Can introverts be leaders? You can probably think of many leaders you admire, and some introverts you know. Any crossover on those lists? Leadership is a characteristic that has been valued forever and it actually comes in all forms. In fact, some people play to their strengths, while others follow their intuition and find their purpose— which propels them to excellence in leadership. The latter is exactly how it unfolded for Janice Niederhofer in her impressive law enforcement career. Janice says, “I busted through many glass ceilings because there wasn’t any reason not to; it was simply what was needed.”
Challenge after challenge Janice has continued to push the envelope and rise above any obstacles in her way. The impressive 29+ year career of this innovative powerhouse of a woman began with two police departments and she then served as a Special Agent for 21 years with the Drug Enforcement Administration, (DEA). Niederhofer reminisces, “During my formative years, I wasn’t taught what a role model or mentor was, and I was never taught to set goals. I planned on becoming an attorney, but life took a twist, and an accidental law enforcement career began.”
A true trailblazer, Janice often found herself going first. She just leads the way. Throughout her law enforcement career, Janice was assigned to undercover work and specialized details only previously offered to her male counterparts. Within the police departments, she quickly set herself apart by becoming the first woman on a SWAT team, hostage negotiator, and narcotics detective. During her tenure as a DEA Special Agent, she became a world-class interviewer and interrogator, as well an expert in body language, leadership, communication, tactical and firearms.
Regarding leadership, Janice says her motto is “Go first, lead and be a role model.” This is what she has always done. Niederhofer was the youngest firearms instructor with the DEA, not to mention the second female to hold the position. Janice did not set out to be first but seemed it was her path to walk, or rather run—She credits this fiery spark of contagious energy and downright grit to demonstrating that the possible can be made out of the impossible. She shares, “I can’t stand to see anyone in pain. Since I can remember, I’ve been a student of human behavior, and it just went from there. I do what is required and will serve however I am needed.”
With her degrees in Psychology and Criminal Justice as well as a master’s degree in Forensic Psychophysiology and extensive certifications in human behavior, self-development and leadership, it is no wonder that Janice remains a trainer’s trainer, honing the skills of our nation’s most elite and the communities they serve.
Along the road of this impressive career was the journey she underwent to personally grow. Much of this began when she was working undercover. Sharing about her own transformation, Ms. Niederhofer says, “I couldn’t speak about what was going on for me on the inside or show weakness, I could only share my struggles with one best friend. Silently, as if it was my most monumental undercover role, I changed and transformed myself. I then brought the skills and tools I learned to my brothers and sisters in law enforcement.”
Janice took the opportunity to show others how to use these tactics and techniques in all of their relationships and interactions, not just on the job but in their personal lives. She explains, “It touched them and reached them at their core and helped to transform them. These are good people who live to serve others. It meant a lot to me to be able to close the gap between pain and pleasure for people because it took me way too long.” Maybe this is part of why Janice has remained such an influential leader.
Leader Trainer Across Agencies
Ms. Niederhofer trained local, state and federal law enforcement including the CIA, NCIS, ATF, DEA, FBI, Secret Service, Homeland Security, LAPD, Detroit PD, Canadian Mounted Police, Tribal Police, to name a few. Janice has been in the trenches and has led with tenacity and intuition. Her professionalism and skill earned her the nickname “Terminator” by her colleagues and peers for her ability to relate to anyone and get a confession. Janice also credits her success to empathy, and being an expert in human behavior. The ingredients she combines in all training allowed for bringing out the best in everyone, in order to save their lives, and the lives of the suspects and communities they served.
Janice also earned the nickname “Secret Agent of the Heart” at a civilian leadership academy where she instructed. Regarding her skills, both in and out of law enforcement, she says, “I teach people how to communicate with anyone, anywhere, anytime, no matter what.” Niederhofer’s style is about connecting the dots between duty, humanity, intuition, and feelings. With this broad spectrum of tools in her toolkit, her reputation in training seems to truly give anyone confidence in any situation.
Leadership for Life: Humankind Alliance
With all her awards and accommodations, and excellence in leadership that Ms. Niederhofer has embodied, it is surprising to learn that she considers herself an introvert. And yet, Janice feels compelled to act once again. She sees herself as called to her latest challenge, one that she considers her most important yet.
Niederhofer founded Humankind Alliance, a nonprofit organization created to heal the ever-widening divide in our country between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Our nation is at odds, and the situation has been exacerbated by the unabating stories in the media while lives are being lost on both sides. As Janice affirms, “History is not reversible but the relationship between law enforcement and our communities is.” This critical situation seems to call for a new solution from a trailblazer in communication and collaboration. Janice points out, “Rapport building is the foundation of any community-based program, as that is the key to every collaboration. Therefore, our mission is Uniting communities through empowered solutions.”
The Benefits of Curiosity
Another important aspect of Niederhofer’s leadership skill and technique comes down to curiosity. She explains “I have a genuine desire to know and understand people so that we can all work better together. I can see who people really want to be and once they know what they didn’t know, they then understand the consequences of going backwards. I love to watch people light up as my work sinks in, then watch the tumblers of life fall into place as they crack open to their true potential and purpose.”
Her latest challenge she sees as by far the most important: create a spirit of collaboration and trust between law enforcement and the communities that they serve. Over her career, Niederhofer has created, implemented, and led many training scenarios and simulations, cultivating the skills of our country’s most elite law-enforcement men and women. In fact, when Janice wasn’t traveling the world interrogating international narcotics traffickers, she was training SWAT teams from other countries. But, she has also trained and led in many scenarios with civilians, including as a coach, mentor, and keynote speaker. This is a crucial aspect of balance that Ms. Niederhofer brings to her newest mission.
Coming Back to Community
The leadership and expertise, both in and out of law enforcement that Ms. Niederhofer brings to the latest challenge, Humankind Alliance is key. The “Thrive and Renew” Community Policing Initiative will “change the way that communities look and feel and will change the outcomes of law enforcement interactions,” says Niederhofer. “The program will provide modernized/standardized training for both law enforcement and community members as they work side by side. It’s a program focused in part on social and emotional intelligence training which fosters greater understanding and empathy for all.”
The goal and mission for Humankind Alliance is to lead us to a new level of respect, safety and equity for all communities that will unite and heal our country as One Community. Ms. Niederhofer elaborates, “I am designed for the tough groups and the big challenges. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t use what I have and what I know to help people out there who are hurting and worrying. All people need to be respected and safe.” It seems this is what the evolving face of leadership looks like as we move into a new year. Hopefully, this leads us to a new level of respect for all people that surpasses the labels and boundaries that don’t serve us.
Learn more about Janice Niederhofer and Humankind Alliance at humankindalliance.org.