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A Troubled Criminal Justice Agency

Off the Rails: A Troubled Criminal Justice Agency

The Spring Valley Detention Center serves as the jail for all law enforcement agencies in Smith County. While county jails are usually operated by the county sheriff, the Spring Valley facility is under the general supervision of a commission consisting of the police chiefs of two cities, the sheriff, the district attorney, and a representative from the county board of supervisors. The commission usually restricts its involvement to establishing policy and hiring a warden to oversee operations.

Warden James Law has worked at the detention center for 22 years. For his first six years, Law was a corrections officer who worked a variety of assignments. Then he was promoted to sergeant and supervised a shift of 10-12 officers. Due to several retirements, Law became one of the people considered for the vacant warden’s position. Some members of the commission wanted to go outside the agency to bring in a fresh perspective and a modern ideology to the operation. Law’s long service convinced enough members to select him as the new warden.

In his first few months as warden, Law corrected some longstanding personnel and procedural issues and filled all the vacant officer positions. However, after a year on the job, his activity has slowed and he neglects to address festering issues. Employees rarely see him, and his communication to them usually comes in the form of terse emails. Upward communication has all but ceased. Officers comment that Law has gone ROD—retired on duty. Deputy Wardens and first line supervisors speculate that the warden is suffering from burnout or perhaps is ill. 

Corrections officers are considering organizing a union to address the lack of communication and other problems that seem to be ignored. Two families have filed lawsuits over the deaths of inmates—one ruled a suicide and the other deemed an accidental fall.

While the detention center has never been progressive in improving its operation nor agile in responding to problems, it now suffers complete stagnation. Supervisors merely maintain the status quo and make decisions with reluctance. They go through the motions of day-to-day operations but feel inadequate to address personnel issues that were once handled by the warden. Mid- and upper-management (deputy wardens and special unit managers) feel their hands are tied without support from the distant warden.

A couple of employees have approached members of the commission informally. While some of the commission members have concerns about the situation, they are unsure what to do without specific allegations of misconduct against the warden. 

Write a 700- to 1,050-word paper assessing the situation at the detention center. Include a discussion of the following questions:

  • How does the lack of leadership from the chief executive affect an organization? Can other sources provide leadership?
  • Who are constituents of the detention center? How are they affected by the situation?
  • What is the result when supervisors focus on process instead of people?
  • What trends found in Ch. 3 of Managing Police Organizations should the detention center embrace? How would you go about implementing them?
  • What does the research on leadership described in Ch. 7 of Criminal Justice Organizations suggest needs to change at the detention center? What attributes of leaders is suggested?

Include at least one scholarly source in addition to the textbook.

Format your paper according to APA guidelines.

CHAPTER 7 Leadership


One of the major difficulties facing criminal justice organizations is the dearth of quality leaders found among the rank and file. Current research has underscored the importance of leadership to criminal justice agencies, yet when we investigate the number and quality of leadership-development programs in criminal justice organizations, we find very few agencies actually investing in leadership development.   

 The costs of leadership programs are miniscule by comparison to other entities and programs on which we spend monies in our efforts as criminal justice administrators. Take, for example, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program. Communities and police departments spend millions of dollars on this initiative to reduce drug use among youth, yet the evidence is clear that the program has no appreciable impact on drug usage among young people. What does the efficacy of a drug program for young people have to do with leadership development in criminal justice organizations? A lot. When you fail to invest in good leadership education programs (not training programs), you get the quality of leader who will make decisions that do not reflect the best possible practices; communities will ultimately suffer and waste an enormous number of resources.   

 Similarly, as an investment strategy, endorsing leadership development is critical to maintaining quality personnel up and down the hierarchies of criminal justice organizations. Research has shown that many of our executive leaders within criminal justice organizations do not last long. Their tenure, in many cases, is limited. Police chiefs, especially police chiefs in large urban communities, do not have long tenure. There are many reasons for this outcome. One primary reason is that police executives do not know how to lead their agencies; they confuse leadership with management, the former being more visionary and the latter more bureaucratic. The lack of leadership development has consequences for all criminal justice organizations.   

 The contemporary criminal justice administrator is expected to be an effective leader, an expectation that fits with the general demand for competent leaders in all organizations, both public and private. Although a great deal of prescriptive material tells the criminal justice administrator how to lead an organization effectively, there is little empirical evidence on what effective leadership actually involves. In this chapter, we review the relevant aspects of these models and apply our understanding of the leadership process to the requirements of the criminal justice system.   

 Our review, however, will not be prescriptive. Instead, we will offer an analytical framework rooted in empirical research and theoretical models of leadership. In this way, we hope not only to provide an increased understanding of how the process of leadership works in criminal justice organizations but also to suggest what our expectations of criminal justice leaders should and should not be.   

 To accomplish these objectives, we explore several areas. First, we define leadership and argue that, because criminal justice administration is fundamentally politically driven, it is useful to understand leadership within the political arena. Second, the chapter reviews the major theories of leadership that have been developed in research on organizational behavior. Our discussion in this section integrates what we know about leadership research done in other organizations and applies these findings to the criminal justice system. Our review in this section includes an analysis of behavioral and contingency theories of leadership and more twenty-first-century ideas on leadership—theories that hold promise for explaining the leadership process in criminal justice organizations.    

Finally, the chapter explores criminal justice research that addresses the issue of leadership. Although much of this literature is overly prescriptive, we provide an overview of those few pieces of research that empirically test theoretical models of leadership and make some recommendations for future research. In addition, we present a model of leadership education that was in operation in a department of corrections. This model suggests future concerns that criminal justice administrators need to consider to be effective leaders.


Four distinct but not separate ideas about administration guide our definitions of leadership. First, leadership is a process that effectively accomplishes organizational goals. Leadership cannot be conceptually separated from organizational effectiveness (Tosi, Rizzo, and Carroll, 1986) and the accomplishment of objectives. Second, administrators can learn leadership skills. Even though the process of leadership is complex, we believe it can be learned and applied to the effective administration of criminal justice organizations. Much of criminal justice management literature assumes that effective leadership can be taught, and millions of dollars have been spent since the 1960s by criminal justice organizations, especially police, to develop training modules that help administrators accomplish organizational goals. Although there may be little or no value in knowing the “correct” style of leadership, the characteristics of good leaders as identified by empirical research can serve as the basis of suggestions and recommendations to criminal justice administrators. These leadership characteristics, however, are always subject to the tasks, functions, and objectives the organization expects to accomplish. In addition, criminal justice research has examined the many variables affecting leadership and ultimately subordinate outcomes. Take, for example, the issue of emotional intelligence and its relationship to leadership. The research literature of the 1990s and the early part of the twenty-first century had focused directly on the power of emotional components to leadership. The relationship, however, between emotional intelligence and leadership is thorny and problematical (Weinberger, 2009).

Techniques of influence: Strategies that gain the compliance of subordinates and are essential to the leadership process.    

Third, leadership is a group process. To accomplish organizational objectives, leaders must influence a number of people, or, to put it simply: no group, no leader. The process of leadership must thus be examined in light of the strategies leaders use to get people to achieve the tasks necessary for organizational existence and survival. Ostensibly, we may be talking about methods of compliance and power in organizations. techniques of influence, used singly or in combination, that affect the leadership process:

1. Legitimate request. A person complies with an agent’s request because the person recognizes the agent’s “right” as a leader to make such a request.

2. Instrumental compliance. A person is induced to alter his or her behavior by an agent’s implicit or explicit promise to ensure some tangible outcome desired by the person.

3. Coercion. A person is induced to comply by an agent’s explicit or implicit threat to ensure adverse outcomes if the person fails to do so.

4. Rational persuasion. An agent convinces a person that the suggested behavior is the best way for the person to satisfy his or her needs or to attain his or her objectives.

