Servant Leadership in Law Enforcement
Servant leadership has many meanings to many people and it is dependent of the industry that these leaders serve on how it will define the term. To be a leader in any industry, you must serve in positions before you can lead. Servant leadership is the methodical development of evolving the needs of servants ahead of those leaders found within private and public institutions. The principle behind leadership is based on the interaction of responsibilities, respect, care and working with people towards a common goal rather than against people. Leadership in this context becomes about the character and substance of that leader. To develop a servant leadership environment, honesty and caring concern for others must be displayed to empower and produce emotional support and inspire members to embrace the needs of the organization and create a learning environment that can produce optimal performance for their employees. Servant leadership serves to balance out the misunderstandings of leadership roles and responsibilities. Leaders in todays society are asked to do more and with less resources and demand competent and effective leadership skills. Employee issues are directly attributed to the concept of problematic leadership. The process of making leaders more effective involves careful thoughts and skill progress and development. The shared evidence suggests that the concept of servant leadership is proven to be more successful to the development of creative, dedicated, loyal and productive employees that challenge themselves within an organization.
John 10:11 states, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (Holy Bible, ESV). Leadership can be defined in many ways; some leaders are born some leaders are made. Essential outstanding leaders become a fine balance between abilities, behaviors, sources of power, aspects of the situation and traits. These become the determining factor of the ability to influence followers and accomplish group objectives. Therefore, any member of any group, at any one time, may assume a leadership role, given any degree of innate traits and the circumstances surrounding the event. There are some important traits that every good leader must possess and learn to emphasize to lead a criminal justice organization in the 21st century.
Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “The supreme quality of leadership is unquestionably integrity. Honesty and Integrity are the integration of outward actions and inner values. People in organizations will follow an honest leader. Followers will trust someone who actively displays honesty and integrity at all levels. Great leaders will treat people how they would like to be treated. These leaders are extremely ethical and believe that honesty, effort, and reliability form the foundation of success. They live this value to the point that no employee will ever question they ethical behavior. They share information openly and always try to avoid twists and confusion inside the organization. It doesn’t matter how intelligent, friendly, influential, or confidence a person is, if they are prone to rationalizing unethical behavior based upon current or future needs, they will eventually fall prey to their own undoing.
Vision is another trait that great leaders must possess. Leaders must have vision with clear, vivid picture of where the organization is headed as well as a fixed understanding of success and the steps required to reach that success. The leaders vision alone is not enough. Leaders must share that vision inside their organizations and must act and influence all others to act upon it. Leaders must be disciplined and able to single handedly work towards that vision as well as directing his or her actions toward those on the team to achieve the goal. Leaders without vision cannot lead others because they cannot inspire teams, motivate performance or create sustainable results and value. Inconsistent vision, poor vision and tunnel vision as well as no vision will cause leaders and organizations to fail. Leaders purpose is to have a winning and achievable vision and align those in the organization to that vision.
Inspiration is a necessary trait for a leader. People want to be inspired by their leaders. There are people that will follow leaders that inspires them even if that leader does not possess any other qualities. Being an inspiration to your followers means showing them how your organization will make a difference in the world. Inspiring people means showing people the big picture and opening their narrow focus and making them understand how their contribution fits into the elaborate picture of the organization for the long term. Great leaders inspire their followers by setting high standards and expectations that are always attainable and within reach if they buy into the organizational vision. For the followers to buy into the vision, everyone must be afforded a piece of the pie, incentives or a system that offers compensation for individual hard work. We must inspire our organization by focusing on the current issues and our organizational goals. Great leaders help followers become inspired by giving them whole hearted support, tools, training and freedom to pursue those goals and become great employees.
A great leader must be able to communicate. Great leaders that communicate well can motivate their followers to always give their best regardless of circumstances. Explaining what we want done clearly and concisely is extremely important in any organization. If the messages fail to reach its intended target common goals of organizations will not be meet. Lines of communications are important to healthy work environment. Leaders must keep an open-door policy and make themselves available for staff interactions. When openness is exhibited, leaders can insert more input and with more available information they tend to make better decisions.
Courage is particularly important as a leader. Courage is always mostly defined as doing the right not only when in a public setting but also behind closed doors. It takes courage to remain honest, cut losses, seek new opportunities, make tough decisions, admit faults and mistakes, stand up for your beliefs and those of the organization and remain true to own values. Followers do not respect leaders that refuse to admit mistakes and those that blame the organizations or those in the organization for failure.
Competency is an important trait for leaders. Organizations need to make sure that they employ leaders that have a high competency trait. Leaders that have this trait do not have to be the foremost experts on every level of the organization, but they need to understand how all those levels work and be competent enough to lead. Leaders that are very competent must be aware of the dangers of arrogance and drawing too much attention to themselves and not crediting their teams and those in the organization that help achieve goals. The best way to show competency is to always ask intelligent questions and be aware of learning opportunities from those inside the organization.
