a tactical way. I wanted it to be very low profile. Start with a large number of officers, make a show of force, tell people to cooperate. Those who wanted to cooperate, we were going to let them pick up their stuff and go across the street. Those who didn’t want to do that and you wanted to peacefully protest and lie down, that’s fine. We were going to pick you up and move you. If you want to engage in violence, I had teams that would be in the back, out of sight with all of that gear on and if you started throwing rocks and bottles at our guys, they were going to come out very quickly and engage you.

I told the frontline troops, I didn’t want them wearing their riot helmets. As a leader, sometimes we tell people what to do because we’re trying to get a task done. I want you to do this, that, and the other thing. What I discovered is that if we forget to tell why we’re doing it, you can sometimes get a lot of pushback on your team. Why I was doing it was I think we can do it safely. I don’t think we’ll be met with initial violence. If we are, you can take your helmet off your belt and put it on. If someone’s getting on the radio and say, “Their throwing rocks and bottles,” I will say, “Put your helmets on, bring out the riot teams. If they’ve thrown the first rock and bottle, we will certainly finish that fight, but we’re not going to start it.”

I was hoping to get that narrative by the media on electronic or print media. I embedded media reporters with me so that they get to hear what I was hearing on the radio. If we were hearing rocks and bottles, they were going to hear it first. I was going to say, “If they’re being violent, then go ahead and protect yourselves.” I was trying to win the media narrative because I didn’t want my cops to be sued. I didn’t want my cops hurt. I thought I could keep them safe. More importantly than hurt, I don’t want them sued. I don’t want their reputation and their relationship with the community harmed because we look like we’re going in there for a fight. I never explained that.

Train the way you fight and fight the way you train. Share on X

I got a call from the Union president who was very upset that I wasn’t issuing the right helmets to start this process. I said, “No, it’s fine. We’re not going to do that. We don’t want to start a fight.” He said, “It doesn’t work.” I said, “It does. They just put it on their belt and they can put it on.” He said, “Where are they going to put their regular hat? Because if they wear their regular hat and they can’t put that off to lose the hat, you’ll get damaged, you get vandalized. You can’t do it.” I said, “I’m going to tell them not to wear the hat.” He said, “It’s a violation of the rules and regulations. They need to wear the hats.” I said, “364 days a year, I can’t get the majority of these guys to wear their hats. Tonight is the one night everyone wants to wear their soft hat? The night that I want them to wear their riot helmets on the side, in case we need them, but not on their heads.”

What I learned afterward, it was a lot of consternation. Officers are rightfully so concerned for their personal safety, concerned for why we were changing things. Police officers, like many people, hate two things. They hate change. Any change at all is met with angst. The other thing they hate is the way things are, as any human being likes to complain about the way things are, but they hate change in any way, shape or form. It was a life lesson for me to realize that if I had taken the time to explain to the troops why we were doing it, because after we did it and I went back and talked to them and said, “I apologize. I know there’s some tension.” “No, it made sense. Now, we get it but we should have been part of that conversation.” They were 100% right. When you’re motivating a team, putting the team out on a mission, especially missions where there are some personal safety issues, you need to make sure you’re letting them know why.

It happened during the marathon. The command center and I gave an order, “I want cops on every intersection tomorrow. I want people to feel the city is safe. I want them to see officer friendly everywhere they turn. We just had a bombing attack. We were trying to keep the city open. I wanted my neighbors, relatives, cousins if they came out of a train station to see cops who were engaging in friendly and making them feel safe as they could in a city that had just been bombed.” That takes a pushback from the Union president again who said, “Why do you have these guys at traffic posts?” Meanwhile, we had 22 blocks shut down that didn’t even have traffic. I said, “We don’t have guys at traffic posts. That’s ridiculous.” I want them to being out there, engaging in the community, making people feel safe. That’s BS.

I went down to the Bureau of Field Services and I got the actual operations plan. I go, “I just got a call from the Union. Do you guys have people doing traffic posts down there? Do we have everyone on traffic post?” They said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “Who the hell told you to put people in traffic posts?” “Sir, you said you wanted cops at every intersection. When we put cops in intersections, we call them traffic posts.” We had to tell the cops, “You’re going to be at the corner of Newbury Street and Arlington.” We told them it was a traffic post. We never told them, “You’re going to be at Newbury and Arlington Street. We want you to be officer friendly. If you see people coming out say, ‘Hi folks, how are you doing? Thanks for being out here. If you need anything, we’re here. There is plenty of police presence. If you see something, let us know.’” I had to bring back the cops, have a roll call with them, have a conversation, and explain to them, “You guys are not into the traffic. I don’t want you guys to screw traffic up if you’re out there.”

