Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo is well known around this area. Now he’s well-known around the country as well, due to the Hannah Graham case. Hannah was the University of Virginia student who disappeared in the fall of 2014. Searchers found her remains some weeks later. Police arrested suspect Jesse Matthew shortly thereafter and charged him with her abduction. He is still awaiting trial.
Chief Longo and I work out at the same gym. I saw him in the locker room a couple of weeks ago and said to him, “I have a compliment for you, Chief”. After reminding him that I am a leadership consultant, I said that I had a compliment for him. I told him I appreciated the passion that he displayed in his various news conferences as he led his department and the community through a very difficult and trying experience (which is not over yet).
So, what is the power of passion in leadership?
The searchers were volunteers and law enforcement officers from all over the country. I said his passion and emotion likely motivated them to continue searching under tough conditions. The terrain was very difficult. The weather was hot and humid. Ultimately, they did find Hannah’s remains, and Chief Longo’s department had the grim task of notifying the family.
Chief Longo thanked me. He said that some of the searchers wanted to know when they would stop searching. The Chief said he replied that they would stop only when Hannah’s body was found. After all, he said, if he were her father, he would expect nothing less.
Consequently, it surprised me later when some criticized him for displaying his passion and emotion in the Hannah Graham case. I think he teaches all of us leaders an important and valuable lesson in the power that our passion can have. It shows others that we are deeply committed to accomplishing our mission, whatever it may be. This is great leadership by example.
This video, from WTVR 6 in Richmond, VA deals with that topic, including Chief Longo’s reaction to the criticism, and summarizes the case: