LEADERSHIP RESEARCH IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE

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 Usinger (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 another organizational setting 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 importantly, 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. Autzen (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 a limited consensus on what type of leadership styles predominate among police managers and administrators, but when police super-visors 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 honeying 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 (Archambault and Archambault, 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 bear 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 exam-inked in relation to criminal justice organizations, along with the 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 importantly, 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 empathies 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”