Shifts of Power

At this point in my internship, as I quickly approach the finish line, I have been fortunate in getting to know all the attorneys within the Police Action Litigation section of the NYPD’s Legal Bureau. Specifically, I have gotten to know the executive director quite well and have quietly observed the command and respect she has developed with all her subordinate attorneys. Unfortunately, tomorrow is her last day for roughly six months as she prepares to leave for Washington DC, specifically 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Elizabeth, the executive director, was selected for a fellowship program organized by the White House that will focus on policing within the United States. Elizabeth selected the soon to be acting executive director from within PAL. As mentioned before I have been fortunate enough to get to know all the attorneys within PAL and have spent a sizable amount of time working with the selected replacement Laura. Laura was incredibly outgoing immediately to all the interns and not surprisingly became an intern favorite of the attorneys we work with. However, in recent days as Laura prepares for her new temporary role as executive director she has begun to act noticeably different. This shift is not a knock or a case of power going to an individual’s head, rather Laura is beginning to carry herself as Elizabeth does throughout the office. Instead of the light-hearted jokes told to the entirety of the office I had gotten used to throughout this summer from Laura, I now am observing much more frequent announcements being made with a more serious tone. Personal conversations are still light and often end with a joke or two when speaking to Laura, however her office-wide addresses have certainly changed in a manner that affirms her role as the leader of PAL.

I found this shift especially interesting due to the fact it emulated a theory my group observed for Professor Von Rueden’s Theories and Models class. My group hypothesized, and later observed, that a member of a professional fraternity’s executive board would act noticeably different in chapter meetings compared to executive board meetings. What we observed was that the president was very casual and light when in executive board meetings while asserting an authority position during chapter meetings by guiding and dominating the discussion. I think back to these two meetings I sat in on during the semester and cannot help but think about Laura in this president’s position. Whether it be to a group of interns, a few attorneys by the water cooler, or even a private conversation I can observe this “executive board” Laura who is light and casual as she was before her appointment as the temporary executive director. However, when Laura is addressing the PAL employees, much like a president addressing their respective chapter, she engages in this newfound tone.

Laura, just like the rest of us here at PAL, saw how effective of a leader Elizabeth has been in her role. This is why Laura’s proactive choice to emulate how Elizabeth interacts with the PAL in her capacity as acting executive director is an early sign she understands what makes an effective leader. While I will not be with PAL for long enough to gauge how Laura does in her new position of power, from what I have gathered this summer I am positive she will do a great job and fill the massive shoes that Elizabeth is leaving here in New York