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Practical Perspectives: Frontier Leadership & Ushers of Innovation – Philosophy vs. Strategy
By Major Clifford G. Tebbitt, Jail Administrator, Scott County Sheriff's Office
Published: 11/14/2011

County jail Why shouldn’t leaders in the field of corrections innovate? It would appear all too often the answer to that question lies somewhere within the domain and trappings of assuming the status quo and the comfort of routine. There is every indication that many of our jail practices are locked still today somewhere in the 20th Century. When I talk to my peers, many assume a posture of practices year gone by with excuse for no substantial change to do anything differently because of the cost change represents. This perspective maybe no further then the truth, for what appears to be immerging are countless accounts of change that cost no more than the willingness to do it differently. The idea that will be floated here is not to inspire change for change’s sack, but that within the literature there is an ever increasing number of organizations reporting on new found corrections programming successes through what appears to have been ushered into their practices by innovative spirit and an underlying openness to accept change in the process. Hence, this edition to Practical Perspectives looks to what we can and what we should be doing for our fielding corrections as a dynamic and contributing force beyond “warehousing” within the criminal justice professions. To advance this interest, this edition looks at an innovative philosophy and/or strategy that may provide leaders within jail administration a concept if applied will make a difference. Let’s consider where we head at this point as a great frontier for leadership to make that difference in corrections today.

The concept of “frontier leadership ushers innovation” takes stock in the evolution of knowledge management that is intended to transcend philosophy into strategy that leads to outcomes of profound difference. This notion is management’s nexus to survival, and truly a leadership challenge. Research on developing innovation models aimed to expand innovation management in organizations today conceptualizes theory of innovation and its evolution is considered. The focus attempts to look at leadership philosophy and strategy theory application and the advance of innovation. Much of the innovation theory literature offers solution and focus for leaders. The framework can be a starting-point for researchers to initiate research in the design of innovation systems, change management and organizational restructuring (Narvekar and Jain, 2006).

The question maybe who is best positioned to introduce change and who then ushers innovation in organization, for that answer might lend to an organization’s leadership to focus resourcing for that outcome. The theory on leadership and innovation appears to still be limited. The philosophy of management is obviously the philosophy of business. The literature suggests in the study and application of management philosophy confusion is easy. A closer examination of the similarities between management philosophy and strategy theories indicates that there is significant commonality. Philosophy driven innovation and strategic management have solid linkages that are undeniable (“Innovation is not enough”, 1996).

Innovation Theory: A Historical Perspective

A fascinating historical study on the history of innovation theory was recently published. The authors Xu, Chen, Xie, Liu, Zheng and Wang (2007) research on developing innovation models aimed to expand innovation management in organizations today. The development course of innovation theory as described by the authors can be briefly summarized as follows:
  • It was in the 1940s that systematic research on innovation of enterprises at the micro level began to take place. Influenced by Schumpeter’s theory of innovation, research during the 1940s and 1950s was based on the theory of the ‘‘entrepreneur as the driving force of innovation’’ and mainly studied the material innovation process, the success factors affecting innovation, and the driving forces of innovation; as illustrated by the introduction of indirect supervision hardscapes.
  • In the 1960s and 1970s, as the theoretical research on innovation advanced, academic studies touched more and more on specialized fields of innovation. The focus clearly began to look outside the organization to advance innovation; such as the case within our profession with the move towards the ever expanding security-electronics integration albeit extremely expensive, and often in the context of today’s available resources not a viable solution.
  • In 1980s the main question is how companies can employ effectively users as a key source of innovation., and in the 1990s by breaking away from the previous linear thinking pattern and pointing out the significant effects of the matching and interaction between each subsystem and component in the performance of innovation systems, the system-theory-based innovation theories were developed. In this instance, the literature would point to an explosion within jail operations adopting empirically validated classification tools to manage their inmate populations.
  • In the 21st century, innovation theories are developing toward a higher level and many scholars are conducting innovation theory research based on the ecosystem theory. The theoretical framework that developed over this outline has positioned organizations within their fields of competition as leaders and firmly placed them into dominance within their markets, so why not within corrections.
From a theoretical framework of the organizational factors that support creativity and innovation it is imperative for corrections organizations and the leaders within to “lead change,” of which what Kotter (1996) frames in process details that if implemented can transform organizations. Here the experts suggest, by putting the change context into forces such as ensuring there is a “persistent sense of urgency”, ensuring that an orientation of “teamwork” that starts at the top and transcends to the lowest level of the organization” exists lasting transformation is possible (Kotter, 1996). The emphasis on being mindful of the necessity for “people who can create and communicate the change vision,” who are supported by a “broad-based empowerment,” oriented to “short-term successes” that incrementally move systemically toward goals, with every effort put forward to engineer “no unnecessary interdependence;” all act as formula for successful innovation and change that leaders would be wise not to understate (Kotter, 1996; Tushman and O’Reilly, 2002). Highlighted by Kotter’s (1996) stressing of the importance a sense of urgency plays in driving change, his volume “Leading Change” provides a comprehensive outline, complete with cautions and details of dangers advising the practitioner begins to equip leadership’s arsenal to meet and/or beat the 21st Century survival challenge.

