Leadership in the Criminal Justice Organization

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Leadership is defined as both the process that motivates the achievement of a goal and the abilities that are inherent in a particular person, which enables him to guide that process (Sims, 2002). Essentially, leadership is what inspires others to do what the leader is convinced should be done. Various theories have been propounded to explain leadership. Some of them are the trait, behavioral, contingency, leader-member exchange, and the decision leadership theories.

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Trait Leadership theory

This theory is also referred to as the great man theory of leadership. It postulates that good leadership is linked to particular personality traits and characteristics, such as intelligence, confidence, charm, courage, persuasiveness, etc., which are considered the precursors of leadership ability. The proponents of the theory came up with the various characteristics of a good leader by studying people who had been considered great leaders throughout history (Waite, 2008).

Behavioral Leadership Theory

The propounders of this theory thought that leadership could be studied and learned as opposed to being inherent in particular people and not in others (Bertocci, 2009). They made a distinction between job-centered leaders who only focus on completing the task at hand and supervise the carrying out of duties closely, and employee-centered leaders who concentrate more on the personal growth of their workers and, therefore, give the workers more freedom in carrying out of duties.

Contingency/ Situational theory of leadership

This theory states that the effectiveness of any leader can only be rightfully judged by referring to the situation in which he is placed. Leadership is, therefore, about matching the personality of a specific person with the demands of a particular situation (Bertocci, 2009).

The theory that would be most effective in the criminal justice organization would be the situational theory because the various situations that arise in criminal justice organizations are of different stress levels and require leaders of various personality traits and experiences to handle them. For instance, a kidnapping situation is a very high-pressure situation and would need a leader that is calm, controlled, and highly objective to resolve the matter effectively.

Comparison between a Charismatic and Transformational Leader

Transformational leaders have a very strong sense of mission and can inspire a loyal and committed following. They usually use their sense of vision and ability to explain this vision to their followers to urge the people around them to commit to the goal as if it were their own (Martin, Cashel, Wagstaff, & Breunig, 2006).

Followers of charismatic leaders associate the leaders with heroic and extraordinary leadership abilities when they observe certain behaviors in them. Their followers usually tend to give them powers. Just like transformational leaders, they have a vision that they usually accompany with a vision statement on how they intend to accomplish their goals. This is how they manage to command the trust of their following. Unlike transformational leaders, however, charismatic leaders are believed to be born with particular behavioral traits that make them charismatic. For instance, they are naturally enthusiastic, optimistic, and animated in their communication (Robbins, 2011).

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In a criminal justice organization, the charismatic leader would be employed in situations that require enthusiasm, especially in rallying support for a certain cause. For example, where a police department needs funding for a program that they are running, the charismatic leader would be most suited to stand on the department’s behalf to seek support from the government. Transformational leaders are most effective in the day-to-day running of criminal justice organizations because they are more focused on stimulating and improving the subordinates. They also make it their goal to understand the differences between their subordinates; hence, they are more suited to pair their subordinates with the tasks that they can accomplish.


Bertocci, D.I. (2009). Leadership in organizations: There is a difference between leaders and managers. Lanham, MA: University Press of America.

Martin, B., Cashel, C., Wagstaff, M., & Breunig, M. (2006). Outdoor leadership: Theory and practice. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Robbins, J. (2011). Organizational management. Boston, MA: Prentice Hall.

Sims, R. R. (2002). Managing organizational behavior. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.

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Waite, M. R. (2008). Fire service leadership: Theories and practice. London, United Kingdom: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

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