5. Rational faith. An agent’s suggestion is sufficient to evoke compliance by a person without the necessity for any explanation.

6. Inspirational appeal. An agent persuades a person that there is a necessary link between the requested behavior and some value important enough to justify the behavior.

7. Indoctrination. A person acts because of induced internalization of strong values relevant to the desired behavior.

8. Information distortion. A person is unconsciously influenced by an agent’s limiting, falsifying, or interpreting information in a way conducive to compliance.

9. Situational engineering. A person’s attitudes and behavior are indirectly influenced by an agent’s manipulation of relevant aspects of the physical and social situation.

10. Personal identification. A person imitates an agent’s attitudes and behavior because the person admires or worships the agent.

11. Decision identification. An agent allows a person to participate in and have substantial influence over the making of a decision, thereby gaining the person’s identification with the final choice.    

Think of how administrators in criminal justice use any one or a combination of these techniques to influence their subordinates and lead their agencies. For example, the prison warden who rules his institution with an iron fist employs coercion as a method of leadership, while the police sergeant who suggests to the beat officer that cordial interactions with citizens are essential to effective police work is using persuasion. Effective leaders, however, are able to get subordinates to work toward the stated objectives of the organization regardless of the method.    

Techniques of leadership are not the same as styles of leadership. A style of leadership consists of all the techniques a leader uses to achieve organizational goals. The prison warden who employs coercion, information distortion, and indoctrination as techniques of influence with inmates and corrections officers is exhibiting an autocratic style of leadership. Later in the chapter, we explore other styles of leadership, some of which are more effective than others in criminal justice administration.   

 Fourth, leadership in public bureaucracies, such as criminal justice agencies, is inherently political and must be examined within the political arena. Leadership in organizations is often discussed with an internal focus. Little is said about the external nature of leadership, even though an external view is critical to a complete understanding of how public agencies are run. A common criticism of applying research findings on leadership in private or public organizations has been its limited value given the political contexts within which public organizations operate. In fact, some would say that the lack of research attention to the external and political nature of leadership makes many existing theories on leadership of little or no value to those who operate public bureaucracies (Rainey, 2014).    

Some have suggested that criminal justice organizations are unique entities with well-defined histories and legal contexts. To understand leadership within these organizations requires a comprehension of how these elements further constrain criminal justice leadership. Correctional leadership, especially within the context of prisons and the role of the courts in the management and leadership of prisons, is now experiencing a crisis. In some cases, prison leadership has been, once again, directed by the courts. This type of direction has not been so evident since the 1960s. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, for example, has been placed under the authority of the U. S. Supreme Court due to massive overcrowding since 2011. The state of California had been directed to reduce its prison population to 137.5 percent of its capacity by May 2013 to meet the expectations of the court. It came close to meeting this goal but fell short and requested assistance and guidance to meet constitutional standards as stipulated by the court. It is interesting that this comes at a time when there are questions regarding the effectiveness of the measures put in place to supervise and monitor released offenders in the community (Petersilia and Snyder, 2013).   

 There is no doubt this example suggests the unique position that correctional systems are in and the importance of leadership to them, yet it is not totally clear nor evident that as public entities they are that different from other publicly funded agencies, such as school systems and transportation agencies. A growing body of literature both supports the uniqueness of public agencies on the one hand and their similarity to private organizations on the other hand and the relevance of leadership (Daft, 2010). The student will have to review the existing theories and models presented in this chapter to see if criminal justice organizations are truly unique and therefore require specific prescriptions regarding leadership or are so similar to private businesses that no special circumstances or prescriptions are required. Is good leadership just good leadership, whether it is a police department or a fast food restaurant?    Existing theories of leadership are relevant to understanding the leadership process within the criminal justice system, but some consideration must be given as to how criminal justice administrators, as public bureaucrats, lead their agencies. In other words, we need an examination of the leadership phenomenon as it operates within the political arena. For example, take the career of former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who was said to have employed charismatic and legitimate forms of authority (techniques of influence) to lead the FBI. This characterization, however, does not describe the political relationships that made him an effective leader of a large public bureaucracy over a fifty-year period, even though many questioned the legality and morality of how he lead the FBI (Powers, 1987). Leadership must thus be understood as a process that reaches well beyond the formal boundaries of the organization. Leadership in criminal justice agencies involves convincing both subordinates and those outside the agencies in the political arena that a particular method (usually the leader’s) is the best one for accomplishing organizational objectives.    

Many leaders of criminal justice bureaucracies understand the political nature of their positions, but they must equally be aware of the vacillations in public interest in and concern about their agencies. Thus, leadership of a criminal justice agency requires flexibility, but, as Selznick (1957) reminds us, public agencies must also clearly define their mission, structure this mission into their hierarchy, maintain the values of the organization that give it its identity, and control conflicts among competing interests within the organization (see also Wilson, 2000 for a similar discussion). In short, criminal justice administrators must operate their organizations in tune with the political realities of the external environment while simultaneously maintaining their own role identities. Because of the tension between changes in the external political environment and administrators’ desires to keep control of the organization, leadership becomes a crucial and critical process. Dealing with this tension makes criminal justice administration difficult today, especially because many observers have noted the increased politicization of criminal justice policy and practice. Although the political process is integral to the development of criminal justice policies and external influences direct what policies will be developed, the degree to which politics plays a role in leader decision making has become more pronounced and, in some people’s minds, detrimental to rational policy making at the executive level of criminal justice organizations (Gomez, 1995; Hickman, 2005; Woodford, 2006).   

 In sum, we can define leadership as invariably tied to the effectiveness of an organization; as learnable, contingent on the tasks, functions, and objectives of the organization; as carried out in a group setting; and, probably most important of all for criminal justice agencies, as focused on political and public concerns.


Much of what we know about leadership comes from research that takes one of three approaches. The first, and probably the oldest, assumes that a leader is born, not made. This approach, which tends to emphasize inherent personality traits, also assumes that leadership can be evaluated on the basis of these traits. Much research, however, questions whether personal characteristics of “leadership” actually exist or, more important, can be viewed separately from the situational context (Bass, 1981; Tosi, Rizzo, and Carroll, 1986:553). Thus, it is difficult to know whether the leader’s overall personality or particular traits are critical to the leadership process. An authoritarian police sergeant may be successful in a situation that requires a clear, concise, and immediate response, such as a hostage situation, yet this style of leadership may be totally ineffective in a situation that requires deliberation and patience, such as police officer training. Because a number of difficulties are associated with this approach, those studying the leadership process have largely abandoned it. Yet, some have suggested that an important element of effective leadership is “emotional intelligence.” This concept suggests that leaders are most effective when they understand people in organizations and have a passion about doing what is right in an organization such that people perform for them. Research, however, on emotional intelligence and leadership is lacking; nevertheless, it does signal that trait approaches to leadership are not totally dismissed by leadership proponents (Robbins and Judge, 2007:404; Weinberger, 2009).    

Much contemporary research done on leadership now takes one of two other approaches. The behavioral approach, which emphasizes the behaviors of individual leaders, is the focus of much of the criminal justice research on leadership. As suggested by Tosi, Rizzo, and Carroll (1986:554–557), behavioral approaches fall into two distinct areas: the distribution of influence and the tasks and social behaviors of leaders. The contingency approach, finally, is a product of the 1970s and tends to emphasize multiple variables, particularly situational variables that constrain leadership. These situational variables include characteristics of subordinates, organizational context, and style of leadership.   

 Our review of behavioral and contingency models in this chapter provides us with insight into theories of leadership from the perspective of organizational behavior. Our next goal is to see how and whether these theories fit the actual leadership process in criminal justice organizations. We begin our review with an examination of the behavioral approaches.

