Effective Leadership Essay
Though the concept of leadership has long been central to the management of private companies, public institutions have only started to incorporate it in their organizational culture. In criminal justice, the approach to leadership styles and strategies is also evolving. The sphere of criminal justice is burdened with large social responsibility as it is expected to promote equity, peace and cooperation in the society. It is impossible to achieve and even to approach this ambitious goal without the establishment of effective leadership at each unit of its ramified structure. Though there is no single framework to define leadership and its components, most scholars agree that it is not merely a function of the executive staff, but also the quality that all team members should be encouraged to demonstrate in their everyday work to attain their common goals (Riaz & Haider, 2010). The practice of shared transformational leadership has the largest potential to address the challenges that the criminal justice system is facing today.
Until recently, leadership was mostly viewed as a synonym for management, but nowadays the interpretation of this notion is more profound and, consequently, far more contentious. In modern theories, it is broadly defined as a large social influence a person exerts on others (followers), not only due to his/her position in the hierarchy, but rather due to his/her inborn traits, communicative skills, charisma and other qualities (Judge & Piccolo, 2004). This person is able to direct collective efforts to a global organizational aim by motivating the team members to success and coordinating resources efficiently. Therefore, leadership is indispensable for integrating the team and fostering its ethical and productive cooperation.
Leadership can thus be exercised at every level, but it is undeniable that people with leadership skills also have to be in the spearhead of every organization for its productive functioning. There is no consensus among scholars on whether leaders are born leaders or made them in the course of life due to their work and training. Most are inclined to think that both inborn qualities and training are important for future leaders, though in different proportions. In practice, leaders can adopt different leadership styles, ranging from strictly authoritarian to loosely democratic or absolutely laissez-faire. The chosen style has a profound effect on the performance of employees and even the profitability of business organizations (Riaz & Haider, 2010). The opposition between democratic and authoritarian leadership styles has always been salient in the discussion of leadership practices. While authoritarian style is characterized by close supervision of followers and detailed regulation of their behavior, democratic style implies equal team’s participation in the decision-making processes.
In recent years, more complex leadership styles have been brought into the forefront of applied psychology, namely, transformational and transactional. They are closely intertwined and, in the past decades, they were even construed within a single framework. At present, transactional leadership is associated with close interaction between leaders and their followers. Particularly, a transactional leader aims at adequate exchange of resources by providing followers with something they want in exchange for providing him/her with what he/she wants (Judge & Piccolo, 2004). Two aspects of transactional leadership are contingent reward and management by exception (active or passive). Contingent reward implies that leaders consistently provide psychological or monetary rewards for their subordinates to meet their expectations. In contrast, management by exception means that leaders only take corrective action when the expectations are not met or when their subordinates violate important regulations and rules. While active leaders constantly monitor the performance of their subordinates to identify deviations in their behavior and address them immediately, passive leaders only intrude when such deviations cause serious problems in the work process. In many ways, passive management by exception is similar to laissez-faire leadership style, whereby a leader refrains from making important decisions and virtually delegates all the responsibility to his/her followers.
Transformational leadership has at its core the leaders’ ability and willingness to motivate their subordinates to achieve higher results than they intend to achieve. Thus, they aim at the personal transformation of their followers by nurturing more commitment to organizational goals and by aligning the values of the entire team (Riaz & Haider, 2010). The primary strategy used by transformational leaders is increasing the team members’ awareness of the importance of their objectives. However, transformational leaders also stimulate the team’s personal growth, viewing their skills and knowledge as integral to the organization’s success. The four elements of this leadership style are idealized influence, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation, and individualized consideration (Judge & Piccolo, 2004). Idealized influence (or charisma) is the extent to which followers feel urged to identify with the leader due to his/her personal behavior. Inspirational motivation and intellectual stimulation refer to the leader’s ability to convey the vision of organizational goals and to foster the creativity of his/her subordinates. Individual consideration can be defined as the leader’s attention to the needs and concerns of his/her followers, both personal and professional. Many recent studies have demonstrated a positive correlation between transformational leadership and organizational operation (Riaz & Haider, 2010). Particularly, it was proven to positively affect the employees’ commitment, job satisfaction, trust in the workplace and social engagement.