That is not the point or the purpose.  

“I want your sister, your wife, your husband, your uncle, your cousin, to feel safe when they come in to go to work in Boston. We’ve been knocked down and our whole city is getting up. I need you guys and gals to be officer friendly out there to make sure that people feel safe.” Once I told them the mission, everyone’s like, “I’ll stand eighteen hours making sure people feel safe because I’m vested in that mission. If I’m doing eighteen hours at a BS traffic post while the detectives and the FBI is running around doing investigations, I’m not in for that mission.” It was another example of we told them the what and not the why. When you’re building teams and especially mission-critical team, if they’ve invested in the why, it’s amazing what they will do.

One of the things that I’ve found is that when people understand why they’re doing something, if my job is cleaning the floor, great. If I understand why and how that connects to what we’re up to as an organization and how that’s making the world a better place, I’m going to clean that floor with all my heart. I’m going to be super excited to clean that floor because I understand how it’s part of what we’re up to creating. I love that story and I love how you underline it because that’s the key. When the officers understood why they’re standing out there, they’re not standing out there having anything to do with traffic, they’re out there because Boston is strong. Boston had gotten knocked down and you all were a big part of helping the community get back up again, feel safe, feel connected, and feel like we’re all in it together. What a way to bring it around to the current time that we’re in, we’re all in it together. You were helping to communicate that to your guys. Once you figure it out, “I dropped a piece of this,” which was to let them know why we’re doing it.  

CPA 3 | Understanding The Why

Understanding The Why: When a team is invested in the why, they will do amazing things.


Another example, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the TEDx Talk on The Heroes of the Taj. It’s a fascinating documentary. The Taj Hotel was attacked in Mumbai. I was looking at what happened in Mumbai and they had explosives in the hotel. They were executing people with automatic weapon fire and it was lit on fire in some sections of it. It went on for two-plus days, I believe.

It was a long siege.

The employees never left. Employees who are paid low-class wages would help guests to get out of escape routes out of the hotel and with terrorists threatening to blow up and burn and shoot them. Knowing that threat, the employees were so vested. Those were cooks and maids. They were so vested in their mission for doing the best for their guests. They would go back into the Taj to help more guests. None of the employees left. In fact, some of the employees were shuttling down a large number of guests, when there was a confrontation with the terrorist and that’s when several of them were killed. It’s an amazing story about people committed to the mission. They weren’t the security. They weren’t the police forces. They were common workers in the hotel who felt that their mission was to keep their guests safe. I think it’s a fine example of exactly what we’re talking about here.

I love that, Dan. This has been an amazing conversation. Thank you so much. If there’s one last thing that you would love to leave people with. If you had a magic wand and could have people pay attention to one thing, either something that we’ve been talking about or something else, do you have a thought about what that would be?

Train the way you fight, and fight the way you train. What are the challenges that are going to come your way? That’s different for a police officer than it is for military personnel than it is for a corporate board head. What are the challenges and concerns that are coming your way? What are the challenges and concerns that you haven’t even thought of coming your way? I gave a presentation to HIMSS, the Health Information Management Conference in Vegas several years ago. I don’t know anything about public health, but I threw out and said, “What happens if a superbug comes over and starts getting people sick or the hospital worker or the people come in to report in the hospital gets sick?” I knew nothing about Coronavirus. I barely could spell pandemic but it was just a thought of what’s the abnormal thing that could come into our life.

I know there are other healthcare leaders who were thinking that because that’s their lane. People should be thinking about things that could come their way, things that might not ever possibly occur. By doing that and having a planning process, when the challenge comes your way, you’ll see some similarities and you’ll have a response, and you may have an adaptive plan. The urban shield training that I talked about where we trained for the Mumbai type attack, we use real-life role-players and simulated bombings and chemicals, and all kinds of crazy scenarios that you can find yourself in. One of the things the team would do is report out every week what we were doing for our training. They’ll come up with a number of different scenarios like eight different scenarios. They work hard. They were great scenarios, realistic stuff that we were seeing occur naturally, and manmade threats across the globe.

I looked at them and I’m always pushing the bar a little bit. I said, “These are great, but I didn’t hear anything about a volcanic eruption plan, nor did I hear anything about an asteroid strike? What are we going to do if those events occurred?” I was being tongue-in-cheek because they had done amazing work, but I have to keep pushing them. One of them said, “The last time I checked, there’s no volcanic activity in the Boston area, Chief.” I said, “You know who said there’s no volcanic activity? The people at Pompeii and where are they now?” I got a laugh and what have you, but I’ll never forget the next day, an asteroid struck Russia.