Behavioral Models

Because of the many problems associated with the character trait approach to understanding leadership, researchers have increasingly focused on behaviors instead. This approach suggests that effective leadership depends on how leaders interact with their subordinates. Part of this approach is using behavioral models, a set of leadership theories that focus on the interaction of leaders and subordinates. More important, the behavioral approach accentuates how leaders get subordinates to accomplish organizational tasks, a process known as initiating structures. Using a behavioral approach, for example, we would be interested in knowing the ways in which the warden of a prison interacts with administrative staff, treatment specialists, and corrections officers so that the tasks essential to the prison’s mission are completed. Behavioral models: A set of leadership theories that focus on the interaction of leaders and subordinates.    

The behavioral approach is also concerned with how employees are able to achieve personal goals within the organization at the same time that they accomplish its central tasks. In our example, we would be interested in what the prison warden does to accommodate or consider staff opinions, ideas, and feelings about the day-to-day workings of the prison. Do the corrections officers feel supported? Do treatment personnel feel they have a central role? Is there room for advancement in the prison’s hierarchy?    These two concepts, consideration for subordinates and initiating structures, guide the behavioral approach to leadership. They evolved from two sets of leadership studies done in the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s: the Ohio State studies and the Michigan studies. In addition, a popular model of supervision was created at this time; it is known as the managerial grid. Originally devised by Blake and Mouton (1964), this grid was based on two dimensions of behavior —concern for people and concern for production—that are analogous to the concepts of consideration and initiating structure. Fundamentally, according to Blake and Mouton, the most effective manager is equally concerned with high levels of production among employees and their needs. The managerial grid has been extensively applied to criminal justice (see Duffee, 1986). Here, however, we will not focus on the grid itself but instead present the original research from which it was derived.    

The Ohio State studies, which began in the late 1940s, concluded that leadership could be examined on the two dimensions of consideration and initiating structure. Consideration is the leader’s expression of concern for subordinates’ feelings, ideas, and opinions about job-related matters. Considerate leaders are concerned about employees, develop trust between leaders and subordinates, and more often than not develop good communication. Initiating structure is the leader’s direction of subordinates toward specific goals. The role of the leader is to make sure that an adequate structure is available for employees so that organizational objectives are accomplished. The Ohio State studies concluded that effective leadership is present in an organization when the levels of consideration and initiating structure are high among leaders. Ohio State studies: A behavioral-based set of studies that examined leadership on two dimensions of organization: consideration and initiating structure.   

 As suggested by Hellriegel, Slocum, and Woodman (1995), however, the central limitation of the Ohio State studies was a failure to recognize the importance of specific situations in the leadership process. The police sergeant who heads a tactical unit, for example, does not need to be considerate of employees when faced with an emergency situation; rather, the sergeant needs to delineate roles and duties to patrol officers in the unit as quickly as possible. A high degree of initiating structure, in other words, is critical. The Ohio State studies thus seem applicable only to specific situations where both consideration and initiating structure are appropriate.    

The Michigan studies, in contrast, sought to dichotomize the leadership process into two dimensions of supervisory behavior: production-centered and employee-centered. We know that not all supervisors have the same outlook toward their jobs, employees, and tasks required to meet the organization’s objectives and goals. Some police sergeants, as immediate supervisors, are interested in high activity by their subordinates, whether that be ticket writing, arrests, or some other police performance measure. Other police sergeants are concerned with the perceptions of rank-and-file officers about their roles in the organization. These supervisors care about how officers fit into the organizational hierarchy and about their level of satisfaction with their work. According to the Michigan studies, the effective leader attempts to be employee-centered, a behavior that in turn engenders productive subordinates. It is questionable, however, whether the phenomenon of leadership can be understood as either employee-centered or production-centered. Michigan studies: A behavioral-based set of studies that examined leadership on two dimensions of supervisory behavior: production-centered and employee-centered.   

 The findings of both studies, in fact, have serious problems that limit their application to criminal justice organizations. First, it is not clear that either the Ohio State studies or the Michigan studies adequately assessed the concept of leadership. We are concerned here with the methodological problem of construct validity. Do these studies actually measure the notion of leadership? Distinctions must be made, for example, between leadership and power. Does the prison guard who befriends an inmate and is respected by the inmate exhibit some type of leadership or what is known as referent power? How do we know what factor is operating in this relationship? How can we separate the two processes both conceptually and practically? Because much of the behavioral research has not made distinctions between these concepts, it is not evident that leadership itself is being studied. The same point can be made about distinctions between leadership and authority. (For further discussion of the concepts of power and authority, see Chapter 9.)    

A second concern is that much of the leadership research within the behavioral framework is based on convenient but limited conceptualizations of the leadership process. By viewing leadership in a dichotomous fashion, we are creating for ourselves, as researchers, an easy method for exploring the process while limiting our overall understanding of it. Dichotomies are convenient, yet they do not always provide us with an explanation that is both testable and comprehensive. Take, for example, police sergeants. Can we understand their leadership behavior simply by stating that they are either employee-centered or production-oriented supervisors? Isn’t it realistic to say that any sergeant could be both? For that matter, couldn’t a sergeant exhibit other leadership behaviors besides merely these two?    

More important, isn’t a sergeant’s leadership approach highly influenced by the tasks to be accomplished, along with the technology available? A task may require subordinates to follow a predetermined set of policies and procedures as the only acceptable or the only tested way of accomplishing that task. The sergeant of a tactical unit, for example, may need a production-oriented style of leadership because of the nature of the work—many dangerous tasks and highly uncertain situations. Thus, to suggest that in criminal justice organizations one approach to leadership is more applicable than another approach to leadership is simplistic and not sufficient to explain the intricacies of the leadership process in those organizations.    

Third, our concern with external validity requires us to question the application of research findings done largely in private organizations or public organizations, such as criminal justice. Is it possible for the police sergeant or the corrections manager to be employee-centered in the same way as a bank manager? In addition, what does “employee-centered” mean in the context of the expected roles of both supervisor and subordinate in criminal justice organizations? How are the dimensions of leadership identified by this body of research affected by the tasks of the organization? In attempting to be employee-centered, is the police sergeant constrained by the tasks required? In short, is leadership affected by the situation and the tasks of the supervisor and the subordinate?   

 With these three criticisms in mind, we must be cautious in applying the findings from either the Ohio State studies or the Michigan studies to the workings of middle-level managers or administrators in the criminal justice system. Instead, we can say that these behavioral studies were the first to address the concept of leadership in an accessible way, and much of the research in criminal justice leadership has been rooted in these studies. Although we are somewhat critical of this research, we believe that the application and testing of these theoretical models in criminal justice organizations have provided the incentive to view the leadership process in a comprehensive fashion. Recent leadership research has been directed toward understanding the situation in criminal justice organizations. This research is rooted in contingency theories of leadership, which we discuss next. Contingency Theories Contingency theories of leadership differ from both trait and behavioral theories in emphasizing the situation or context. Examining various situational variables is central to understanding leadership in organizations, according to contingency theorists. We can see how this approach is useful for studying leadership in criminal justice organizations. The lieutenant in a prison, for example, is constrained by situational factors in dealing with both corrections officers and prisoners. Prison officials cannot exercise total power; depending on the organizational structure of the prison, there are limits to what can be done to lead groups toward organizational objectives. The leadership style employed is therefore contingent on the situational aspects of the prison and the nature of the relationship between keeper and kept.

Contingency theories: A group of leadership theories that stress the importance of the situation to leadership effectiveness in the accomplishment of organizational goals and objectives.   

 The two contingency theories we examine in this chapter, Fiedler’s contingency model and the path–goal theory, both have distinctive elements that contribute to our understanding of leadership in criminal justice organizations. In addition, we can draw different implications from each model for the management and administration of criminal justice systems.

Fiedler’s Contingency Model Fiedler’s contingency model is a contingency theory of leadership that emphasizes leader–member relations, the task structure of the organization, and the position power of leaders. According to Fiedler (1967), the leadership process is constrained by these three major situational dimensions.

