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Lions for Lambs [part iii of iv]
By Tracy E. Barnhart
Published: 03/09/2009

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 two last week, regular columnist Tracy Barnhart wrote about how "Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right thing". This week he continues with this four-part series about leadership styles.

"Lions for Lambs," stems from an expression that German soldiers used in referring to their British counterparts during World War One. Admiring the bravery of the English infantry while condemning the idiocy of their superiors, the Germans would remark "Never before have such lions been led by such lambs."

I wrote an article titled, “Leader vs. Manager” that created a lot of stir from those managers out there that felt I was talking about them and bringing about certain weaknesses to light. Bottom line, if the shoe fits then wear it. The statement above says it all as it relates to the lack luster administrations of the law enforcement and correctional agencies all across the United States. Never before have I seen so many administrators so worried about keeping their positions that it prevents them from actually doing their jobs.

Our society has allowed the kept to dictate how they are kept and the keepers of the kept have no authority to correct the problems and establish safety and security.

“Then what must a king do to save his world when the very laws
he has sworn to protect, force him to do nothing?”

King Leonidas

Management Styles

There are three primary management styles: The “Superior," the “Companion," and the "Leader."

"Superiors" manage officers with a domineering management style. They tend to focus on the negative and all too often take positive things for granted. This manager is hard to please, causes high employee turnover and productivity potential is not reached.

"Companions" focus on being nice to their officers. They avoid confrontation and dealing with negative issues (such as, under performance and behavioral problems). Companions often get taken advantage of by poor-performing officers and lose top performers because they are burdened with covering for poor-performing officers who aren't properly corrected by companion managers. Often this is the source of what employees call favoritism. However it really is a lack of aptitude on the companion’s ability to deal with poor-performing employees.

"Leaders" are nice most of the time, but are firm when they need to be. Their ability to motivate and empower officers to excel is the key to their success. People enjoy working for leaders and they have the highest productivity and retention rates of all the management styles.

"Leaders" have the moral fortitude to act decisively because they have a clear conscience about acting in the best interest of all concerned. Leaders don't treat everyone the same. They think through issues and people's backgrounds to respond appropriately. Experience and training enables them to wisely respond to the unique circumstances they encounter. And, most important, they are proactive and lay the foundation for nurturing employees to bring out the best in them. Leaders do this, in part, by wisely addressing performance and behavioral problems. This develops the untapped potential in employees and increases safety and security for the long run!

Types of Poor Leadership

“The Leader and at least some followers lack the will or skill (or both) to sustain effective action”.
An incompetent leader may, for example, not be comfortable with technology or may not have the foresight to see challenges on the horizon. Whatever the issue, this leader’s lack of ability will have a negative affect on the team and the environment as a whole. Some followers may take advantage of the leader’s incompetence while others may not perform optimally simply because the leader is incapable of challenging them to do their best. The end result can be a dysfunctional team where few goals are accomplished.

“The leader and at least some followers are stiff and unyielding”.
Rigid leaders, unlike incompetent leaders, are capable of doing all that is necessary for the team to succeed. In the case of a rigid leader, the problem lies in the fact that the leader is unwilling to do the things required in order for the team to succeed. “The key to the leader’s evolving role always lies in understanding what the team needs and does not need from the leader in order to perform”, so leaders that are not willing to adapt and evolve pose a significant threat to their team’s success. An unwillingness to change can be an attractive attribute to some followers and can lead the entire team towards solutions that are unimaginative and even counter productive.

“The leader lacks self-control and is aided and abetted by followers who are unwilling or unable to effectively intervene”.
Even the most talented leader can lead a team to foreseeable disaster due to a lack of control. An intemperate leader is like a gifted child who is incapable to controlling his or her basic desires, and thus cannot achieve the higher goals of the team. The leader’s position of power may be used as a tool to satisfy the leader’s personal desires. The end result can be devastating to the group through the loss of time and effort on things unrelated to the end goal.

“The leader and at least some followers are uncaring or unkind”.
Compassion and empathy towards fellow team members is what leads to trust. Trust is essential if a team is to “be comfortable being open, even exposed, to one another around their failures, weaknesses, even fears”. Teams must be able to make progress; a good leader must “put team performance first”. A callous leader will destroy any good will that exists amongst team members leading to a fundamental breakdown of trust. The result is often that nobody will be willing to take risks or put forward new ideas for fear that the leader (or the entire team) will react with contempt or scorn.

“The leader and at least some followers lie, cheat or steal”.
Leaders lead by example. The result of corruption is going to be more corruption. Different team members will react to this in different ways. Some may feel alienated; others may take advantage of the situation. The worst case scenario is that other team members will want to resort to similar behavior as the leader.

“The leader and at least some followers minimize or disregard the health and welfare of people outside of the team”.
This can result in the team becoming the needless enemy of people who could otherwise make valuable contributions to the work of the team. While the team may have a great working relationship internally, members are always going to feel as though they are “under siege.”

“The leader and at least some followers commit atrocities”.
Regrettably some of the most evil people—such as Hitler—have had some of the best leadership skills. Evil leaders present a whole different problem and motivational scheme. If you are working under an evil leader, I suggest you focus on your own welfare and get out immediately, if possible.

Underlying Causes of Poor Leadership
  • Promotions are based on job skills or seniority verses competency in leadership skills.
  • Lack of knowledge and training about leadership.
  • Poor role models in the past that was either too passive or autocratic.
  • Too busy and impersonal with subordinates.
  • Addressing these shortcomings is not a priority. Poor leadership solidifies as nothing significant is done to turn things around.
Three key elements of the poor leadership syndrome are:
  1. An apparent lack of concern for the wellbeing of subordinates.
  2. A personality or interpersonal technique that negatively affects organizational climate.
  3. A conviction by subordinates that the leader is motivated primarily by self-interest.

In the correctional environment we spend a lot of time playing reactive management than anticipating problems and correcting tribulations before they have a negative result. We will work very hard putting the square peg into the round hole as it relates to programs and treatments. Most are just refurbished plans from past failures with a new fancy name. If we are to move forward into the future and set the example and tone that safety and security take center stage then we need to cowboy up and take a stand. How can you expect your officers to follow your example if your are not setting an example?

Of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there;
Eighty are nothing but targets;
Nine are real fighters….We are lucky to have them….They make the battle.
Ah; but one; one of them is a Warrior….And he will bring the others back.”

Heraclitus (Circa 500 B.C.)

In part four, next week Barnhart continues the discussion with "Leadership for Challenging Times"

Other articles by Barnhart:

Leaders vs. managers [part i of iv]
More Leaders vs. Managers [part ii of iv]


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