A comparison of Law Enforcement with Other Professions
Who first comes to mind when you think of a 'Leader'? Is it Alexander the Great? Napoleon? Winston Churchill? Gandhi? Leadership is an interesting phenomenon to consider, from the perspective of civilization, of nations, of political change, and of history. What makes one person a leader while another tries and fails? What is a good leader and how is that different from a 'great' leader? The definition of leadership also varies with the context and with the individual who is defining leadership. The nature of leaders has changed as civilization has evolved, and the leaders we as a society need today may be different from those of a century ago. A national leader is distinct from a local leader, a Boy Scout leader, or a team leader in a sport.
Thus, definitions of leadership vary with the situation. However, they include certain specifics: an emphasis on personal traits, an ability to influence and motivate others, innate talents including personal charisma and/or strength, possibility of reaching/appealing to both the emotional nature and the cognitive aspects of individuals, and the potential and/or ability to encourage others to see beyond self-interest to what might be the interests of the many. Leadership definitions also vary when one shifts from a larger perspective, such as a political leader, to the leadership of more local organizations.
In such a manner, leadership when it is applied to an organization becomes a matter of a delicate balance between the needs of the organization and the broader needs of a board of stockholders, or those outside the organization to whom the leader is also accountable. In this respect, when one thinks of leadership for Law Enforcement, there are several categories of 'Law Enforcement' that might be considered, from Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to the Police, and perhaps even Prisons. This paper addresses leadership in the Police.
When one considers leadership of the Police, there is first the leadership of the Police employees or Police Force in and of itself. A second level would be the upper leadership - a Police Commissioner, or a Police Chief; this individual has as a duty and simultaneous responsibility to the public at large whom the Police protect and serve. In modern society the role of the police includes both a mandate to maintain public order as well as be active in crime control. The mandate of the police is broad, but the legal powers are limited (Bittner 1970). The nature of the tasks involved in Police work includes a daily exposure to conflict, danger, and risk, as well as uncertainty, as any situation can potentially escalate. The 'daily grind' of a police officer, as an individual, or as a team, is one of facing uncertainty and risk, yet simultaneously needing to protect the public while deterring crime.
Some have said that these potentially conflicting duties, having enough force to halt and/or deter while simultaneously protecting the innocent, have led the police 'culture' to become highly protective as an organization. When culture is spoken of in this context, it refers to the manner in which groups of individuals devise a means to collectively handle common situations (Van Maanen 1984). For example, one speaks of the 'ivory tower' culture, meaning academia. When one examines 'police culture', research investigations have shown that this culture includes informal, non-verbalized guides for appropriate behaviors and actions, common understandings and shared values, informal 'guild' rules, behavioral norms, and attitudes that are more representative of the collective group than of the individual. Relevant Police texts as well as organizational studies illustrate the standard and traditional urban police unit models as the "bureaucratic police institution."
One model for the police includes that defined by Sir Robert Peel, who has been called the 'founder of modern policing'. He declared, in 1829, that the qualities needed for the London Metropolitan Police were to be 'stable and efficient and organized along military lines' (Murphy & McKenna, 2007); this model is likely to have arisen for Peel due to the fact that he himself had experience in the military. As well, considering the historical period, in the 1800's there may not have been many other models for organizations. Possibly also, Peel recognized that a military-type organization would be useful for control/aid of a civilian populace.
The operating environment for Police is one of multi-leveled complexity (Casey and Mitchell, 2007). Such an environment fundamentally requires strong leadership to achieve...
In consideration of both Law Enforcement, and more specifically the Police, and Leadership, the joint topics of this paper, we must clarify what is meant precisely by a 'Police Leader'.
What are the Characteristics of Police Leaders?
In evaluating the characteristics of leaders, studies have generally used a variety of different approaches and methodologies. Miller et al. (2009) studied top police executives in comparison with non-police leaders, and found that the two groups had similar traits. Dantzker (1996) surveyed police chiefs with respect to necessary skills to hold their position; leadership was ranked as most important, followed by decision-making and communication. Other important skills enumerated by the police chiefs that were important in their position included both staffing and organizational skills (Dantzker, 1996). Of particular interest, while those outside the police chief role rate 'political skills' highly, the police chiefs themselves ranked this trait as number 11 on their list, below a variety of other traits.
In the work of O'Leary et al. (2011) a broad sampling of individuals, including youth advocates, constitutional officers, police patrol officers, community leaders, and command officers all felt that the fundamental characteristic needed by a Police Chief was to have 'political awareness'. Krimmel and Lindenmuth (2001) reported that police chiefs having certain traits and/or experiences resulted in a positive evaluation by city managers. These traits and/or experiences included graduation from the National Academy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a college background (even without a college degree), and internal promotion, indicating that the police chief had 'risen from within the ranks', and therefore had an understanding of typical police responsibilities (Krimmel and Lindenmuth, 2001). In a study of 1000 law enforcement leaders who were attending the National Academy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Shafer (2010) noted that these individuals described leadership success as including a variety of interpersonal and personality skills. Traits such as strong work ethic, communication, and being a caring individual were ranked more highly than knowledge, decision making, and/or competency.
Comparison of Police Leadership and Business Leadership
In defining effective Police leaders, characteristics and attributes include: making a positive contribution, seeking to inspire, appealing to moral values, setting a vision, and offering an intellectual contribution are all desirable traits and abilities. These traits are those suggesting that such a leader has the potential to strongly impact his/her subordinates, their commitment to the organization, and even their compliance with internal directives. Studies of how law enforcement leaders impact their subordinates indicates that the use of punishment and rewards may be less effective, as is a type of 'management by exception', which means that no action is taken unless problems arise. This style of leadership, being non-transformational, possibly may have a lesser impact upon subordinates.
In contrast, there are times when transactional leadership is beneficial in terms of subordinate perceptions, particularly if they have failed to follow performance guidelines. Leaders who are goal-oriented are easier for lower ranking individuals to understand, and this leadership style has strong impact in specific circumstances. Many employees and subordinates prefer transactional leaders (Campbell & Kodz, 2011). Transformational behavior is an important attribute of the effective leader. However, even more so, when transactional behavior is combined with transformational behavior, a leader may be considered to be more effective than the leader who is more purely transformational in style. A 'transactional leader' is generally one who is a role-model, setting an example, and is active in the field and not just a 'desk jockey'. Such impact includes affecting subordinates' ethical and moral behavior in terms of perceived and actual integrity. In comparison, a transformational leader may rely more on speeches and motivation, being more of a 'do as I say' leader, than the 'do as I do' transactional leader.
Studies of leadership suggest that when leaders adapt their behavior 'situationally', such as handling incidents differently between junior and senior subordinates, or altering behavior to fit the given context, it is often quite effective. This is called situational leadership. Another type of leadership is called participative; in this case the leader involves subordinates in the decision process and this has a positive effect on subordinates' job satisfaction as well as on their commitment to the organization. Other types of shared leadership also have both negative and positive effects on the leader/subordinate role. These include Passive leaders, who are generally less well respected or are considered to be ineffective. Another type of leadership involves what is called 'emotional intelligence', or perhaps empathy.…
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