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Leaders vs. Managers [part i of iv]
By Tracy E. Barnhart
Published: 02/23/2009

Tracy Barnhart is a Marine combat veteran of Desert Storm / Desert Shield. In 2000, he joined the Ohio Department of Youth Services at the Marion Juvenile Corrections Facility, a maximum security male correctional facility housing more than 320 offenders. Barnhart works with 16 to 21-year-old, male offenders with violent criminal convictions and aggressive natures. In his monthly column, he discusses everyday issues affecting corrections professionals.

Editor’s note: In part one of this four-part series about leadership strategies, corrections expert and Corrections.com regular columnists, Tracy Barnhart, discusses the differences between leaders in title only compared to those who lead through example and action.

Have you ever looked at someone in a management position and asked yourself, “How did this guy get into a leadership role?” Well you are not the only one then. I have stated hundreds of times that in our agency you don’t move up the ladder of success, you get pulled up by someone you know. This, in my opinion, only promulgates the continuing failure of leadership at the top most hierarchy of the agency.

I am a firm believer in blind testing and open interviews for supervisory positions conducted by outside individuals. This truly rules out any rumors of friendship promotions and puts the best candidate into an open supervisory position. Sometimes you need a transfusion of new blood in the management group in order to make advancements in the way the agency operates.

Everywhere we look today it seems we are constantly seeking people to be leaders. We want the strongest and most qualified to lead our agencies, businesses, communities, governments and our nation. We all seem to realize that we need leadership more today than ever before to deal effectively with such critical issues as the financial system, environmental, staffing levels, and extreme violence within our fences and on our streets like never before.

Yet in the face of these problems, there seems to be less effective leadership in our nation today than ever before. Perhaps even more alarming is the fact that much of society apparently does not want to lead. They prefer to sit on the sidelines and not get involved -- not take risks. They are comfortable being followers and complaining about how the risk takers and current leaders are performing poorly.

“A leader is a person who has the ability to get people to do what they don't want to do, and like it.”

Unfortunately, the law enforcement profession, like society at large, suffers from a lack of effective leadership; it has too many followers. Indeed, the paramilitary, hierarchical structure that still exists in most police departments and corrections facilities today helps to ensure a surplus of followers as well as a corresponding scarcity of leaders.

If you are interested in becoming a leader in the law enforcement community, you must first understand the meaning of leadership. Leadership has been defined in hundreds of ways, with each new leadership book claiming its definition to be the best. Leadership is much like obscenity -- it is difficult to define, but we all know it when we see it. Sometimes after you have seen individuals attempting to fake leadership with principals they don’t have or understand, you don’t want to see it again.

True leadership, involves the following: (1) assuming responsibility for showing the way, or setting the direction; (2) speaking out about what can be done to achieve the organization's mission more effectively and efficiently, and not fearing the repercussions for speaking out; (3) adhering to core beliefs that depict what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior regarding how employees approach their work, how they manage internally, and how they relate to the community; and (4) being in the trenches and directly involved in critical situations with the troops instead of staying in the rear or in their office, leading via e-mail.

“Leadership is the process of giving purpose (meaningful direction) to collective effort, and causing willing effort to be expended to achieve that purpose.”

In part two, next week Barnhart continues to discuss what it takes to be a true leader Other articles by Barnhart:
How to tick people off, 1/28/08
Are you listening?, 12/31/07


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  2. dpdpar5 on 03/03/2009:

    seastvedt; Vert well stated. Croneyism and extreme favortism is really just the underlying causes of a much larger and more concerning issue. It seems that these factors based on politics and those appointed to management positions based on politics and not professional credentials is all too common. The concept of providing sound governmental public safety services and maintaining safe and smooth operating correctional facilities has gotten lost to taking care of those who vote the same way in elections. In essence it has come down to a political party struggle of power and control between those in power against those who are not. It is apparent this has indeed given way true legitimate public service. Who suffers from these abuses? Staff and the unknowing public.

  3. seastvedt on 02/27/2009:

    I am looking forward to the next three parts of this article. It is very unfortunate, but croneyism, which is precisely what is being discussed here, seems rampant in Correctional Agencies and Sheriff's Offices nation wide. It goes totally against the principles of civil service competition and fair play. Is it no wonder that so many Correctional Officers around the nation that I have talked to have stated that the majority of the stress on the job does not come from the inmates, but rather management. Although they will always take credit, the successes we have in jails and prisons is because of the line Officers working despite management, not because of them.

  4. dpdpar5 on 02/27/2009:

    Great article. You are exactly correct. Leadership in most cases will define the extent of success or failure in mission. Competent and qualified leaders are not infact, defined by title, political appointment or rank, but rather by organizational successes and achieving high performance within the rank in file. Such leaders possess an unquenchable willingness to know the jobs they are charged with setting policy for and create new and more innovative methods of operation. They freely open up communication to and from all levels of the agency. They welcome and encourage input. This is precisely how they empower subordinates to take ownership of the agency. In turn moral and job satisfaction is high. High performance is therefore achieved. You are right when you suggested legitimate leadership is not only the study of organizational functioning but also the study of human behavior and motivation. True leadership must concentrate on identifying and developing the assets of the agency. The most valued asset is indeed the human asset in the trenches. It is these people that will carryout policy, procedure and establish organizational effectiveness if properly managed. Excellent article. I look foreward to more of your work.

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