One of Canada's Top Cops Finds Servant Leadership a Powerful Change Tool

One of Canada's Top Cops Finds Servant Leadership a Powerful Change Tool

Ward Clapham has impact worldwide with program rewarding youth for positive behaviour

Ward Clapham, a retired RCMP officer and current chief of the Metro Vancouver Transit Police, says he has discovered servant leadership has huge potential to impact the world for good.

“If I were to sum it up, I think (servant leadership) is the key to true happiness and great reward,” Clapham tells Axiom News.

“We’re all searching for this fountain of energy and reaching our full potential. We’re all looking for inner peace and creating outer harmony. We’re all looking at bringing our vision, whatever that is, to fruition. We want to be inspired and we want to inspire our followers.

“Ultimately, at the end of the day, we want to make a difference and we want to leave a legacy, and the servant approach allows that.”

According to Clapham, servant leadership can be defined as simply as it sounds: serving others, focusing on developing others and helping them succeed.

About nine years ago, Clapham decided to live out his conviction in a new way while serving as an RCMP officer.

Reflecting that officers are traditionally out to “bust” youth for wrongdoing, he decided to change his paradigm and begin seeking out the best in the young people he encountered.

He eventually launched a program, Positive Tickets, which sees police officers handing out rewards to youth they catch doing something positive. The rewards are vouchers or coupons for a fun, free activity or treat.

The tickets are intended to be the start of a positive relationship between officers and youth, with the latter continuing to support young people to reach their full potential.

Clapham says the Positive Tickets program has been transformational.

In Richmond, B.C., it is considered an important link in a larger police initiative that has seen a 41 per cent reduction in youth crime over three years.

Interest in Positive Tickets has exploded worldwide and communities around the globe have begun implementing their own programs. Clapham notes he hasn’t kept track of how many communities have introduced Positive Tickets, but figures it could be into the thousands.

To keep up with the demand for information and support, Clapham first launched a website, then wrote a book, Breaking with the Law: The Story of Positive Tickets.

He says he has hundreds of stories of parents telling him how this approach has helped their child.

They share how their youth has been inspired to change their life’s direction as they hear from an officer, usually the one out “looking to kick their butt,” that they have great potential and “something innately special inside of them that will take them wherever they want to go.”

What’s really exciting is how other community members have started running with the program as well, as they've been ashamed to realize how wrong their own approach to youth has been, says Clapham.

"(People) said, 'Look, the cops are doing this, well, shame on us, so should we, we should be leading this, or at least partner(ing) with the cops,'" he notes.

"So that was the exciting acceleration that occured. People looked at the program and said, 'Oh, my gosh, here we have a total paradigm shift. Our police are doing the total opposite of what you'd expect. So if they're doing that, why can't we?’”

Clapham is also taking his insights on servant leadership and the principles of the Positive Tickets program to the business community.

-- More to Come

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Michelle Strutzenberger

Michelle Strutzenberger has been a Generative Journalist and curator with Axiom News for more than 15 years.

She's most grateful for the incredible people she gets to work with every day at Axiom News, as well as the many other amazing folks she's encountered through this work.

"I have always seen the opportunity to do this work as a gift," she says.

Michelle's writing has also been published by a wide variety of other organizations and publications, including the following:
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- PLAN Institute, a network dedicated to enabling families to create a good life for people with disabilities
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- The Canadian Community Economic Development Network
- Nieuwmakers, a Belgian news agency
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- Academy for Systemic Change

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