Effective leadership is a pivotal factor in the productivity and overall performance of criminal justice organizations. Criminal justice is a peculiar field of professional activity as the people who work in it hold a large authority and power to deprive others of their basic rights. Naturally, it entails immense responsibility as even a slight mistake or misjudgment can be fatal. Moreover, law enforcement officers, judges and attorneys alike have to comply with rigorous rules and regulations in their work, however much they would be willing to change them to promote social justice. While employees in criminal justice hold supervisory position over citizens, supervision over their actions is also necessary to make sure that they do not engage in discrimination or other discrediting practices. Despite the high social pressure and fluid legislative context, officers and judges have to operate efficiently and impartially in the best interests of the community. In such a contradictory and challenging environment, reasonable and ethical leadership is crucial to instill discipline, maintain order among the staff and inspire them for new achievements, notwithstanding the often disillusioning reality.
It is well-known that criminal justice system in the US is currently in the midst of profound transformation, which mostly pertains to law enforcement. While formerly it was associated purely with reactive practices, such as crime solving and punishment, now it is adopting innovative proactive practices aimed at prevention of crimes and promotion of peace and stability in the society. Particularly, these practices include intelligence-based policing, community policing, evidence-based research, and risk assessment. All of them involve wide use of technological and scientific advances. Without doubt, it is hard for many people in the criminal justice to embrace these drastic changes and new developments. This is another reason why effective leadership is crucial in the modern criminal justice institutions: the most adaptive and technologically competent people should be able to guide others through these challenging processes and strengthen their commitment to organizational goals. Furthermore, to develop practice of community policing, leadership skills are necessary for every officer in order to successfully establish collaborative relationships with different segments of the community, including private organizations, educational institutions and volunteers. Officers must be able to inspire people to cooperation with the police and other community members, as well as to constantly reinforce their vision of the project’s final goals.
Until recently, the management and administration in criminal justice were primarily associated with the authoritarian leadership style. Its prevalence in this field is quite understandable, as it is expedient to reach rigorous discipline and adherence to regulations. Criminal justice and especially law enforcement are still widely perceived as overly centralized and focused on power relationships. However, the International Association of Chiefs of Police has already started to introduce more flexible leadership strategies, with the support of the U.S Department of Justice. The current policy in law enforcement management focuses on the development of the so-called dispersed leadership, whereby every person can be a leader, irrespectively of his/her rank (IACP, 2005). This practice thus denies the strict centralization of authority in law enforcement, which is no longer productive in the context of enhanced community orientation and a focus on terrorism prevention. Dispersed leadership is usually considered equivalent to the notion of shared or collaborative leadership, whereby all employees are involved in decision-making (Steinheider & Wuestewald, 2008). Within the new policy, people of all ranks, from patrol officers to chiefs, are trained to demonstrate leadership qualities, such as accountability, proactivity, efficient problem solving, and creativity.
Ten years ago, the IACP launched Leadership in Police Organizations (LPO), a special training program that incorporates the principles of dispersed leadership along with advances of behavioral science. The course is targeted at all ranks of law enforcement employees. It is grounded on five characteristics: shared understanding of the meaning of leadership, commitment to common goals, diversification of leaders’ functions at different organizational levels, the focus on the development of leadership skills and competence, and assessment of individual leadership in relation to the organization’s environment (IACP, 2005). The course covers the basics of individual motivation, group formation, leadership theories, change promotion, and organizational theory. Within the course, employees are requested to present their own projects, which can have a significant influence on the development of policing practices.
So far, the course has been successfully delivered in local, state and federal agencies all across the US and is further promoted by the IACP. However, no reliable assessment of its efficiency has been conducted: even though post-course surveys show that participants perceive themselves as better leaders, the complex assessment of related organizational change is needed at this point. The ostensible limitation of the course is its prevalent theoretical orientation. Within three weeks, participants become familiar with the main concepts of leadership, but they can hardly apply their knowledge and identify the areas that have to be improved. Moreover, no oversight mechanism has been developed to evaluate how they exercise their leadership skills outside of the office, in community policing practices and on patrol. Another disadvantage of this program is the limited number of covered departments due to a significant lack of funds.