Much of the innovation theory literature offers solution and focus for leaders just like you and I. It generally explores the skills approach and/or abilities that can be learned and developed, as opposed to traits that are considered to be largely fixed relative to a commonly held leadership theory assumption (Smith, 2008). Peter Northouse, a professor at Western Michigan University, has conducted extensive research in the area of leadership and has contributed significantly to the body of knowledge that bridges the gap between theoretical and popular approaches to leadership (Northouse, 2007; & Smith, 2008). He emphasizes the behavior of leaders, their styles or what they do and how they act, which is pivotal in the study of innovation theory (Smith, 2008). Northouse suggests the starting point for subordinates and leader’s style converge with two behaviors: task and relationship. Interestingly, combining these two behaviors explains how leaders influence subordinates in their efforts to reach goals systemic to a leader’s innovating motivations (Smith, 2008). Therefore, from a cross-disciplinary conceptual standpoint a canvassing of multiple academic disciplines literature to foster the kind of change so radically different that is fashioned to bring about a truly transformational dynamic; leaders need to seek the development of a skills based conceptual framework to understand the complexities of the innovation process from a cognitive perspective (Narvekar and Jain, 2006).

I hope this information, from a personal leadership philosophy standpoint has provide some things to consider that will potentially move you to action. Leaders are change agents, and I challenge you to consider innovation as one of your tools to bring about meaningful change within your organization that truly makes a difference in your organization and the community’s in which we serve. In the next edition, we will take a look a closer look at how you may introduce innovation as a strategy within you organization.


Innovation is not enough. (1996). The Journal of Product and Brand Management, 5(5), 41-43. Retrieved from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 236622361).

Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading Change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. ISBN: 0- 87584-747-1.

Narvekar, R. S., & Jain, K. (2006). A New Framework to Understand the Technological Innovation Process. Journal of Intellectual Capital, 7(2), 174-186. Retrieved from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 1065259151).

Northouse, P. G. (2007). Leadership: Theory and Practice (4th ed.) Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications. ISBN: 978-1-412941-61-7.

Smith, T. (2008). Leadership: Theory and Practice (4th ed.). Engineering Management Journal, 20(1), 39. Retrieved from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 1480702701).

Tushman, M. L., & O'Reilly, C. A. (2002). Winning Through Innovation. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. ISBN: 1-57851-821-0.

Xu, Q., Chen, J., Xie, Z., Liu, J., Zheng, G., & Wang, Y. (2007). Total Innovation Management: A Novel Paradigm of Innovation Management in The 21st Century. Journal of Technology Transfer, 32(1-2), 9-25. Retrieved from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 1192548711).

Editors note: Major Clifford G. Tebbitt, of the Scott County Iowa Sheriff's Office. Mr. Tebbitt is a Jail Administrator and a PhD candidate. The series includes: contemporary issues with jail/corrections administration. The series uses the fictitious County name of Acme County.

Other articles by Tebbitt:


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  2. StephanieCasey on 06/26/2019:

    Valuable philosophy introduction, short and strait at the point. I liked the non-chronological organization, even if puzzled me a little bit in the beginning. I loved the insertion of thematic problems as separate sectionsonly---water.com.

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