First, leader–member relations are the level of trust and the degree of likeability the leader enjoys with subordinate groups. According to Fiedler, how well a leader is able to guide immediate subordinates is contingent on the relationship he or she has with them. It is easy to see in police organizations, for example, that some supervisors are better liked by rank-and-file officers than other supervisors. The leader who is not liked or well received by subordinates is constrained by this situation and can be ineffective in guiding and influencing workers to accomplish organizational tasks.

Fiedler’s contingency model: A contingency theory of leadership that emphasizes leader-member relations, the task structure of the organization, and the position power of leaders.    

Second, the task structure of the organization is, in Fiedler’s (1967:53) words, “the degree to which the task is spelled out or must be left nebulous and undefined.” Routinized task structure has clearly defined procedures for accomplishing organizational objectives. The machine-based factory has clear directions for running the machine. It is easier to lead when the task structure is clearly defined and open to direct monitoring by the supervisor. The organization with an undefined task structure or uncertainty about achieving its objective presents problems. Most of the activities of criminal justice organizations have uncertain task structures even though these agencies have relatively stable policies and procedures, simply because it is not all that certain that the tasks accomplish the goals professed. It is one thing to say, for example, that officers patrol the streets of the city (a task) and another to say that this task accomplishes the goals of crime prevention and societal protection. This uncertainty about the relationship between task performance and goal accomplishment produces agencies that, more often than not, are unstructured and loosely coupled. As a result, effective leadership becomes problematic for both administrators and immediate supervisors.   

 Third, position power is the leader’s ability to exercise power in the organization. Fiedler’s test of position power is the ability to hire and fire subordinates. A leader with high position power is able to hire or fire at will. A leader with low position power has limited authority in this area. Here again, we can see how criminal justice administrators are constrained because of their limited authority to hire or dismiss someone. Because they are public agencies, many organizations of criminal justice are governed by civil service or independent commissions that regulate, monitor, and control all personnel decisions. Administrators cannot dismiss someone without going through an elaborate process of review, typically by an external group or agency. Moreover, immediate supervisors—for example, police sergeants—have no power to make such critical decisions. In fact, much of the position power in the immediate supervisory positions of criminal justice has been limited by legal decisions, an environmental constraint over which administrators have little control. Although it would be inaccurate to state that administrators and frontline supervisors have no position power at all, that power is limited and is relatively weak when compared with the position power of comparable groups in the private sector.    

Given these situational dimensions—leader–member relations, task structure, and position power—we can match the proper leadership styles with the right situations to produce the most effective form of leadership. Leadership style can be determined by asking leaders to describe, either favorably or unfavorably, their least preferred coworker. This is known as an LPC score. According to Fiedler, the leader who describes a least preferred coworker in a favorable manner tends to be permissive and human-relations-oriented; the leader who describes a least preferred coworker in unfavorable terms is concerned with task production and getting the job done. Moreover, Fiedler suggests that, for the most part, task-production leaders tend to be more effective in structured situations, whereas human-relations-oriented leaders are more effective in situations that require a creative response from supervisors and subordinates.   

 In addition, a leader has high situational control when he or she has good leader–member relations, a high task structure, and high position power. Low situational control exists when the opposite conditions are present: poor leader–member relations, low task structure, and little or no position power. Finally, moderate situation control means the situational characteristics are mixed; some characteristics work to the advantage of the leader (e.g., high leader–member relations), while others do not (poor position power) (Tosi, Rizzo, and Carroll, 1986:503–504).    

By matching the degree of situational control with differing LPC orientations, says Fiedler, we can determine the most appropriate leadership approach. The low-LPC leader would be the most effective in situations where there is low situational control (poor leader–member relations, low task structure, and little or no position power). In this example, the low-LPC leader would be most effective in situations that required situational control and specific directions to employees; workers might believe that their own success in accomplishing the tasks of the organization was related to the guidance of the leader. The human-relations-oriented leader (high LPC) will be the most successful where the group has structured tasks and a dislike of the leader. The human-relations-oriented leader is effective in a situation where the group likes the leader and has an unstructured task to perform.   

 Within criminal justice organizations, we can see how leadership style can be effective, depending on situational factors. The sergeant who directs a tactical unit in a police organization may be more effective by employing a task-oriented rather than a human-relations-oriented leadership style because many tactical unit tasks are structured, leader position power is relatively high (the sergeant often has direct input into who is in the unit and how they function), and strong identification with the leader is critical because of the nature of the tasks being performed. We would not expect the sergeant in this unit to ask for input from subordinates on how to run the unit because the sergeant has to issue orders and directives to achieve the goals of the unit.   

 The situational factors faced by a supervisor of corrections officers, however, may require a different type of leadership style. If the supervisor is well liked by officers, if tasks are only vaguely related to the goals of the organization, and if the supervisor has weak position power, it may be advantageous to be human-relations oriented. In fact, in institutional corrections today, it has been said that the uncertainty about the relationship between tasks and organizational objectives, on one hand, and the weak position power of both supervisors and administrators, on the other, requires leaders to be more oriented toward human relations. In effect, corrections supervisors need to be open and flexible with subordinates if their organizational goals are to be accomplished. Yet, task-oriented leaders can argue equally that if leader–member relations in correctional institutions are poor, tasks unstructured, and leader position power weak, an autocratic management style would be more effective.   

 Two basic criticisms can be leveled against the contingency model of leadership. First, Fiedler seems to treat LPC as a dichotomous and unidimensional variable, implying that leaders are either totally task oriented or totally human relations oriented; the theory does not admit the possibility that leaders could be equally high on both dimensions. Our understanding of administrative behavior intuitively suggests that this kind of polarization is not the case and that managers do exhibit both styles of leadership, depending on the situation. Moreover, we have seen an explosion in research examining the relationship between leaders and subordinates being affected by other situational variables outside of those developed by Fiedler. Elias (2009) examines the complex relationship that exists between leaders and subordinates and suggests that the type of managerial control and internal locus of control that an employee exhibits influences specific work outcomes.   

 Police officers, for example, who have a locus of control that assumes they are responsible for what happens to them and are influenced by a form of control that is reactive (rooted in the authority structures of the police department) might respond well and have increased levels of satisfaction, lower rates of turnover, and more commitment to the department when compared to a proactive form of management. The latter style of management may not sit well with people who feel they are ultimately responsible for their behaviors within the context of the police agency. They require direction, and reactive management strategies may be the best in this type of situation. On the other hand, reactive strategies might backfire if the officer has a locus of control that is more external (things happen beyond an officer’s control) and require greater input and proactive management to perform the duties of the job. As stated by Elias (2009:387), “the reliance on the organization’s power structure to influence a subordinate may result in contradictory employee outcomes based on the employee’s locus of control.” As such, we may have many “contingent” situations and factors that have not been adequately defined nor sufficiently investigated to truly understand the factors that influence employees and under what conditions. We discuss the issue of locus of control when we examine another contingency theory —the path–goal theory of leadership.   