The IACP still has to articulate the goals and the mechanisms of its dispersed leadership policy more clearly and establish supervision over its implementation. Nonetheless, the shift toward the democratization of management in criminal justice has started and it is unlikely to reverse. If being deployed consistently, this policy can provide numerous benefits to the criminal justice system. The most considerable of them is giving more autonomy to lower ranks. It is often emphasized that in criminal justice a lot of power is concentrated in the bottom because discretionary actions of patrol officers can have more impact on the society than a strategic decision of a chief (Steinheider & Wuestewald, 2008). In shared leadership, responsibility is distributed evenly and employees of higher ranks do not have to take all the pressure for the actions of their subordinates, while employees of lower ranks learn to be accountable for their actions. Another crucial benefit of shared leadership is the higher quality of the decision-making process because it involves more diversity of thought. Moreover, this leadership style precludes the possibility of excessive power being exercised by one person, which often results in adverse consequences.
However, shared leadership also has a number of limitations. Most importantly, the implementation of this strategy often causes resistance of employees who are accustomed to the traditional framework of hierarchical authority and singular leadership (O’Toole, Galbraith, & Lawler, 2002). It may be extremely difficult for lower ranks to overcome their fear of supervising authorities and fully participate in the decision-making process. Personal predispositions should also be taken into consideration: while some people are willing to take on additional responsibility and suggest their ideas, others are more inclined to follow somebody and conform to the environment rather than to promote changes. Also, empowerment of employees can trigger overt conflicts between formal and informal leaders when the latter overstep the borders that still have to be present between the ranks in criminal justice. However, the limitation that is particularly pertinent to criminal justice is the possibility of loosened discipline and noncompliance. Criminal justice organizations are different from private companies as they demand strict order and conformity to the rules in all situations. Therefore, shared leadership in this sphere should be implemented to a less democratic extent than it is now being made in the private sector.
The best practices in the policy of shared leadership in criminal justice were exemplified in the case study of Steinheider and Wuestewald (2008). A suburban police department in Oklahoma State introduced a form of participative management by organizing a steering committee (Leadership Team). It comprised twelve people representing different ranks, units, and functions. The committee had the authority to take binding decisions pertaining to both the employees’ working conditions and policing practices. The chief’s office was not included in the team, and it soon became more representative of lower ranks of frontline officers. Still, the chief maintained control over the committee’s agenda and had the option not to refer an issue to the committee. The members were selected either by appointment or peer election. Within two years, the team managed to promote and establish a wide range of new policies in the department, as well as to make the working process more efficient. Both quantitative and qualitative assessments were then conducted to compare the perceived measures of different aspects of organization’s operation to those reported two years prior to the program’s implementation. The assessments revealed dramatic improvement in the quality of employee relations, motivational factors and management altruism. Cooperation and support among employees were the major area of positive change. The researchers, however, did not identify the link between shared leadership and productivity, which can be attributed to a large number of external factors that affect this variable in the law enforcement environment. The practice of steering committee is the golden mean between fully centralized and decentralized leadership. On the one hand, a singular leader is maintained, with a large degree of control over the team. It precludes the probability of loosened discipline and trespass of hierarchical borders. On the other hand, most of the ranks and unions are represented in the committee, so that different groups of employees are free to delegate their informal leaders with the responsibility to defend their interests and present their concerns in the committee sessions. This policy is cost-efficient and the only resource it requires is time. One potential limitation of this approach is that employees may be urged to concentrate on their working conditions and personal needs instead of addressing critical social issues and policing practices. For this reason, the committee’s terms of reference should be separated from those of labor unions.
The concept of leadership is constantly evolving, and so do the approaches to leadership styles in both private and public sectors. In line with the global process of democratization and humanization of working environment, numerous organizations have started to introduce transactional and transformational leadership styles, which emphasize empowerment of employees, participative decision-making and shared responsibility. Leadership strategies are also being revisited in the field of criminal justice, where the traditional authoritarian style no longer provides positive results. The IACP is promoting the concept of dispersed (shared) leadership, which has its benefits and limitations. As suggested by recent empirical research, the best practice of shared leadership consists of the formation of steering committees to adequately represent the interests and concerns of employees of each rank and unit.