True leaders don't hide from responsibility

In order to be an effective leader, officers and those with rank must first learn how to follow

By Joshua School, C1 Contributor

Rank is irrelevant.

Real leadership within a correctional facility is not dependent on your title or rank.  All correctional officers are leaders, both within the confines of the institution and in their communities.  However, many officers do not realize their true potential as leaders.  Often, officers start their career wanting to be leaders in a traditional sense.  They view leaders as sergeants, unit managers or wardens.  The truth of the matter is leadership is not dependant on rank, but on the ability to follow. 

In order to be an effective leader, not just a manager or a supervisor, but a leader, officers and those with rank must first learn how to follow.  Supervisors will undoubtedly answer to an even higher authority figure. Sergeants answer to lieutenants, wardens answer to commissioners, and sheriffs to the electorate. Those who call themselves leaders must realize their success is dependent on their ability to follow the guidance of their boss. Therefore, it is imperative all leaders be the sort of leader they would like to follow.

Examine your own leadership method: do you hide from responsibility? Those who call themselves leaders and hide from their boss or shy away from their responsibilities will merely exist within the organization. They will fail to demonstrate the most basic practices of leadership.  Accordingly, these individuals will scarcely be able to supervise others under the most ideal set of conditions. Once any adversity is entered into the equation, their ability to supervise will quickly evaporate.

Additionally, some individuals in leadership positions tend to “forget where they came from.” This phrase is somewhat of a cliché; nevertheless, there are those supervisors who have forgotten what it is like to be a front line employee. These supervisors fail to realize front line employees can offer a wealth of knowledge about department practices, trends in the inmate population and ideas for improving operations.

Supervisors who believe they are the only ones capable of “leading” need to think back to their first years working as an officer. If as a supervisor you can think of field training officers, specialist officers or veteran officers who helped you navigate the murky waters of a jail or prison, chances are those officers were leaders and not supervisors.
The question of how supervisors can become true leaders within the institution will arise.  Simply put, a leader will encourage success and be a part of the team, not demand results and become the center of the team.  A leader will acknowledge they are not the experts in all areas, and look to the experts, regardless of their rank, when making decisions. 

Remember, leadership is an action, not a position.

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