 Second, this theory implicitly assumes that task structure and leader-member relations cannot be modified or changed by the leader’s style. Fiedler argues that it is easier to alter situations within the organization rather than the style of leadership exhibited by the leader. If leader–member relations are not good, for example, it may be more appropriate to spend time rearranging this situation than trying to change the leader’s style. There may be much truth in this statement, yet there is no reason to believe that style of leadership cannot be modified as easily as situational dimensions. In fact, it can be reasonably argued that leadership style can affect some situational dimensions and change them for the good of the organization. Is it not possible, for example, for a leader to modify his or her style so that an unstructured task becomes more structured? Two implications of this theory for criminal justice management can be drawn. First, if effective leadership is the goal in criminal justice organizations, then matching the right leader with specific tasks becomes critical; yet this luxury may not be possible. Given that many administrators and supervisors in criminal justice organizations are not chosen because of their ability to lead but rather because of their years of service, scores on tests, and loyalty to the organization (to mention only a few criteria), it is not clear how leaders can be matched to specific situations. Although private organizations may have the luxury of removing and replacing ineffective leaders, such is typically not the case in criminal justice organizations. Second, if Fiedler’s ideas on leadership are to be applied to criminal justice agencies, then administrative officials and those in supervisory positions need training to become aware of their personality orientations and the organizational consequences of expressing these orientations. Although officials have been requesting it for many years, such training is still severely lacking (Geller, 1985). Moreover, Fiedler and Garcia (1987, cited in Robbins and Judge, 2007:412) have introduced another factor to consider in assessing effective leadership. This factor is stress and how leaders cope with it. Under the title of “cognitive resource theory,” Fiedler and Garcia suggest that how leaders cope with stress, employing their intelligence and experience, will have differential levels of success. In situations of high stress, acting rationally is difficult. Fiedler and Garcia found that intelligence and experience impact leadership effectiveness, with high intelligence working in situations of low stress and experience working in situations of high stress.   

 Fiedler and Garcia’s new conceptualization of contingency theory has much relevance for understanding criminal justice leadership. Owen (2006) has shown that stress is an important consideration for correctional supervisors. Similar research in police organizations has also suggested that stress among police supervisors is high (Alpert, Dunham, and Stroshine, 2005). What is not known, however, is how leadership is mediated by the multitude of stressful situations that criminal justice workers face on a daily basis. It is one thing to state criminal justice personnel are under a tremendous amount of stress, yet it is something different to show how stress affects the quality of leadership within criminal justice organizations. Future research will have to address this issue.   

 We return to a discussion of contingency theory later in this chapter when we apply some of its ideas to a broader notion of leadership and how contingent external factors affect criminal justice organizations. Path–goal Theory Whereas Fiedler’s theory of leadership attempts to isolate situational characteristics and leader orientation to understand the leadership process, path–goal theory suggests that the interaction between leader behavior and the situational aspects of the organization is important (House and Mitchell, 1985). In addition, this theory argues that leadership is linked to an expectancy theory of motivation (see Chapter 4), which posits that the leader’s behavior directly influences the actions of employees if it is a source of satisfaction for them. Effective leadership, according to path–goal theory, is situational and does not depend on a single style or theory. Moreover, effective leadership is tied to the degree of direction and guidance the leader provides in the work situation.

Path–goal theory: A contingency theory of leadership that highlights the relationship between leader behavior and situational aspects of the organization. Styles of leadership are important to this theory of leadership.    

This guidance and direction can be tied to four styles of leadership that are independent. A leader can exhibit any one of the four styles of leadership when faced with different conditions and situations. Directive leadership emphasizes the leader’s expectations and the tasks that subordinates perform. The leader instills into subordinates the importance of the organization’s rules and regulations and their relationship to task performance. Under this style of leadership, the leader provides the necessary guidance to subordinates to motivate them to accomplish the tasks required by the organization. Supportive leadership stresses a concern for employees. This type of leader is friendly with employees and desires to be approachable. The leader’s primary concern is both to accomplish the organizational tasks and meet workers’ needs. Participative leadership emphasizes collaboration of the leader and subordinates. The leader employing this style attempts to involve subordinates in the organization’s decision-making process and assure them of their importance in the organization. Achievement-oriented leadership is concerned with having subordinates produce results. Such a leader expects that workers will attempt to do their best and that if goals are set high enough and subordinates are properly motivated, they will achieve those goals. The leader confidently expects that employees will achieve the stated goals and tasks.   

 Two contingency factors shape subordinates’ performance and level of satisfaction in this theory. According to House and Mitchell (1985:494), three subordinate characteristics—aspects of the worker, most of which are rooted in personality—determine which leadership style will be most effective. These are locus of control, in which internally focused individuals are receptive to a participative leadership style and externally controlled individuals are comfortable with a directive form of leadership; authoritarianism, in which individuals high in authoritarianism react positively to directive leadership and those low in authoritarianism are receptive to participative leadership; and ability, in which employees who are highly competent in their jobs do not need to be led or directed and may benefit from a participative style of leadership, whereas those who are not so competent need directive leadership.    

Environmental factors are characteristics of the work situation. According to path–goal theory, three environmental factors affect a subordinate’s ability to perform the tasks required; these factors intervene between the subordinate and the leader. Task is the structure or level of uncertainty that enables the employee to accomplish the task or prevents the employee from accomplishing the task. The directive style of leadership may be appropriate when the subordinate does not understand how to do the task. Without proper leadership, the subordinate will never be able to clear the path necessary to accomplish the task; proper leadership style is critical here.   

 The formal authority system of the organization is a second critical factor in the environment. If, for example, the worker perceives the formal structure of the organization as a barrier to the accomplishment of goals and thereby to the rewards associated with the accomplishment of those goals, the leader must remove the barriers so that the worker can effectively meet the organization’s stated objectives.  

  Finally, the primary work group is the third environmental factor that may prevent the worker from achieving organizational tasks and objectives, which in turn affects the number of rewards the worker will receive from the organization. The leader, therefore, makes sure that the task expected of the worker is clearly stated and defined, that goals of the organization are attainable and have rewards, and that there are no barriers to performance. Under optimal conditions, the leader provides the atmosphere where uncertainty about the relationship between task performance and organizational rewards is low. The leader thus clears a path through these environmental factors primarily by increasing the value of tasks and rewards, removing barriers to the accomplishment of organizational goals, and reducing uncertainty so that tasks can be achieved by subordinates.   

 Directive leadership is clearly the most effective (effectiveness being defined by the degree of satisfaction expressed by workers) in situations when the task is ambiguous and uncertain, but this leadership style produces lower levels of satisfaction among workers when the task is relatively clear and the workers are easily able to complete the task. Supportive leadership is best employed when the tasks being performed by subordinates are stressful, dissatisfying, and frustrating. Finally, participative leadership may be the most effective when the individual is highly involved in the task or when the task is relatively nonroutine and somewhat ambiguous. In this situation, the leader provides the necessary platform for the subordinate to express concerns about how the task can be accomplished and rewards maximized. Once again, path–goal theory suggests that the primary role of the leader is to provide the paths by which subordinates’ rewards can be maximized while simultaneously meeting the objectives of the organization.   

 Path–goal theory can make three contributions to criminal justice administration. First, criminal justice administrators need to spell out clearly the types of rewards that subordinates can receive if and when they follow specific paths designed and structured by the organization. If, for example, Officer Jones is told that she will receive a promotion or a positive evaluation from her supervisor if she accomplishes the tasks assigned, a reward system must be in place that promotes and reinforces that behavior. All that path–goal theory suggests is that subordinates will follow and accomplish tasks defined and assigned by the organization if rewards are attached to the accomplishment of those tasks. If leadership cannot develop and promote such a structure, then leadership is at fault.    Such, in fact, may be the case in many criminal justice organizations. Take police organizations as an example: If the principles of path–goal theory were followed, administrators would have as a primary goal the removal of obstacles to officers so that they would follow the rules and regulations of the organization with the hope of being promoted someday. Often, police rules are written when full enforcement of the law is not possible. Limited resources, for example, make full enforcement problematic. On one hand, officers are told to enforce the rules for evaluation and promotion purposes; yet, on the other hand, they are not given adequate resources and support to complete their jobs. By applying various styles of leadership, contingent on the personal characteristics of subordinates and the environmental characteristics of the work situation, leaders would clear the path for subordinates to accomplish the goals of the organization while simultaneously meeting their own expectations and enhancing their rewards, such as a promotion.   

