Author: Iszler, Bernie
Date published: December 1, 2011
The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are bom - that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That's nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.
- Warren Bennis 1
Given the increasing number and diversity of offenders in the nation's correctional institutions, the challenging responsibilities being placed on correctional agencies and organizations and the complexity of the social, political and legal climate in which they operate, it is now more critical than ever for correctional agencies/ organizations to identify and train effective leaders at all levels of management, from the frontline supervisor to the head of a correctional system.
Captains' Leadership Curriculum
In an ongoing effort to address this leadership training need, the National Institute of Corrections, through its current project, The Center for Correctional Leadership and Management Studies, delivered "Captains' Leadership Curriculum: Areas of Challenge" to 99 captains (heads of security) in the Federal Bureau of Prisons during a two-year period. The course is now available to the captains in state prisons and local jails. This curriculum uses blended instruction (virtual instructor-led training, online courses and video conferencing) and an applied learning approach through multiple phases:
* Six hours of presession and intersession work by the participants;
* Completion of a 360 Mangers Core Competency Index Profile;
* Online courses through the NIC Learning Center;
* Selected readings from NICs Correctional Leadership Competencies for the 21st Century: Manager and Supervisor Levels;
* Completion of a Captain's Positional Competency Assessment; and
* Captains' presentations of their Action Learning Plan.
The captains' course enables participants to lead staff effectively in achieving their agency's mandated mission while moving toward a desired future. The captains' course begins with a 360-degree assessment that highlights the captain's leadership strengths and challenges. The captains use the assessment to focus their learning on their leadership challenge areas. This allows for an individualized learning experience that minimizes instruction on a participant's leadership strengths and maximizes instruction on their leadership challenges. Participants can focus on the particular instruction they need.
The captains' course also focuses on the transfer of training into the workplace with the Action Learning Plan. There is no question that transfer of learning is a formidable challenge for organizations. Reports from the field suggest that a substantial part of organizations' investment in human resource development is wasted due to poor learning transfer. The Action Learning Plan is an effort to support the captains in applying their leadership learning to their dayto-day work. The Action Learning Plan consists of five steps:
* Preparation: Reflect on the 360 Mangers Core Competency Index Profile, the selected reading, and the e-course to guide the captain to areas of personal leadership challenges;
* Learning objective: Write a short-term, 30-day behavioral action learning objective. This will help the captain focus on an area that he/she wants to develop, and it will require that captains stretch beyond their relative comfort levels;
* Action steps: Identify specific action steps and activities that allow the captains to reach their learning objective;
* Feedback: The captains identify what feedback from whom will help them gauge whether they have been successful; and
* Debrief: The captains report on their learning plan successes, barriers and how they will use their new skills in the future.
The captains' course, therefore, not only allows captains to enhance their leadership skills, it also teaches a problem-solving process that captains can use as an ongoing leadership learning model.
Core Competency Project
The captains' curriculum subject matter is based on the Core Competencies Project that asked, "What are the skills and attributes of an effective correctional leader and how can they be developed?" The result led to the publishing of two documents in 2006: Correctional Leadership Competencies for the 21st Century: Manager and Supervisor Levels, and Correctional Leadership Competencies for the 21st Century: Executive and Senior Level.
The Core Competencies Project called on the expertise of a number of respected professionals in leadership to identify the qualities of effective leaders across a wide range of correctional agencies and organizations. After defining four levels of correctional leaders and developing managerial profiles for each level based on key areas of responsibility, the project identified core competencies for each level through focus groups and surveys of correctional leaders, consultation with experts in the correctional field and comparison with other fields. Then, for each competency, the project developed a knowledge base to help correctional leaders at each level understand the competency better and identify a set of key skills and behaviors related to the competency.
Leadership and Management
The National Institute of Corrections' current project to address leadership learning needs and to equip agencies with effective tools to confront and overcome current and emerging leadership challenges is the Center for Correctional Leadership and Management Studies. The purpose of the center is to study leadership and management issues in corrections and to use that knowledge as the foundation for instruction, further research, and implementation of evidence-based practices in leadership and management in the corrections field. Based on information from the Core Competencies Project, the Center for Correctional Leadership and Management Studies created, not only the captains' course, but also:
* Essential Skills for New Supervisors (DVD set available at http://nicic.gov/Library/024664);
* Unleash Your Leadership Competency Potential;
* Management Development for the Future (MDF);
* Correctional Leadership Development (CLD); and
* Executive Excellence.
Executive Excellence, MDF and CLD are all available in a blended delivery format that includes classroom instruction and virtual coaching.
Information on many more documents, online courses and leadership training is available on the NIC website at www.nicic.gov. The Center for Correctional Leadership and Management Studies hopes that correctional agencies/organizations will use the center and its resources in recruiting and selecting correctional leaders, placing and retaining employees, and engaging in succession planning for correctional leadership.
1 Bennis, Warren. April 2003. On Becoming a Leader. Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus Publishing.
Bernie Iszler is correctional program specialist for NIC Academy Division and Bob Brown is chief of NIC Academy Division. For information on the Captains Leadership Curriculum: Areas of Challenge, contact Bob Brown at (303) 338-6610, or rbrown @bop.gov.