The Leaders Matter Podcast | Senior Sergeant Matt Lyons

Posted by ALL
20 September

20 September 2020 |

The Leaders Matter podcast series features ECA Alumni speaking about the contemporary leadership experience…

As Townsville District Duty Officer, Senior Sergeant Matt Lyons is on the front line of operational policing in an agency that is, in turn, on the front line of the Queensland response to COVID-19.  For Matt, as a leader in the Queensland Police Service, this has meant supporting front line staff to work within an incredibly complex, uncertain and rapidly changing environment.  Holding the values of purpose, people and partnerships has been a compass that has helped Matt successfully lead his team throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Enrolments are now open for our 2021 Townsville and Cairns intakes of our Foundations for Leadership short course.  Find out more, or contact us to enquire.

Listen now to the third episode of Leaders Matter, featuring Senior Sergeant Matt Lyons.

Unsurprisingly, Matt’s view of successful leadership through COVID-19 is where agencies and individuals are able to embrace an adaptive style of leadership.  As a front line supervisor with the Queensland Police Service (QPS), an agency on the front line of Queensland’s COVID-19 response, leading a team through complex and rapidly changing environments has defined Matt’s COVID-19 experience. 

“Over time, there have been many changes and updates to certain (government and public health) directives,” says Matt.  “As a leader you must get your head around these and understand them, to be able to give your staff the direction and support they are looking for.”

This isn’t without its challenges.  In a global pandemic, staff are faced with unprecedented challenges at work and personally.  Frustration and confusion are inevitable, coupled with the uncertainty about when COVID-19 will end and what a new normal will look like.  For Matt, the way through these challenges has been a very clear focus on looking after his people.

“The most important thing in my eyes for an effective workplace is having the trust, respect and support of the people,” he says, pointing to techniques picked up as a qualified police negotiator that have helped him to support his team through this very unique and ongoing situation.  “You utilise active listening skills to display empathy, build rapport. It’s something we instinctively use in everyday life and has a great success in building relationships and resolving conflict.”

Matt’s underlying empathy for people is evident in his approach to leadership.  He recognizes that a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t the best way to support staff through COVID-19.  “We’re all fatigued,” he says.  “And everybody in good faith is just doing their best.”

Like any good leader, Matt walks his own talk.  Having dealt with challenges and stress himself, he has learnt the value of surrounding oneself with a strong support network.

“A couple of months ago, I led staff through some pretty significant events. A couple of fatal traffic crashes, a suicidal male barricaded in a unit with a firearm, plus some other complex issues,” he says.  “I wasn’t really sleeping well and I felt fatigued. I’ve got some great work colleagues within our unit and a wonderful wife, I leant on them and took time off, throwing myself into CrossFit to recharge the batteries.”

This is a different approach to how Matt might have handled fatigue earlier in his career, where he would be more likely to battle through the situation.  But a recognition that a “push on” approach is neither healthy nor effective is a cultural change that Matt sees within the Queensland Police Service as well as his own leadership practice.

“It’s our driving, guiding mission and intent that we’ve got to look after our people,” he says.  “There’s certainly lots of people now standing up around the issues of mental health.  The Queensland Police Service has rightly recognized that keeping our people healthy (makes it) a better organisation.”

Perhaps reflecting how much he values people and teams, Matt has identified purpose and partnerships as key principles that have underpinned successful leadership through COVID-19.  “I can’t understate that people (need to) understand the why,” says Matt.  “The more that people understand the why…the easier that people can respond in certain situations.”

“Partnerships are vital.  Promoting, creating and fostering effective partnerships, along with information sharing are essential to getting through (COVID-19),” says Matt.  “I think you will see information sharing protocols become the bedrock of the new normal.”

Information sharing, across agencies and across sectors, was one of the biggest impacts of the Executive Challenge Academy on Matt who was humbled to be recognised as a leader and nominated into the program.

“Meeting the like minded cohort that were with me on the on the program – the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services and the non-government agencies – certainly that was a great master stroke,” says Matt. “(By) putting people together, you get a full spectrum of thoughts, ideas, ways to do things.  And you know that these people go through what you go through.” 

“Doing the program was a really, really life changing experience.”

Listen now to the third episode of Leaders Matter, featuring Senior Sergeant Matt Lyons.

Enrolments are now open for our 2021 Foundations for Leadership intakes in Townsville and Cairns.  Find out more, or contact us to enquire.

About Matt Lyons

Matt is a Senior Sergeant in the Queensland Police Service.  Having been sworn in more than 23 years ago he was one of the first recruits of the North Queensland Police Service Academy.  For the past five years he has worked as a District Duty Officer – a role which includes directing resources to achieve specific District objectives, as well as assuming command and control of major incidents until the matter is resolved.  Matt is also responsible for providing active, on-road leadership, supervision, advice and support to operational staff.

Prior to his current role, Matt worked for five years in the Townsville Juvenile Aid Bureau, achieving Detective classification – investigating child abuse, paedophilia and SIDS deaths.

Matt has led teams as a shift supervisor for over nine years and has acted as Officer In Charge of various police stations in Townsville, managing large numbers of diverse staff.  He is also a qualified Police Negotiator of 18 years.  Matt delivers incident command, and de-escalation communication techniques training to staff, to enhance officer safety.

Matt has also relieved as a Commissioned officer in various capacities – his most recent a 15-month secondment to Townsville Stronger Communities Action Group a Queensland Government placed based initiative to address the underlying causes of youth crime in Townsville with six other government agencies. 

In addition to all of this, Matt has participated in Executive Challenge Academy Programs as a leader, committed to his own ongoing growth and learning, but also to the ongoing development of others.  In handing forward to others, he has built local networks of senior leaders, committed to supporting future leaders.  He has been a sponsor, a learning partner and a presenter of his own leadership story.


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