An important trait that leaders also must posses is accountability. Leaders must be accountable to themselves and others. They must understand that their accountable for their success and mistakes but also for that of his followers. When situations are presented, they identify them, produce solutions and get things corrected. Another part of this trait is accountability of employees, their organizational effectiveness and production of policies and procedures and their strict adherence. Good leaders are accountable for their teams their success and failure and to their organizations.
Last trait that I would like to emphasize is that of optimism. Great leaders are a great source of positivism. Optimist leaders always have solutions to organizations and followers’ issues, and always have ways to reassure and inspire those in need. These leaders avoid making negative and derogatory comments and look for ways to encourage team work in an efficient and effective manner. Optimist leaders build, mentor and coach their teams and genuinely care about his followers and the organization. People don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. If we think we can change someone, we must think again. This doesn’t mean we can’t help them to grow and develop. But we don’t expect to change anyone (even ourselves) behaviorally. We are who we are. Our job as a leader is to understand each person’s strengths and place them in positions where they can flourish and grow (Kotter, 1999).
Andrew Carnegie once said, “No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.” These traits are just some of the important traits the great leaders must possess. Leaders that do not possess these traits are at risk of dragging their organizations into the “Doom Loop” and creating narcissistic environments. Most failures of leaders in organizations can be attributed to the failure of those leaders to embrace the notion of servant first in that organization. Servant leaders are leaders that serve others first, serve their organizations and communities first and work towards the common goals of their organizations and their communities while fostering an environment of trust and honesty and integrity.
Servant leadership is an approach focusing on leadership from the point of view of the leader and his or her behavior. Servant leadership highlights that leaders be observant to the concern of their followers, commiserate with them and nurture them. Servant leaders put followers first, empower them, and help them develop their full personal capacities. Servant leaders are ethical regardless of their approach.
The servant leadership presence has an unimaginable impact on the organization. When the servant leader is removed from the organization, those that remain become lost and abandonment of the mission is inevitable.
In 1970, Greenleaf coined the term, servant leadership as the idea that places servants first, shifting from the tough love style leadership paradigm. Servant leadership focuses on the leader serving the people under them (Greenleaf, 2002). Servant leaders are entirely different than traditional leaders, but only because they have observed the value among corporate boardrooms and public sector agencies and have grown to recognize that both sectors are pleading for change.
Greenleaf identified 10 characteristics in his writing that are central to the development of servant leadership.
The first servant leadership trait is that of listening. Servant leaders must listen first. Listening is a learned trait and within that these leaders can be receptive of others and their ideas. By listening, leaders can understand other perspectives and acknowledge ideas that can be useful in the organization (Greenleaf, 2002).
Another servant trait is that of empathy. By showing empathy, servant leaders make followers feel unique and it helps them understand other how they think and feel. This trait helps build close relationships with followers by confirming and validating that leaders can see the world from this person’s point of view (Greenleaf, 2002).
Through healing, servant leaders help others overcome personal and professional problems. This trait helps followers understand that their leader genuinely cares about their personal and professional well-being (Greenleaf, 2002).
Awareness in a servant leader, helps that leader become attuned and receptive to their physical, social and political environment. It helps leaders understand their impact on his followers and his organization. Within this trait, leaders can step aside and view themselves and their own perspective in the greater context (Greenleaf, 2002).
Another trait that needs be possessed by the servant leaders is that of persuasion. This trait is defined and persistent communication that convinces others to accomplish a task or to change or modify a behavior. Persuasion is the opposite of coercion and it helps create change through nonjudgmental approaches rather than forceful authoritarian compliance based on positional authority (Greenleaf, 2002).
Conceptualization is another key trait that servant leaders must develop. This trait is basically an individual’s ability to provide clear and concise goals and direction to his organization. Leaders that posses this trait are creative thinkers that can solve issues in a timely manner and see the big picture for the organization.
Foresight is also part of a servant leader’s repertoire. This trait allows the leader to predict the future of the organization based on the present and past tracks and trends. Leader should be held accountable in this instance if they foresee issues that could greatly diminish or incapacitate and organization but refuse to act on it.
Stewardship requires servant leaders to take responsibility for any effects or issues that happen within the organization as an inherent role of being a leader. Servant leaders are accountable for their organizations and their employees and any negative effects on either are the responsibility of its leadership.
Greenleaf, R. K. (2002). Servant leadership. Greenleaf Institute for Servant Leadership.
Kotter J.P. (1999). John P Kotter on What Leaders really Do, 2nd edition. Harvard Business
School Press, USA. p.98