Management and Executive Leadership in Criminal Justice

Subject: Law
Pages: 7
Words: 1746
Reading time:
7 min
Study level: College


The definitions and evaluations of “leadership” and “management” have increasingly gained currency among social scientists and practitioners as organizations and agencies the world over attempt to be versatile, flexible, and adaptable to the needs and expectations of the 21st century (Karimu, 2012). Leadership and management are extremely cherished commodities in organizations not only in the United States but also globally, making criminal justice agencies including police departments and corrections both seek and treasure effective leaders and managers (Birzer, Bayens, & Roberson, 2012). This paper discusses and analyzes the concepts of management and leadership to demonstrate their differences and also to show why leadership is desired in effecting change within criminal justice agencies.

Research in Management and Executive Leadership in Criminal Justice

In criminal justice agencies, there is vagueness and misinterpretation about the meaning of leadership and management in spite of the fact that the two are distinct concepts (Bennett, Perry, & Lapworth, 2010). According to these authors, management is largely concerned with operational issues such as planning, analysis, and problem-solving, while leadership concerns inspiring and motivating groups of people to work together with the view to achieving a common goal or objective. It can therefore be argued that management is concerned with keeping the organizational status quo and focusing on control and administration, while leadership is about developing and communicating a course of action that prepares an entity for change through motivating, inspiring, and empowering the followers. Following this discovery, it is prudent to argue that change efforts in the prison system are implemented through effective leadership rather than planned management approaches.

Managerial duties in criminal justice are different from those of leadership although they seem to overlap. Some of the managerial duties in corrections include staffing, developing structures to support employees, planning, and budgeting (Bennett et al., 2010). Other managerial responsibilities include developing process steps and setting timelines, delegating responsibility and authority, implementing the vision of the organization, and establishing policies and procedures to implement the vision (LaFrance & Placide, 2010; Montgomery, 2006). Leaders, on the other hand, are supposed to develop the vision, design strategic plans aimed at achieving the agency’s vision, align the agency with its strategic objectives, communicate the vision and direction of the organization, as well as motivate and inspire followers (Bohoris & Vorria, n.d.). Drawing from this description, it is clear that leaders are centrally placed in change management efforts by virtue of their capacity to set direction, develop the agency’s vision, align the agency with its strategic objectives, and communicate the vision of the agency to the followers with the view to effecting change.

Leadership and management are guided by different yet interrelated sets of competencies and attributes. Some of the competencies of leadership include taking initiative, practicing self-development, displaying high integrity and honesty, and having a drive for results. Others include developing followers, inspiring and motivating followers, building relationships, engaging in collaboration and teamwork, establishing stretch goals, championing change, solving problems, and analyzing issues (Townsend, 2012). Some of the managerial competencies described in the literature include adaptability, aligning performance with success, as well as planning and delegating. Others include building relationships and valuing diversity, communicating, managing conflict and solving problems, coaching individuals, creating organizational awareness, and engaging in strategic thinking and decision making (Potter, 2001; Wuestewald & Steinheider, 2012). From this description, it is evident that leaders are better placed to steer a criminal justice agency towards change by virtue of the fact that they engender self-development and demonstrate the verifiable capacity to develop, inspire, and motivate others to embrace the planned change. Although the described managerial competencies are of utmost importance in the day-to-day running of the criminal justice agency, they are inadequate in championing organizational change as they often lead to a disconnect between managers and employees.

There are different paths to management and executive leadership careers in criminal justice; however, research is consistent that the skills and qualities found in leaders are remarkably similar. According to Townsend (2012), leaders in the criminal justice system are reform-focused in terms of strongly advocating for the internalization of law-abiding behavior among the offenders. Some core leadership qualities that are desired in the criminal justice system, according to Bennett et al (2010), include setting direction (incorporates qualities such as intellectual flexibility, political astuteness, and drive for outcomes), delivering services (requires leading change through people, holding individuals to account, empowering others, effective and strategic influencing, and collaborative working), as well as personal qualities (include self-belief, self-awareness, self-management, drive for improvement and personal integrity). The reform-oriented leadership skills and the mentioned leadership qualities are of fundamental importance in effecting change within the criminal justice system owing to the fact that they are able to engender a culture of empowerment, organizational growth, and optimal service delivery.

There are different management and leadership styles that professionals can use to be effective and successful in their work. Bennett et al (2010) discuss several leadership styles, which include autocratic (authority is centralized and power is derived from position), bureaucratic (rules are highly valued and the focus is internal), charismatic (characterized by the leader’s vision as well as the ability to inspire and empower others), and democratic (autonomy is delegated, participation is encouraged, and subordinates’ knowledge and skills are relied upon to attain objectives). Other leadership styles include transactional (relationship between leader and follower is based on a system of exchange, whereby a leader recognizes the follower’s needs and meets them in exchange for meeting certain objectives or performing defined duties), transformational (typified by values on the part of the leader that transform followers into leaders, attend to individuals’ need for growth and development, inspire followers to work towards the good of the group, and facilitate followers to adapt to and embrace change), and situational (leadership behavior is altered depending on the capability and confidence of the follower in any given situation).

