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Practical Perspectives: Leadership Philosophy: Do You Have One?
By Major Clifford G. Tebbitt, Jail Administrator, Scott County Sheriff's Office
Published: 04/04/2011

County jail All leaders exercise an influence within their organizations through a prescribed personal philosophy, and literally all of the leadership literature published today supports the notion that if you haven’t spent the time introspecting yours to first define clearly what it is, and second to hone your tools, you will likely be far less effective then you could be… you should be. Leadership without deliberate consideration on a personal level leaves actions to inconsistence outcomes. Leaders might think of it in the same way we see the need for a code of conduct, for without the narrative, actions are likely less reflective of what we hope from our personnel.

The steps to our success as leaders in this area are critically important on a local level, as individual organizations form the foundations that hold up our professional interests as jail managers. With a desire in advancing our profession, this administrator could not encourage you as a leader more to consider your leadership philosophy as a vital and critical component needed in your arsenal. This is a good starting point from which to discuss some basic considerations that are generally applicable in any jail setting from a leadership standpoint for you to test differences as you consider your own leadership philosophy.

The first question one should be asking is what does a personal leadership philosophy look like, as individual staff and units can be described in many different ways. It has been my experience that leadership development needs to thrive at all levels of jail organization, and be tempered by “real” guidance within a rational framework involving field and office training opportunities. I consider many issues of importance to the future of our organization, but none so important as our investment and commitment to develop leadership skills throughout our ranks. I consider this principle as leadership in depth.

I once found in the early phase of my career with Acme County, challenged with an aging facility and limited financial resources, a sense of floundering. Feeling under the gun and groping for solutions I quickly understood the gravity of our citizens expecting no less stewardship in the activities we were charged within the jail, as we pursued the basics behind operating safe and secure. It was at that time, as a jail administrator my personal leadership philosophical epiphany realized that if I did not define the direction our organization would move, it would be defined for me. Construction of the following leadership philosophy took place develop and maintain our ability to accomplish the missions we were assigned and their value driven influences propelled the organization’s successes. I have discovered the following core leadership values have built capacity to manage through difficult times and propel the organization to new heights during the best of times.

I expected all staff to know, understand and apply the following core organizational leadership values adopted, i.e.:
  • Customer-Driven Quality — Customers are the final judges of quality. Our jail operation must anticipate and meet our internal and external customer needs, now and in the future.
  • Leadership — Senior leaders are to ensure the development of the organization's quality values, vision, mission, and goals, guide the sustained pursuit of quality performance objectives, and create a customer orientation.
  • Continuous Improvement and Learning — Our jail organization should pursue regular cycles of planning, execution, and evaluation of every process and system. Ongoing improvements of these processes and systems will lead to performance excellence and customer satisfaction.
  • Valuing Employees — Our jail can only be successful if we make a commitment to ensure that our work force is diverse, continuously trained, multi-skilled, adaptable, and empowered.
  • Fast Response — Success in the criminal justice system requires rapid response to customer requirements. We must continuously reduce "cycle time", the amount of time it takes to complete a task or function.
  • Design Quality and Prevention — When designing and developing our operational strategies, programs, and services, the jail needs to incorporate quality from the beginning of the design process as a way of preventing problems and waste.
  • Long-Range View of the Future — Pursuit of business leadership requires a strong future orientation and planning far into the future. It requires making long-term commitments to customers, employees, suppliers, stockholders/stakeholders, and the community. Anticipating changes and preparing the workforce to meet those changes are at the core of this long-range outlook.
  • Management by Fact — Facts and data are critical to sound planning and quality operations. To ensure the effective use of facts and data, every organization must put systems in place to collect and analyze accurate and timely data.
  • Partnership Development — Internal partnering of individuals and teams helps will help us better fulfill our goals and enhance the overall performance of the jail’s operations. External partnering and collaboration with community agencies and stakeholders fosters continual growth and will enhance the likelihood of our success.
  • Staff Responsibility — Staff responsibility refers to basic expectations of the organization’s ethics, and protection of public safety, officer safety and inmate safety.
  • Results Focus — The true measure of the effectiveness of our performance excellence is the results that can be attributed back to the approaches that are deployed throughout the community corrections operation. It is imperative to build performance measurement matrixes that will help our operation assess our progress toward goals.

From this leader’s perspective, understanding your values by all staff throughout the organization will better the staff’s position to effectively work through the rigors of the most difficult of times. It is highly recommended you take the time to write down your values, and once vetted throughout your leadership’s administration; you should share them with redundancy throughout your organization.

Maintaining a quality jail system requires intelligence and courage to change—the intelligence to know that change is absolutely necessary and the courage to initiate it. Anchored in your well defined personal leadership philosophy, you can look forward to work within your organization that enhances individuals and teams working together in identifying factors which may lead to significant changes in the organization. Some of these changes could be positive or negative to you personally. We normally resist change as individuals and as organizations. Change pushes us into unknown territory. We fear that it could make things worse. However, change is inevitable and if we understand how our leadership values relate to ourselves and our organization we will all be in a better position to effectively work together with cooperation when the time comes for us to perform our jobs.

Other articles by Tebbitt:


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