It was 24 hours after I mentioned a volcano or an asteroid strike, so on that next training cycle, my team had a plan for a volcanic eruption and an asteroid strike. They said, “We got it.” I think you’ve got a plan for the asteroid. It might never come your way, but if you thought about something similar when that thing comes your way, it’s not about a plan. It’s a planning process where people can get in, identify the situation, and come up with a plan to deal with the next hour, 4 hours, 24 hours, a week, 6 months.

One of the things that is so interesting about this time that we’re all living through is that we are having to come up with those volcano plans, those asteroid strike plans all the time. Organizations that have embedded resilience into them, the organizations that have done an outstanding job in terms of communicating the why to their teams, those are the organizations that are having the most success and being the most resilient. Daniel Linskey, I appreciate your time, wisdom and humor. You’re a great delight and a joy to know. Thank you so much for spending this time with us. Until next time.

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About Daniel Linskey

CPA 3 | Understanding The WhyChief Linskey takes his audience with him on a journey throughout his career which ended as Boston’s top cop. His presentation has audience members feeling as if they are running towards bullets and bombs with the Chief as he leads the hunt for the terrorists during the Boston Marathon Bombing Attack. Linskey began his career with the Boston Police Department as the youngest officer in their history starting his service before he could legally possess alcohol. Three days before his official graduation from the police academy he was put in a blue uniform given his service revolver and assigned to the corner of Boylston and Hereford Streets to protect the Boston Marathon.

He rose through the ranks in various assignments during triumph and tragedy always working as a member of, developing, or leading highly effective teams and units. His entire career Chief Linskey had been striving and working towards becoming the best leader he could be while developing his team. His quest for leadership took him to the swamps of U.S. Marine Corps boot camp at Paris Island to the Crossroads of the Marine Corps at Quantico the Marine Officers training program. It had him climbing trees and hiding in dumpsters as he led squads of undercover officers conducting operations against violent street gangs, and drug dealers. It lead him to the halls of Harvard’s elite executive development programs, and back to Quantico at FBI National Academy. His leadership journey included watching great leaders at their best as well as some leaders who would fell short during their assignments and challenges. His work ethic, knowledge, ability to drive results and effectively develop teams, and his ability to be at his best during challenging circumstances, led to his appointment as Chief of the Department at the age of 43. Twenty-Seven years after he started his career he arrived at the same street corner where he first wore his blue uniform to see devastation beyond his worst nightmares.

He was overwhelmed by the carnage and froze for the first time in his career. Fearing for his life and the hundreds of others around him he wanted to flee but knew that was not an option. He took several deep breaths and forced open his “File Cabinet of Leadership”, he had been accumulating information in his brain his entire life. He opened that cabinet up and led his team as they raced to save lives and find those responsible. His presentation will provide lessons on leading before, during, and, after the crisis. The Chief will share how he and others effectively led team members to prepare and respond to unthinkable challenges. The Chief’s presentation will at moments have the audience laughing, most assuredly learning and thinking, while often times wiping a tear from their eye as he shares what his community, cops and his family went through that week in April.

He will provide information for everyone’s “File Cabinet of Leadership”. Us vs. Them: Chief Linskey is a leading law enforcement trainer. He was part of a team sent by the Department of Justice to assist St Louis County Police Department in its efforts to maintain safety and restore confidence after the events of the officer-involved shooting in Ferguson Missouri. He has worked with communities and law enforcement agencies on the local, state, and the international level to identify best practices of deploying officers while at the same time building community collaboration and conducting outreach efforts. A firm believer in community policing, former Boston Police Chief Dan Linskey rose to head one of America’s finest police departments.

He oversaw new technology implementations such as the first-ever text-a-tip line, as well as being at the forefront of implementation of social media into the departments everyday communication practice. Yet he developed programs that got cops out of their cruisers and on walking the streets they police while engaging the community they serve on front stoops, parks, schools, and in community centers. He provides a message of the need to police communities and not occupy them in order to address violence in America. A leader on the front lines of cultural change in American Policing. Chief Linskey shares his incredible experiences and offers a unique insight into what it really takes to improve community-police relations in an effort to combat the “Us vs. Them” mentality that severely impacts the ability to keep communities and officers safe. He outlines the manner in which police and community working together can define how to engage communities keeping in line with the beliefs of Sir Robert Peele. “The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence”. The police need the community to effectively accomplish their mission. The public need the police to keep all safe.