Management/Leadership Styles

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What are the specific critical issues, needs, and challenges that may be affecting the organization and its culture in the scenario below? What are the ramifications of a prison lacking a committed and cohesive management team? Scenario: You are an organizational and leadership consultant called in to develop a leadership intervention strategy (LIS) for the state’s largest prison. You learn from several members of the prison management team that they and 30 other management-level staff are actively seeking employment elsewhere. Mass resignations appear imminent. These staff members feel that they are undercompensated, overworked, unfulfilled, and underappreciated. The group consistently complains about the leadership style of the prison warden, John Trevor. He is described as distant, cold, uninvolved, and apathetic. When you meet with John Trevor personally, you are surprised to find a pleasant, unassuming gentleman who is shocked to learn of his team’s displeasure. John feels that his management team is an exemplary group of caring professionals, and he is deeply disquieted about the possibility of these individuals leaving their jobs. John expresses grave concern about the safety and security of the prison, other employees, and inmates should there be a mass exodus of the management team. He is now looking up to you to assess the situation and develop strategies to mitigate these issues. Clearly, significant gaps exist between the prison warden and his management team. These gaps could conceivably lead to safety, cost, and operations issues.

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Gaps between management and team members can occur within all businesses and services. The way to narrow the gap is for managers to adopt more effective leadership styles. When managers close the gap between management and team members, managers drive what is called the Service-Profit chain, which is defined as a relationship between management, "employee engagement," "customer engagement/satisfaction," and profit or growth (Lazenby, A., "Managers: Your Key to Bridging the Gap"). While prisons are not typical for-profit businesses, studies show that leadership techniques are key to developing quality prison life, which is the service provided by prisons. Such leadership techniques have a positive impact on employees as well as on inmates, leading to the provision of quality correctional service.

One reason why gaps between management and team members occur is because managers are "often promoted because they are outstanding individual contributors" (Lazenby). Since those who are promoted to management level are used to working independently, they must make major transitions to be able to start focusing on developing the skills of their team members rather than on just the development of their own skills. If the prison team members see the prison warden, John Trever, as "cold, uninvolved, and apathetic" when he is actually a very "pleasant, unassuming gentleman," it is most likely because Mr. Trevor has been unable to successfully transition from working independently to developing the skill set of his team members, which is required of him if he is to demonstrate strong leadership skills. To bridge the gap, managers must help team members see their places as contributing members, engage and inspire team members by helping them see the larger goals of the organization, open doors of communication, and build trust (Lazenby).

Studies show that when management fails to bridge the gap between the highest level of management, such as the prison warden, and team members, such as the prison managers, in a correctional facility, consequences include low morale, increased burnout rates, increased turnover rates, and even increased suicide rates (Pittaro, M., "Improve Your Facility by Changing Your Leadership Style"). In addition, studies also show that when correctional staff suffers from high levels of stress, they tend to take more "punitive attitudes toward inmates," leading to higher "inmate-upon-officer assaults and inmate-upon-inmate assaults" (Pittaro). Naturally, injuries from such assaults increase medical expenses for prisons and increase safety threats. In addition, states like New York report that correctional officer brutality law suits, for even just one officer, can cost the state as much as $673,000 in settlements ("The State That is Taking on the Prison Guards Union"). The way to overcome such problems is by developing strong "transformational leadership practices" to be exhibited by the highest level of management, such as the prison warden, towards the staff, such as managers and all other staff members, and by the staff towards the inmates (Pittaro). Just as management helps staff members see their roles and goals through strong leadership practices, thereby empowering staff members, staff members can equally help inmates see their roles and goals through mentoring and coaching, thereby equally empowering inmates and creating a genuinely rehabilitative atmosphere.

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