 Yet police organizations often cannot provide the rewards sought by police officers. Because supervisors have little control over reward distribution, the style of leadership they exhibit is somewhat meaningless. If, for example, a court orders a police department to hire and promote minority candidates over majority candidates because of past practices of discrimination in the department, the police supervisor may have limited control over who gets promoted and, more important, may have a difficult time convincing subordinates that there actually is a clear path to promotion or mobility in the organization.    

Second, path–goal theory suggests, correctly, that no one style of leadership is sufficient for all the situations faced by criminal justice administrators and supervisors. This point cannot be stated too often. In many instances, good administrators in criminal justice organizations have recognized that proper leadership requires a correct assessment of the situation. In addition, it becomes clear that leadership is an ongoing and proactive process that demands constant evaluations of multiple situations. More important, leaders must constantly reevaluate the situations faced by subordinates and how paths can be cleared for the attainment of both organizational objectives and employee goals.    

Third, path–goal theory requires that criminal justice administrators design paths and goals for employees that are reasonable and attainable. Path–goal theory assumes active leadership on the part of supervisors. Criminal justice administrators who do not clarify paths for subordinates only create confusion for themselves and much alienation and disillusionment among employees. Such ineffective leadership places obstacles between supervisors and subordinates that may be difficult to overcome. The issue of path specificity is significant in criminal justice organizations, especially as it relates to the structural components of how we do our work. This suggests that an incongruence between our work structure and our environment must be addressed by criminal justice administrators, or otherwise no clear path can be established and leadership effectiveness is minimized.   

 Zhao, Ren, and Lovrich (2010) address this issue in their examination of police organizational structural change during the 1990s. By exploring 280 municipal police departments on the dimension of structural change, they found most departments remained relatively stable, even though their environments were drastically changing in response to police reform efforts at both the state level and federal levels. These proposed changes recommended that police adopt more community-oriented policing structures that fostered increased decentralization, flattening of organizational hierarchies, more civilian hires, and a reduction in administrative staff. Such changes would require a drastic structural alteration in how we deliver police services and lead officers. If police administrators are receiving pressures from the environment to change structures so departments are more responsive to their communities, yet no change occurs, police officers are given mixed messages and the path to effective organizational outcomes becomes cluttered with ambiguity and conflict. The question becomes: How can you lead at all? Transformational Leadership Twenty-first-century leadership research has focused on one leadership approach that has changed the way we understand leadership. Up until the early 1990s, leadership was viewed and understood largely as a process that was trait based, behaviorally based, or highly contingent on a number of factors that were either within the control of the leader or not. The theories on leadership were focused on how leaders can alter their leadership styles or their work situations to improve leadership and ultimately organizational outcomes.  

  Dissatisfaction over these theories of leadership led others to suggest that leadership can best be understood not as a series of transactions per se, but instead, as how leaders transform organizations to yield optimal results. This approach to leadership is labeled transformational leadership. Central to transformational leadership are three related concepts: mission and vision statement, goal setting, and cultivation of creativity and imagination to address organizational concerns and problems. Transformational leadership: A leadership approach that stresses the importance of leadership behaviors in transforming organizations to produce optimal results.   

 The creation of a mission cuts to the question of what the central purposes are of an organization. We have already discussed how this is particularly problematic within criminal justice organizations (see Chapter 1). Our environments are layered, complex, and interest based, yet effective criminal justice organizations do define clear missions and visions. For example, although we expect prisons to perform multiple goals, for many correctional workers, knowing that the prison is safe and secure is central to its success. Effective leadership within the context of prisons is making sure the safety and security of staff and prisoners are achieved. In the world of corrections, however, expectations are changing and communities are demanding departments do something such that criminal behavior is changed (King, 2006). Recognizing these changing expectations, many departments of corrections are embarking on a vision to make prisons places in which productive change can occur among prisoners. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, for example, change its name to include the rehabilitation component, a new vision for the department that moves well beyond simple custody and control in prisons (Hickman, 2005).    

To make organizations accountable, many have instituted elaborate goal statements. It is not enough to have a mission and vision. In addition, organizations need to see how goals transform the mission and vision into action. In criminal justice organizations, we see similar attempts by police chiefs, chief judges, and probation and parole officials to become more strategic in their missions and visions. One organization that is assisting police organizations in this quest is the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). In its Developing Leaders in Police Organizations (LPO) program, IACP is committed to working with police organizations to develop and inculcate leadership throughout the police hierarchy. Called “dispersed leadership,” the LPO program has five component parts: shared understanding of what leadership means, commitment to shared goals and values by leaders at all levels of the organization, a recognition of different styles of leadership, and dispersed leadership focusing both on the individual and the organization (International Association of Chiefs of Police [IACP], 2006).   

 The LPO program is designed to promote leadership throughout the police organization and seeks leadership behavior that promotes the best practices in police work, reflecting the values of “duty, honor, service, dignity, respect for others, integrity, courage, and loyalty” (IACP, 2006:1). Through such a commitment, the hope is that police organizations will be able to transform traditional police cultures into new ways of thinking about police service delivery so that organizational goals are attained. In addition, such a transformation requires more imagination and creativity on how the police of the twenty-first century will respond to the new challenges of crime, the third element of transformational leadership.  

  Creativity and new ways of doing business within criminal justice organizations are required given the evolving threats that new crimes pose for criminal justice organizations. Identity theft, Internet sex predators, and terrorist threats all pose significant challenges to criminal justice administration. As suggested in Chapter 1, these new challenges require new ways of responding to these nascent crimes. One of the most pressing demands for criminal justice administrators will be how they are able to transform their work organizations to be more flexible and creative in responding to crime. As noted by the 9/11 Commission (2003), the most serious threat we face in dealing with potential terrorist attacks is our lack of imagination.    

The power of transformational leadership will lie in how it is able to change traditional criminal justice operations to achieve organizational results. What does the research indicate on the effectiveness of transformational leadership? In the business literature, the evidence is quite impressive on the impact that transformational leadership has had on a number of organizational outcomes, including productivity, turnover, and satisfaction levels among employees (Robbins and Judge, 2007:440); yet these same findings cannot be stated regarding criminal justice organizations. The simple fact is that we do not know much about whether transformational leadership within the context of criminal justice organizations actually exists and if it really matters. More important, some research on transformational leadership suggests that the “social distance” between leaders and followers moderates the potential positive effects of transformational leadership, yet it may have some impact on the perceptions of workers, their emotional climate at work, and their collective efficacy (Cole, Bruch, and Shamir, 2010). By social distance, we are referring to both levels of intimacy that characterize social relations in criminal justice organizations. Is it really that important in criminal justice organizations to understand the nature and quality of social relations, especially for criminal justice administrators (see Chapters 6 and 9)? It might be important, but we need more research to answer this question definitively. We have much prescription when it comes to transformational leadership and criminal justice administration but very little substance when it comes to showing how such a leadership approach actually improves the operations of criminal justice organizations. We now turn to the issue of research in criminal justice leadership.


At the end of the twentieth century, we were consumed with worry about the mass failure of technological systems and spent considerable energy preparing for Y2K. The (first) Gulf War had ended; we were experiencing an era of relative prosperity, and we were more than a year away from the onslaught of generous pension plan approvals that started in 2001. Since then, we have seen a general move toward militarization of the police, entry into a two-front war (Iraq and Afghanistan), and the collapse of the housing market. Those drivers, in tandem with the devaluation of the dollar, the bankruptcy of some members of the European Union, and the inevitable decline in confidence in government systems, led both to great duress as well as significant opportunity for leaders in the coming decade.    

While it might seem that responding to calls for service is at the core, it may be the time to radically reconceive what it means to “police” a community. The prevalent mind-set of contemporary policing focuses largely on apprehension and prosecution of criminals. Even community policing programs largely focus on mitigating incidents to minimize the recurrence of deviant acts. A change to three differing areas of priority might be in order. The first is to seek ways to prevent crime and disorder by addressing root causes. This could entail working with schools, social services, and similar agencies to engage families in the prevention of child abuse, to strengthen parenting, and to help curtail intimate partner assaults. Peace in the home is the bedrock of peace in a community and it should be one of the primary areas of emphasis in a law enforcement agency. That does not mean “cops as social workers.” Rather, the police should work with professionals in related disciplines to create programs and services to meet the latent need of many families and children in ways that might seem foreign to the experienced police practitioner.   

