Effective Leadership Styles In Law Enforcement

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Effective Leadership Styles In Law Enforcement

Effective Leadership Styles In Law Enforcement


The style and practice of police leadership is gradually evolving. Where once the rhetoric of police leadership revolved around the wisdom, integrity, and courage of the solitary leader, the discussion is turning more and more to the dynamic, multifaceted nature of teamwork, inclusion, and dispersed leadership. This trend reflects a larger movement that has been under way for some time in other areas of human enterprise. Shared leadership is a term used to describe an approach to management that routinely disperses workplace power and influence among individuals who are otherwise hierarchical unequals. It views leadership as broadly distributed among coworkers rather than concentrated in the hands of one or a few superiors. Although the focus in police management circles may have begun to shift, observers tend to agree that such shared leadership styles are still not widely practiced in the law enforcement field. Police organizational structure and processes tend to adhere to more traditional hierarchical notions. This situation persists despite widespread adoption of community-oriented, intelligence-led policing that calls for line officer empowerment and a high degree of autonomy at all levels of the law enforcement organization.


The term leadership has entered the common vocabulary and been encapsulated into the technical vocabulary of a science discipline without being precisely redefined (Yukl, 2002). That failure to redefine has consequences, namely, it creates ambiguity of meanings because it carries extraneous connotations (Janda, 1960). Then what is leadership? A comprehensive review of the literature concluded that 'there are almost as many definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept' (Stoghill, 1974, p. 259). Some of the definitions to be found include the following:

Leadership is 'the behavior of the individual … directing the activities of a group towards a shared goal' (Hemphill & Coons, 1957, p. 7).

Leadership 'is a process of giving purpose (meaningful direction) to collective effort, and causing willing effort to be expended to achieve purpose' (Jacobs & Jacques, 1990, p. 281).

Leadership 'is the ability to step outside the culture … to start evolutionary change processes that are more adaptive' (Schein, 1992, p. 2).

Leadership is 'the process of making sense of what people are doing together so that people will understand and be committed' (Drath & Palus, 1994, p. 4).

Leadership 'is about articulating visions, embodying values, and creating the environment within which things can be accomplished' (Richards & Engle, 1986, p. 200).

Leadership 'is the ability of an individual to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute towards the effectiveness and success of an organization' (House et al., 1999, p. 184).

It is accepted that many police forces and law enforcement agencies subscribe to a code of ethics and assume that both the organization, and the individuals within that organization, subscribe to the published ethical rules. If that were true then why do we have police misconduct reported on such a regular basis? Is this a leadership or a management ...
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