Alumni of the week

The policeman

Steffen Thesen

Assistant Chief of Police and head of the Joint Unit for Operative Duties (FOT)

Sør-Vest police district

Executive Master of Management 2012

“The best part is when co-workers experience that the hard work they put in pays off, and then watching them be happy and proud of themselves.”

He lost his colleague and immediate superior during the infamous robbery of a cash handling facility in Stavanger in 2004. Today, Steffen Thesen believes the experience led him to become a better leader.

Fourteen years ago, he and his partner were the first officers to arrive at Domkirkeplassen. All they knew in advance, was that an alarm had gone off inside the offices of security company Nokas and that multiple shots had been fired. Yet, they had no idea they were facing the biggest robbery in Norwegian history.   

‒ The first thing we encountered was one of the robbers aiming straight towards us with an assault rifle, says Thesen.

Thesen, who was a regular police officer back then, focused on alerting and evacuating people from the area. Eventually, a firefight broke out between the officers and robbers.

‒ Something grazed the leg of my pants. That is how I noticed someone was shooting at me. I then relocated myself to a new position where I could observe the robbers, while telling members of the public to stay away.

«The Nokas robbery in a HSE perspective»

Now, Thesen says he is coping very well with the event, something which he claims is thanks to a good working environment, approachable superiors and his own ability to work through what happened. He even turned his own experiences into a lecture named «The Nokas robbery in a HSE perspective», which deals with the importance of creating a social workplace and how difficult experiences can be processed.

‒ I got to see in practice how important having a positive working environment is, with superiors and colleagues who care for each other. To me, the lecture was about conveying a message I believe to be of relevance to any workplace. 

Today, the Rogaland native is an Assistant Chief of Police and head of the Joint Unit for Operative Duties (FOT) in the Sør-Vest police district, with a responsibility for 160 policemen divided into several sections and departments. Among his duties is overseeing the Operations Centre, Civil Protection planners, the section for Operative Training and Development, on-scene commanders, the K-9 unit, as well as a service office.

According to Thesen, his most important task is developing the unit in line with the demands and expectations included in the new police reform.

‒ It is about ensuring that the staff has the opportunity to do their job and facilitate individual development. The cooperation between the different sections and units in the police district is also important.

Stood out as a candidate

His interest in leadership has always been there, but blossomed even more when he temporarily stepped in as the head of an Investigative Unit in the Oslo police district in 2000. After applying for leadership positions in the police, in competition with accomplished colleagues, Thesen wished to strengthen his own leadership potential.

He researched his opportunities to get a formal management education, and he eventually decided on an Executive Master of Management from BI. In the years after completing his degree, Thesen was selected for a range of managerial positions in the police.

There is no doubt that my master’s degree, as well the coaching courses I later completed at BI, has made me more confident in the leader role. The education has also contributed to me having such a breadth of leadership responsibilities and duties.

As a leader, Thesen emphasizes relational leadership and working with familiarising himself with his colleagues, identifying their strongpoints, finally enabling him to ensure individuals and groups can perform better. To him, people management has always been its own craft, which remains rewarding and challenging to master.

‒ The best part is when co-workers experience that the hard work they put in pays off, and then watching them be happy and proud of themselves. That is when it is really satisfying to be a leader!