 The second area of focus would be to move priorities to predictive policing: strong analysis of crime trends and data and placing scarce police resources where they are actually needed in lieu of the “organized wandering” of patrol work. Emerging capabilities of analytic systems should afford us a chance to get ahead of crime and to align our work and suppress incidents by virtue of an intelligent, data-driven police force. This is not to encourage mindless adherence to the data but to incorporate analytics into the fabric of what we do.   

 The last area to consider is the level of innovation in your organization. This goes beyond brainstorming sessions or occasional strategic planning efforts. It also does not mean that the agency waits for the right idea to emerge. The successful law enforcement organization of the future will place value on new ways to address old problems and will create ways to foster that throughout the organization. In larger agencies, that could mean the development of R&D units or similar pockets of trial balloons and pilot programs. In smaller agencies, that could mean learning concepts of systems, design thinking, and then utilizing them in the agency’s planning and execution of effort.    

As a leader, it is your job to provide structure and to paint the broad brushstrokes from which others create an identity. Most important, though, your job is to give others hope. Help them see a future that is different from today, that is better, and that includes them, and you can lead them there. Absent that, you will not lead them anywhere. SOURCE: Bob Harrison, Retired Police Chief, Course Manager, California POST Command College. LEADERSHIP RESEARCH IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE As we have seen, little empirical testing of the theoretical models of leadership in criminal justice organizations has been attempted. What has been done, moreover, is still rooted in 1950s research of the Ohio State studies and the Michigan studies. This situation may be caused either by the slow testing of current theories of leadership within criminal justice organizations or the limited number of reliable instruments to test the new theoretical positions. However, some new research, particularly in the police field, does tell us about leadership in criminal justice agencies; from it, we can draw implications for management.  

  Research by Kuykendall and Unsinger (1982) suggests that police managers have a preferred leadership orientation. Employing an instrument created by Hershey and Blanchard (1977), the researchers found that police managers are likely to use styles of leadership known as selling (high task and high relationship emphasis), telling (high task and low relationship emphasis), and participating (high relationship and low task emphasis), with very little concern for delegating (low relationship and low task emphasis). Of these styles of leadership, which are similar to those discussed previously, the most preferred style is selling. The researchers suggest that police managers are no less effective than managers in other organizational settings and that the selling, telling, and participating styles lead to organizational effectiveness.   

 Similar findings were generated by Swanson and Territo (1982) in their research involving 104 police supervisors in the Southeast in the late 1970s. Using the managerial grid, the researchers found that their sample of police supervisors showed high concern for both production and people and emphasized team management in their organizations. Employing other measures, the researchers also found that police supervisors used a style of communication that emphasized the open and candid expression of their feelings and knowledge to subordinates rather than a style of communication that emphasized feedback from subordinates to managers about their supervisory capabilities. This research suggested that police managers had an open communication style with subordinates and supported the idea that police managers were indeed democratic in their leadership styles. (At least, they professed to be.) More recently, Madlock (2008) suggests that the leader’s “communication competency” is a critical factor when assessing leadership effectiveness in organizations. In fact, he found that effective communicators not only were rated high by their subordinates regarding their communication abilities, but, more important, a high level of communication competence was strongly correlated to job satisfaction by workers. We may have to improve the communication skills of criminal justice supervisors to improve their leadership capabilities. Whether or not improved communication skills are associated with participative styles of leadership is still unknown.  

  Research suggests that such a participative and democratic leadership style is not as ubiquitous in police organizations as previously indicated. Auten (1985), for example, found in his sample of police supervisors and operations personnel in state police agencies in Illinois that the dominant managerial model was the traditional paramilitary type with one-way communication. In addition, these police supervisors and operations personnel strongly believed that they had no meaningful role in organizational decision making. The researchers suggest that there were communication breakdowns between the supervisory and operations personnel and the administrative heads of the agencies.    

Not only is there limited consensus on what type of leadership styles predominate among police managers and administrators, but when police supervisors are asked to think about a leadership style as opposed to acting out a style in a specific situation, they also tend to change their approach to leadership (Kuykendall, 1985). Clearly, what a supervisor regards as an appropriate style of leadership may not be in agreement with what he or she actually does in a given situation. Current research, for example, on occupational stress, high turnover, absenteeism, and substance abuse in the police field suggests that the traditional paramilitary structure of police organizations, with its emphasis on an autocratic style of leadership, creates and perpetuates these problems. These problems may be traced to other factors in the police role, such as the danger associated with the job, yet it is important to examine how specific leadership styles contribute to many of these problems. Much leadership research in policing needs to be done.   

 In the field of corrections, much of what we know about leadership is rooted in highly prescriptive material, which limits our understanding of the process. However, many of the problems experienced in police organizations are experienced equally in correctional organizations; hierarchical structure, limited and often rigid communications systems, and centralized decision-making authority in correctional organizations produce many of these problems (Archambeault and Archambeault, 1982). As with police research, leadership research in corrections is not only limited but also offers little information that is useful to corrections administrators.    

Given the current state of leadership research in both police organizations and correctional organizations, we recommend that future researchers address the following issues. First, we need additional research on how criminal justice administrators actually lead their organizations; from this data, prescriptions for policy can be made useful to the criminal justice manager. Much existing research is out of date and tells us little about the increasing complexities of the leadership process. Some current research, however, in the field of corrections lends credence to the idea that leadership does matter and does affect the quality of practice exhibited by employees. Dale and Trlin (2010) investigated the impact of a new public management scheme in New Zealand on the performance of probation officers. The research highlighted the initial tension that existed between management and workers as the former sought greater managerial efficiencies in exchange for less professionalism based on traditional practices. The authors contend that if new systems of efficiencies were to be created within the probation practice, more “supportive” relationships needed to be built by managers and leaders, buttressed by a clear articulation of professional values, expertise, and knowledge and a recognition that practice should be a defining element in assessing the effectiveness of both employees and leaders.   

 Second, the contemporary models of leadership offered by organizational behavior theory need to be examined. Contingency approaches should be examined in relation to criminal justice organizations, along with refinement of instruments to test these theories in the criminal justice environment. The situational factors influencing the leadership process must be examined in the operations of criminal justice systems. Too often, research in criminal justice organizations has been set up to ascertain whether administrators are participative or autocratic in relation to their subordinates. It is possibly time to stop searching for the perfect criminal justice manager and to begin examining situational aspects of the work environment that constrain administrators in their leadership functions.    

Third, to fully understand the leadership phenomenon in criminal justice organizations, we must use the new methodologies to look at the intricacies associated with the leadership process. Traditional survey methods in criminal justice organizations have yielded some valuable information, yet field methods would provide information about the actual leadership mechanisms used by criminal justice administrators. To understand the leadership process, it is helpful to watch and document what criminal justice leaders actually do and, more important, be able to distinguish effective criminal justice leaders from ineffective ones. In this way, prescriptions for administrators would be informed by data and useful in their day-to-day interactions with subordinates.   

