A prison warden's managers have described him as distant, cold, uninvolved, and apathetic. How would you analyze his leadership repertoire?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A "leadership repertoire" is the combination of leadership skills, drawn from leadership styles, that are put to use, when they are needed the most, for the common good of the organization. 

According to Daniel Goleman's book Primal Leadership, the six most common leadership styles stem from an individual's emotional intelligence. The six styles are:

  • Afiliative: "Let's keep the group together. Everything will be okay."
  • Authoritative: "Let us all work together to achieve the goal."
  • Coaching: "I will take the time to mentor each of you."
  • Coercive: "My way or the highway."
  • Democratic: "Let's all decide together for an outcome."
  • Pace-Setting: "Here's the goal. It may be high, but reach it anyway."

The warden described in this hypothetical scenario is described as cold, uninvolved, and apathetic. Let's define these adjectives and attach each to a potential style, or antistyle.

While "cold" is a descriptor that entails lack of physical emotion or emotional connection, it is also an adjective that depends entirely on the eye of the beholder. What may be considered "cold" or "unemotional" in one culture or group may not be considered so by another.

Therefore, the fact that someone chooses to remain emotionally disconnected to the dynamics of the workplace has less to do with leadership style and more to do with personal defense mechanisms, especially in a hostile environment like the prison system.

To give the warden credit, his choice to be "cold" may actually be a good one, and will be part of an authoritative style from which his repertoire includes:

  • avoiding attachments with prisoners
  • preventing mental manipulation from potential sociopaths (which a fair number of criminals are)
  • maintaining objectivity 
  • averting mistakes made by hindered objectivity

All of this affects the work environment, particularly the specific work environment of a prison, in a way that nulls any potential "enmeshment" of emotion and vulnerability. A warden may have to appear unapproachable and cold, especially to the prisoners. This skill can actually work well with supervisors. The less emotional connected the warden is, the more objective he can become (ideally speaking).

Part of being cold may also include remaining uninvolved, or aloof from what is going on. Being uninvolved in situations that require regrouping, voting, goal-setting, and active participation, however, negatively affects the work environment. 

Just think what would happen if this warden did not become involved in rule-setting, defining limits between wardens and prisoners, or voting on the proper consequences for infractions? This person's repertoire lacks all six of the leadership styles. Therefore, this person's  repertoire also lacks

  • decision making
  • authority
  • initiative
  • cohesiveness
  • connection

Finally, the warden is also considered apathetic. Someone who is apathetic shows neither emotion nor interest. The latter is the real problem. Not having interest means not possessing the internal or external motivation to accomplish anything. The problem with lacking motivation is that it immediately cancels out any potential leadership skill because the primary factor is missing: wanting to do anything. This warden will, therefore, also lack

  • initiative
  • problem-solving skills
  • goal-setting or -reaching 
  • cohesiveness
  • decision making

The warden may, however, be so self-absorbed that all he cares about is what is "in it for him." That is also a huge problem because it means he will not consider the best interests of the community for which he works. For all we know, the warden is a non-entity at work. He does not do much to better any situation, but his attitude can affect a lot of people: he has the potential of infecting others with his lack of spirit, and may even work his way into manipulating others to disregard the importance of teamwork. 

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