How correctional leaders can inspire belief in the mission

Remember these tips next time you need to introduce a new policy, discipline staff or encourage participation in a new program

A subject that leadership finds most perplexing is how to inspire the organization to invest themselves in efforts that are exceptional in a manner that is clearly supportive of the mission. Often this is referred to as staff exercising a level of effort that is optional or a matter of discretion. Leaders that make it happen are often describe as charismatic or inspirational. The follow are some behavior characteristics of leaders that in combination tend to achieve inspiration among staff.

One characteristic has less to do with the leader behavior rather than how the mission is created. If it’s something that staff have had a hand in creating, they tend to be supportive. It means they have taken ownership. The great premise in corrections is that staff support things they help create.

Conversely, things not created by staff do not receive support. At the orders of leadership, I once wrote an emergency plan policy for an entire state corrections system. It was simply handed to wardens with orders to implement. Wardens had nothing to do with its creation. It was soundly rejected with many not having read the policy.

Later, they got together and wrote their own version without leadership involvement. I have seen numerous examples of the same experience throughout my career. Mutually developed work product takes more time, but is entirely worthwhile. It is up to the leader to orchestrate the process.

Another characteristic that generates inspiration is passion. Whenever I talk about staff safety, you can hear the enthusiasm in my voice. You can see the positive energy in my body language. It’s obvious. Along with idea that staff safety is an easy sell in corrections, it’s easy to sense my enthusiasm.

Conversely, we have all heard leaders reluctantly announce a policy requirement with painful looks on their face that silently give staff permission to find ways to ignore. Clearly, the leader sets to the tone that enables staff to offer their greatest effort.

Another is leadership modeling the staff behavior required by policy as a portion of the mission. Any time you see a leader receptive of sexual remark or joke, it’s obvious to everyone that the policy on sexual misconduct is not a serious endeavor.

But when such conduct is seriously corrected, the message is clear. The modeling of conduct that supports the mission by leadership is a significant influence on staff commitment to the mission.

Like most successes in corrections, getting staff to support the mission is a combination of a number of factors. Some of those have been described here. It’s up to each leader to be a student of their style and method by which they perform work.

Hopefully, they will behave in a work that develops effective professional relationships in support of the mission which has a ripple effect on the entire organization.

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