Following this description of leadership styles, it is evident that transformational leadership is most effective in implementing organizational change as it meets the challenges and shifting missions of modern criminal justice agencies. The effectiveness of transformational leadership is also embedded in the fact that it brings about changes in individuals and organizations due to the leader’s ability to demonstrate holistic awareness and consistency of thoughts, feelings, and actions. The available literature is in agreement that most prison or correction systems around the world fail because they are ill-managed, under-managed or not managed at all (Montgomery, 2006) and that most of these agencies lack the type of leadership that inspire, motivate, and challenge employees as well as offenders to change (Potter, 2001; Townsend, 2012). These deficits can be addressed by advocating for a leadership style that underscores the importance of values in transforming followers, attends to employees’ and prisoners’ need for growth and development, motivates and inspires criminal justice employees to work towards the overall good of the agency, and facilitates employees and other stakeholders to adapt to and embrace change. Consequently, it can be argued that graduate programs in leadership in correctional settings should focus on developing holistic leaders by designing programs that underscore the value of transformational leadership.

Key Elements of the Graduate Program

The three key elements of the graduate program include the provision of unparalleled expertise in management and leadership in criminal justice, organizational leadership in criminal justice, and strategic management in criminal justice (Carpenter & Fulton, 2007). Provision of unparalleled expertise in management and leadership will impact my career as a classification director in terms of providing me with comprehensive skills, approaches, and methodologies to be a successful leader who applies tested management practices and skills to be effective in the career domain. The component of organizational leadership will impact my chosen career field by

  1. providing cutting-edge knowledge on how training and leadership development positively impact a criminal justice agency
  2. internalizing knowledge on how different types of behaviors (e.g., participative, transactional, ethical, transformative, directive and supportive) impact effective leadership in criminal justice
  3. developing a comprehensive understanding of the differences between managing and leading, and how to develop, motivate, inspire, and sustain effective teams to drive organizational success
  4. developing a deep understanding of how charismatic and transformational leaders drive performance through emotional intelligence, visioning, confidence expression, and communication.

Lastly, the component of strategic management will impact my chosen career field in terms of developing an understanding of how to analyze current and future agency trends and their impact, understanding the best practices for classifying offenders and recruiting employees into the agency, as well as refining decision-making strategies utilizing frameworks and actual business circumstances with the view to broadening perspectives and enhancing capabilities for application to criminal justice situations (Carpenter & Fulton, 2007).

Importance of Graduate Degree in Chosen Career Field

The graduate degree in management and executive leadership in criminal justice is of immense importance to my future career growth and advancement. First, the graduate degree will open career doors in areas of specialization due to the high levels of skill development and competencies associated with the successful completion of the degree program. Second, the graduate degree will enhance my chances for career advancement in corrections, particularly in light of the fact that a high level of education is a major ingredient in moving to managerial, leadership, or administrative positions (Carpenter & Fulton, 2007). Drawing from this elaboration, it is clearly evident that successful completion of the degree program will undoubtedly enhance my opportunities of assuming the position as a classification director in a reputable corrections agency. Lastly, the graduate degree will serve as a triggering agent to a higher salary, improved benefits, as well as increased responsibilities within the agency.


This paper has discussed and analyzed the concepts of management and leadership to demonstrate their differences and also to show why leadership is preferred in effecting change within criminal justice agencies. From the discussion and analysis, it is evident that management and leadership are contextually different concepts as applied in the domain of criminal justice. However, both concepts are of enormous significance in ensuring the success and effectiveness of criminal justice agencies around the world. The discussion has been successful in demonstrating that the styles, qualities, competencies, and attributes of leadership are fundamentally important in leading change efforts in criminal justice agencies. A major learning point is that agencies within the criminal justice need transformative leaders to meet their mandate of driving change. This can only be achieved through continuous education aimed at equipping individuals with relevant leadership and managerial skills and abilities.


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Birzer, M.L., Bayens, G.J., & Roberson, C. (2012). Principles of leadership and management in law enforcement. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press.

Bohoris, G.A., & Vorria, E.P. (n.d.). Leadership vs. management: Business excellence/performance management view. Web.

Carpenter, M.J., & Fulton, R. (2007). A practical career guide for criminal justice professionals. Flushing, NY: Looseleaf Law Publications.

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