 Finally, we need to discuss how much we can expect of our criminal justice managers in leadership. It is common to blame the poor performance of subordinates on ineffective management or leadership; we often hear this complaint in criminal justice organizations. Yet it is shortsighted to suggest that all problems in criminal justice can be attributed to faulty leadership. Criminal justice administrators have limited or no control over some aspects of the work of their organizations. As a result, requesting a new leader “to set the organization back on path” is probably, in the words of Hall and Tolbert (2005:160), “little more than a cosmetic treatment.” An uncertain and unstable political environment, for example, makes multiple demands on a police chief. Not being able to appease all groups all the time, the chief is constrained in decision making. On many occasions, because the chief has limited resources and multiple demands, all community expectations for police services cannot be met. Too often, the chief is viewed as an ineffective leader when leadership has little to do with the problem. To be effective, a leader must provide some degree of control over the external environment. But we need to be realistic about how much a police administrator can control. Perhaps for this reason, many experts recommend that incoming police chiefs develop clear and stable relations with local political groups so that expectations can be spelled out on both sides (Murphy, 1985).   

 Similar concerns can be raised about leadership in the courts, prisons, and probation and parole organizations. Leaders of these departments have problems of trying to understand the political process and how it affects their organizations. Many have concerns about how much of their organizations they really control, particularly in tight fiscal times when resources are stretched and competition among social service agencies for finite dollars is fierce. Similar to police administrators, court officials and correctional administrators are expected to achieve aims that they neither agree with nor have resources to successfully complete. A prime example of this difficulty is the “three strikes” initiatives that swept the country during the early 1990s. For many departments of corrections’ leaders and prison administrators, such a law was impossible to live with and had dire practical consequences for prison management, yet its political appeal was so great that political leaders jumped on the bandwagon to pass laws that were not only difficult to implement but in some cases also were draconian in their effects (Irwin and Austin, 2002). Under such difficult circumstances, how are criminal justice administrators to respond? An answer to this question may lie in a model of leadership education, to which we now turn.


In response to unprecedented growth in the California Department of Corrections (DOC) in both employee and offender populations, the director responded by developing a Leadership Institute in joint collaboration with the California State University at Chico Center for Regional and Continuing Education. This initiative, designed to prepare future leaders within the department, viewed leadership as an educational process that could be taught to administrators. The primary emphasis was on education rather than training. Participants were asked to move beyond their formal structures, policies and procedures, and ways of doing business to critically question the direction and methods of operation within the department. Participants were selected based on their years of experience, commitment to productive change, and potential for promotion within the department. All participants were screened by the DOC director and charged with addressing a significant issue facing the DOC today and into the twenty-first century.  

  In the fall of 1994, the Leadership Institute convened for the first time. This program initiative ran for ten years until the fall of 2004. Over 350 participants took part in the institute. Unlike other leadership training programs, this effort was much more intensive and project-oriented. Participants were required to attend week-long sessions over a six-month period, totaling six weeks of intensive study on leadership development and application within the DOC. Within each cohort, approximately twenty-five persons were assembled from varying management and administrative positions within the DOC. Attendees came from prisons, medical services, procurement services, training and evaluation, and parole agencies, to mention a few. They were split up into four groups of six individuals, and they jointly developed an issue facing the department through a series of exercises given to them in the first two weeks. Upon completing the program, the groups would present their issues, solutions, and findings to the director and top administrative staff at a graduation ceremony.    

Through such an intensive process, the institute’s organizers hoped that the key elements of leadership could be transmitted to individuals through a number of complex exercises and tasks. Many of the exercises required the use of computer-assisted technologies as well as library and external resources. Instructors were all university professors who had experience working within the field of corrections and were serving as consultants to the DOC. The institute recognized specific elements as essential for effective leadership for any criminal justice administrator. The experiences of the participants through the various exercises indicated that effective criminal justice leaders must possess the following attributes:

1. Traits indicative of a proactive approach to leadership. These traits include, but are not limited to, good communication skills, an honest and trustworthy approach to dealing with staff, an attitude of excellence, and a firm knowledge of the organization and the problems and issues it faces.

2. Awareness of the importance of building professional relationships with employees. Effective leaders recognize that listening to employee concerns is relevant to achieving organizational goals. Showing concern for employees as persons, rewarding excellence in performance, and conveying a friendly and approachable manner or presence are critical for effective leadership. Such behaviors show a concern for employees as members of a team working toward the attainment of specific organizational objectives.

3. Ability to balance the needs of employees with concern for production. Effective leaders encourage cooperative decision making through shared ideas and shared power; they also encourage participation in decision making as well as allow freedom for employees to grow and experiment with new methods to accomplish tasks. They recognize that failure is a part of a learning process for employees.

4. Ability to incorporate a sense of vision within the organization and serve as a transformer of culture when necessary. The purpose behind the identification of vision is to direct employees and their behaviors specifically toward the central purpose(s) of the organization. Good leaders are able to identify challenges that the organization faces as well as specify appropriate alternatives when addressing current problems and those well into the future. Effective leaders understand that employee acceptance of the organization’s vision means that there may need to be cultural change within the organization. A good leader is able to identify new symbols and values for the organization that employees will accept. These symbols and values may be new to the organization, and the leader recognizes that cultural change is a prerequisite for long-term change. The leader solicits support among employees and shows the value of transformation toward the accomplishment of organizational objectives and goals.

5. Recognition that an array of contingent strategies is required for effective leadership. Recognizing the right tool for the job is a central task. Leaders understand that changes in the political environment, for example, may require changes in how the organization functions and completes its tasks. Leaders must identify effective mechanisms to predict these changes and make appropriate adjustments either to deflect them or to alter ways of doing business so that the changes are no longer problematic for the organization. Having a diverse set of strategies improves the chances that changes will not have an adverse impact on the organization. For example, effective and contingent strategies for dealing with the political environment may be invaluable to protecting the organization from a budget cut or a reduction in personnel.    

These elements make up the core of effective leadership as identified by participants in the leadership institute. The list is by no means exhaustive, yet it does oblige us to think about what criminal justice leadership actually is and the importance of some issues—such as leadership traits, employee development, balancing the needs of employees with production concerns, incorporating a sense of vision to the organization, and using multiple and contingent strategies—for effective leadership. A review of Chapters 5 and 6 shows how these issues are also relevant to employee motivation and job design.


Individuals are either elected or appointed to lead criminal justice organizations. These leaders usually have come up through the ranks of the organization. They understand the importance of creating and setting the “tone” in the organization and, in the words of Schein (1997), influencing the culture of the organization. Criminal justice literature is replete with accounts of both the good and the bad in the cultures of criminal justice organizations.    Whether these accounts reflect corruption in police organizations (Skolnick and Fyfe, 1993) or the alleged violence and brutality of correctional work ( Conover, 2000), concerns have been raised about how such cultures are created, sustained, and perpetuated in criminal justice organizations. For many, the issue hinges on the role of leadership in influencing organizational culture. Many writers on criminal justice administration have noted the importance of leadership to organizational culture (Crank, 1998; Stojkovic and Farkas, 2003). This research suggests that effective leadership within criminal justice organizations must pay attention to how cultures are created, the mechanisms through which culture is transmitted to new employees, the role of leaders in the transmission of culture, and how culture can be influenced by administrators. Future research in criminal justice leadership will have to address the importance of organizational culture and offer suggestions on how it can be created and nurtured to fulfill organizational goals.


Comprehend the complexities of leadership within criminal justice organizations.

■ Leadership in criminal justice organizations must be understood within a political context. What is sometimes viewed as poor leadership may actually reflect a lack of understanding regarding the political realities and complexities of criminal justice leadership. Understand the many theories of leadership.

■ There are many leadership theories. The chapter highlighted these major theories of leadership and noted their application to criminal justice organizations. Know the limitations of leadership research in criminal justice organizations.

■ There are many benefits to applying various theoretical models of leadership to criminal justice organizations, yet very little application and testing of these models of leadership within criminal justice organizations has occurred. Much of what we know from the leadership literature in criminal justice is highly prescriptive. Explain the importance of leadership development in criminal justice organizations.

■ One model of leadership development was offered from the California Department of Corrections. While the program has value, there has been very little evaluation of such efforts to see if the quality of leadership matters when it comes to achieving the goals of correctional organizations.

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