Featured Post

Homeland Security: The Sworn Duty of Public Officials

Homeland Security: The Sworn Duty of Public Officials     The United States has a unique position amongst the countries of the world;...

Monday, May 4, 2015

Concepts of Power in Criminal Justice Leadership

Concepts of Power in Criminal Justice Leadership

One of the key concepts of leadership is the use of power. But what distinguishes types of power that leaders can use? What are the types of power that are especially power to criminal justice leaders? Yukl defines power as “the capacity of one party (the 'agent') to influence another party (the 'target')” (2012, p. 186). Power is either based on the position a person holds, or attributes a person has (personal power). There are several types of power; Legitimate power, reward power, coercive power, referent power, expert power, information power, and ecological power. Legitimate power cab be based on “ formal authority” (Yukl, 2012, p.189), however French and Raven contend that legitimate power is more complicated then that; “ In all cases, the notion of legitimacy involves some sort of code or standard, accepted by the individual, by virtue of which the external agent can assert his power. “(2001, p .265). Reward power “stems in part from formal authority to allocate resources and rewards.”(Yukl, 2012, p.189). French & Raven state that the use of actual as opposed rewards over time as opposed to the promise of rewards strengthens the level of reward power (2001, p .263). Although coercive power is “based on authority over punishments” (Yukl, 2012, p.190), French and Raven point to “some difficulty in distinguishing between reward power and coercive power” by asking “Is the withholding of a reward really equivalent to a punishment?” (2001, p .264). In contrast, referent power is based on the target's internal goals of pleasing the agent. Yukl states that “To gain the agent’s approval and acceptance, the target person is likely to comply with agent requests” (2012, p.191). French and Raven further explain that the referent power of the agent to the target has its basis in the identification of the target with the agent, which can be a group and not necessarily with an individual agent.(2001, p .266). Yukl defines expert power as based upon the concept that “Unique knowledge about the best way to perform a task or solve an important problem provides potential influence over subordinates, peers, and superiors.” (2012, p.191). French & Raven qualify that power derives from the targets evaluation of that “expertness in relation to his own knowledge as well as against an absolute standard.(2001, p .267). French and Raven distinguish informational power from expert power on the basis that the target need not be a member of the agent's group to use that power, and make that distinguishment “based on the content of communication” (2001, p .267). Yukl clarifies the concept of information power as control of “both the access to vital information and control over its distribution” (2012, p.192). Ecological power is the “control over the physical environment, technology, and organization of the work provides an opportunity for indirect influence “(2012, p.193).
By looking at the basis of how these powers operate, it is clear that the majority of power usages operate from a position of authority. Ultimately, the use of power comes from the acceptance by the target of the method that the agent uses; this is most cleanly illustrated by the concept of legitimate power. The methods that other power typologies use, such as reward or punishment, are based upon accepted authority. According to French and Raven, “The more legitimate the coercion the less it will produce resistance and decreased attraction. “(2001, p .268).
The concept of legitimate power is the most essential type of power for a criminal justice leader to use. This does not apply simply to the organizations they lead, but to the communities that they serve, and that their powers are derived from; “Legitimacy is a property of an authority or institution that leads people to feel that authority or institution is entitled to be deferred to and obeyed.”(Sunshine & Tyler, 2003, p.514). In addition, criminal justice leaders need to be able to exert influence using their legitimate authority over their organization. “As important as politicians’ power is the notion of bureaucratic power”(Bowornwathana & Poocharoen, 2010, p.306).
The use of informational power can be the most damaging to the criminal justice field. As an example, the media, in covering the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, did not release pertinent information to the public. The fact that Brown's attack sent Wilson to the hospital was not treported. The fact that Brown had attacked and robbed a shopkeeper less then three minutes prior to the incident was not reported, despite the video recording of the robbery. The fact that the biggest proponent of a story line that accused Wilson of “executing” Brown was an accomplice of Brown's in the videotaped robbery was not reported. The fact that some witnesses reported moving back towards Wilson before the fatal shots were fired was not reported. The fact that the physical evidence matched Wilson's account was not reported. The media chose to present Brown as an adolescent and not as an adult through the photos selected for publishing and airing their stories. By restricting access to and controlling the information reported on regarding the incident, the media effectively committed incitement to riot. Criminal justice leaders should be aware of the media's historical use of limited information to present only one side of the story, and the consequences that such dishonesty can have on their communities.


Bowornwathana, B., & Poocharoen, O. (2010). Bureaucratic Politics and Administrative Reform: Why Politics Matters. Public Organization Review, 10(4), 303–321. doi:http://dx.doi.org.southuniversity.libproxy.edmc.edu/10.1007/s11115-010-0129-0

French, J. R., & Raven, B. (2001). The bases of social power. In Modern classics of leadership (Vol. 2, pp. 259-268). Retrieved August 24, 2014 from http://pdf-release.net/external/2807185/pdf-release-dot-net-the_bases_of_social_power_-_chapter_20.pdf

Sunshine, J., & Tyler, T. R. (2003). The role of procedural justice and legitimacy in shaping public support for policing. Law & Society Review, 37(3), 513–547,512. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from http://search.proquest.com.southuniversity.libproxy.edmc.edu/docview/226928949/497C2681C80748F0PQ/120?accountid=87314

Yukl, G. A. (2012). Leadership in Organizations, 8th Edition. [VitalSource Bookshelf version]. Retrieved November 19, 2014 from http://digitalbookshelf.southuniversity.edu/books/9781256650225

No comments:

Post a Comment