Why COs should look into transformational leadership

The concept has become a trend in correctional leadership development


Over the years I have been delighted to sense a shift in leadership development in corrections. Of course, it is not happening in all cases. However, many correctional organizations are looking for leaders to become good at human relationships as part of their job performance. I have spoken, published, and reviewed the literature on the subject. 

This shift has many positive implications. For those in corrections that are students of the subject in pursuit of a successful career, I recommend a careful review of Full Range Leadership Development by Bruce J. Avolio.

He not only carefully describes the nature of leadership development, but also includes decades of highly credible research that says transformational leadership styles work better than more traditional leadership behavior. Under those circumstances, staff performance tends to outperform in areas of ownership, work effort, commitment, engagement, satisfaction, and outcomes. 

Transformational leadership training has found its way into public services in the areas health and education. 
Transformational leadership training has found its way into public services in the areas health and education. 

His research shows that such results are consistent at all levels and across all organizations. Finally, the research suggests that the transformational leadership style of behavior contributes to a culture that maintains its quality through a very positive influence among members of the organization. 

I have observed that private corporations have responded and changed their organizations accordingly decades ago. Without the highest possible level of performance they soon cease to exist. More slowly, transformational leadership training has found its way into public services in the areas health and education. 

I read about a medical school that prescreens its candidates for signs of negative social skills. In another case, a major corporation would turn away job candidates at the front desk for being rude to a receptionist. 

Finally, corrections is beginning to respond. They are looking for leaders that have the skill to seek solutions through relationships with others rather as a stand-alone, dominating authority.

Through my decades of correctional service, I have had membership in many work teams. Some were stimulating, exciting, and the kind that made look forward to each day on the job. Fortunately, a small number were the opposite. There was dark cloud over our work and it seemed to come from the negative attitudes of the very few. 

The lessons learned point to transformational leadership behavior among all members as the greatest source of success. If I were seeking a future as a corrections professional, I would look for opportunities in organizations that expressed a commitment to human relations in both policy and practice. 

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