This paper explores a variety of sources to define what leadership is. Reading different works will help to determine the main traits and characteristics that leaders have. Moreover, the paper defines leaders’ functions and way of organizing employees, and later correlates it with a specificity of criminal justice leadership. Another part of the paper shows whether there is much difference between leaders in different areas. For that, it is necessary to work thoroughly with different leadership theories. The next step is to find out which theories are applicable in the criminal justice system and which are not. First it is done by comparing leaders’ functions and the way of cooperation with colleagues. And then the results will be proven by the examples of effective justice leaders from the history. At the end of the paper, there is a conclusion that states which theory can be applicable best to the modern criminal justice leadership.

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The matter of leadership has arisen people’s interest since the ancient times. However, systematic, purposeful and broad research of this topic started by F. Tailor. Although, nowadays, there is no complete agreement as for the notion of this term or methods of its studying. Today there are many definitions for the word “leadership”. According to Allport (1955), the most popular ones are:

  • the influence on groups of people that helps to get goals;
  • the ability to influence individuals to make them work in order to gain set purposes;
  • the basic process of the organization of group decision-making;
  • the historically formed social need in the organization of people’s work.

If to sum up all the ideas we can say that leadership is the type of administrative cooperation. It is based on the most effective for a certain situation connection of power sources. It is aimed at encouraging people to gain the goals.

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The idea of leadership was studied in different fields of science. The main objective was to find out what makes a real leader special. A lot of scientists tended to find out the traits or forces that make such people rule. Different leadership theories were produced in order to explain it. These theories are often classified due to the thing that describes a leader (“Leadership Theories”, 2013). The current paper strives to show the application of the mentioned theories to the criminal justice administration.

The Great Man Theory was worked out in the mid-19th century. The main idea is in the fact that a person can be a leader only if he or she was born so. Besides, leaders appear when there is a great need in them (Carlyle, 2007).

The Trait Theory says that people inherit their special traits. Some of these features are perfect for the state of leadership. Only those individuals who have a proper combination of these characteristics can become real leaders (Allport, 1955).

These two theories are not applicable to the modern criminal justice system. They put all the responsibilities not on a leader, but on his genes. Nowadays the Administration of Police is often criticized by the citizenry and mass media. That is why there is no use in waiting for such a person to be born.

Later, an opposite theory that was called Behavioral Theory appeared. From its name we can see that to become a leader one needs to work hard in order to gain the necessary characteristics. It is not the nature that creates a leader, but a great desire to become one (“Leadership Theories”, 2013). This theory is applicable in police. An officer starts his service and only with the help of experience, additional studying and a great desire he can become a good leader of his team, then of the department, and finally, of the police station.

Situational Leadership proves the fact that a leader appears in a certain situation. For example, when it comes to the decision making or controlling work, a person who has traits of a leader shows himself (Tannenbaum & Schmitt, 2008).

Contingency Theory proves that an individual’s ability to become a leader depends on various factors. Some of them are a leader’s character and behavior. Also, the abilities and special traits of the followers are important (Bruch & Vogel, 2011). This theory is often seen in police. A successful team often consists not only of a charismatic leader, but also of his talented colleagues. What is more important here is the relationship between them.

Transactional Theory is based on the idea that it is easy to motivate a person by reward and punishment. A group of people will do its best if there is a clear sequence of orders. Those people who work in a team will follow their leader no matter what. This theory is considered to be the most successful in police. It is extremely important to be ready to listen to your leader when your life is at stake. Such leaders give direct orders and wait from his subordinates their accomplishing. After proper work they are given rewards in the form of oral praise, money bonus or aggrandizement. The punishment can be done in the form of reprimand or temporary suspension. When a transactional leader gives some task to subordinates, it means that from that time they are responsible for its accomplishing. That is why this theory is regarded to be the best in the criminal justice system (Baker, 2011).

Transformational Leadership Theory is the one that deals with a leader’s personal characteristics. A charismatic person will be followed by people. If a leader has a burning desire to gain certain goals he will be in charge of others (Bass, 1990). In my opinion, a transformational leader should not work in police. To become an effective fighter with criminals, a person should have safe and solid sense. Officers are not supposed to be blind by a leader’s personal traits.

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An active and effective leader is needed in all branches of the criminal justice, especially in police, as it is the first stage in the reduction of crime, corruption and drug abuse. If a leader is strong and powerful, his team would certainly do its best. More cases will be solved, potential victims will be saved, and the level of criminality will be low. And to the contrary, the connection between bad leadership and discrimination, corruption, high level of delinquency is obvious.

To become a leader in police, it is obligatory to act quickly and effectively in social and political situations. Besides, a person should operate easily with new technologies and be ready for continuous studying. The next part of the paper will give some examples of effective criminal justice leaders.


John Edgar Hoover was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States of America. He managed to hold this post almost half a century, from 1924 and up to his death in 1972. He became the head of the Bureau when he was 29 years old. Hoover was always an authoritative and powerful person, no matter what political situation was in the country or abroad. Neither the Great Depression nor World War II could make him resign. John Hoover is considered to be a contradictory leader. Some people praise him for his services for the country. Others find proves that he often abused his authority. This fact and his unusually long service made all the following directors to hold the post ten years at most. Hoover phenomena has a couple of interesting moments. First of all, John Hoover reduced a lot of employees and expenses. He created a modern and powerful organization. The demands for applicants were very high. He organized a special training school for probes. Hoover paid a special attention to the usage of modern technologies and equipment in laboratories. He organized the first archival depository of finger-prints. Hoover managed to broaden the power and authorities of the bureau. It helped to track and arrest a number of gangsters, including John Dillinger. From all the written above we can see that John Edward Hoover was a transactional leader. He chose his team carefully and thoroughly. Hoover was ready to thank for good work, but guilty agents got a severe reprimand or even discharge (Bruch & Vogel, 2011).

One more example of the effective leader is Paul Evans. He served as the Chief of the Boston Police for nine years (from 1994- up to 2003). His way to the leadership illustrates Behavioral Theory. He started his career as a street patrol officer. In five years, he got a promotion and became a sergeant. Besides, he spent much time studying and first got a Bachelor’s and then a Master’s degree. He was a lieutenant, a commander of the District, responsible for investigations. During all his work in the criminal justice system, he showed himself as a perfect leader who is ready to give orders, but is a great example for employees. He was often promoted not only for his good relationship with politics and chiefs, but for his leadership traits and perfect reputation among colleagues. Evans developed and brought to life a new patrol plan, organized programs for at-risk teenagers and community organizations (Dutelle, 2011).


To sum up all the information, effective and strong leaders are valuable in all parts of our life. There is no the exact explanation of what leadership is. People who can be called leaders are different. That is why a wide range of leadership theories was created. Not all of them can be applied to the criminal justice system. Behavioral, contingency and transactional theories are often seen in the police system (Tannenbaum & Schmitt, 2008). Nowadays, there is a tendency for the implementation of Transactional Theory in police. Today, the society if often against police, people are not satisfied with the level of crimes and the results of investigations. That is why there is a need in strong and powerful leaders who can make others follow them. Moreover, such leaders will give employees not only orders but also a possibility to show their abilities. The examples of effective transactional leaders are often seen in history. These are John Edgar Hoover, Fred Heinaman, John Bockman and many others.

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