Posted in Bible Study, Theology, & Christian Living

Defending YOUR Faith: Why It’s Important: Part III


In my final installment in this series, I offer what I find are the two most important things a Christian must remind himself and settle in his own heart and mind. I find if I can hold to these things, I can weather the attacks on my faith, wherever they come from. I can overcome my doubts, fears, and hopelessness–in whatever form they take.

Our faith, in large part, relies on the testimony of a book. We read it and we preach from it. It is the most important piece of physical evidence that exists for our faith.  The Jews placed such a premium on the physical existence of the record that full-time laborers were employed to copy it and ensure its reliability. If we can maintain our trust in the authority of the record? There are good reasons for Christians to believe what it says.

Our faith is authored and secured by Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God. In fact the Book of Hebrews tells us:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

The testimony of Jesus Christ anchors our faith. His accomplishments encourage us to “lay aside every weight…” that we may run our race. He is seated at the right hand of God. In addition to trusting the Book, we have the Author of the faith securing our place. The person of Jesus and the reliability of the record undergirds my faith and overcomes my doubts.

I find when my faith falters, is challenged, or when my earthly body attempts to deceive me I remember this: the Bible is the inerrant Word of God  However, as J.P. Moreland said, “We do not need to prove inerrancy.  We only need to hold that believing in inerrancy is more rational than not believing in it.”  That may seem like lowering the expectation of the doctrine but I firmly believe, especially in my flawed earthly state, that expecting to suppress all doubt is not realistic. Thus, to arrive at this point I use a brief, three-pronged approach:

  1. Biblical argument:  Now, to avoid circular reasoning, we must avoid asserting the inerrancy of scripture because the Bible says so.  Underneath the Biblical argument, there are many subdivisions but I want to use three:
    • The testimony of the authors: Over 3000 times the Bible writers claim they were proclaiming the message of God.  If this were not the case, then we must reject the Bible as a fraud.  The apostle Paul in II Tim. 3:16 told Timothy that the scriptures were breathed by God and could make him “perfect,” and “throughly furnished” in the work of God.
    • The testimony of Jesus Christ: Building on the above, when Jesus spoke of the scriptures He repeatedly used phrases like “God says” or “scripture says.”  He stated the eternality of the message when explaining that “heaven and earth would pass away” before “one jot or tittle” would pass from the Law (Matt 5:18; Luke 16:17).  Jesus said that the scriptures could not be annulled (John 10:35).  He also assumed that knowing the truth meant knowing the scriptures (Matt. 22:29).
    • The fulfillment of prophecy:  Specifically the prophecies concerning Jesus Christ about His birth, life on earth, death, and resurrection.  There are literally dozens of them, all written before His birth and fulfilled in specific literal fashion.  That type of advanced revelation can only support the divine nature of the Word of God.  Since it is divine, it must also be inerrant.
  2. History/Tradition:  In addition to the Biblical argument, the inerrancy of scripture is also defended by the great theologians of history, notably Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Calvin to name three.
  3. Logic:  Finally, Biblical inerrancy is logically consistent with the character of God.  Since God is perfect and cannot be wrong and scripture is God-breathed (II Tim. 3:16-17), God’s Word must retain His perfect character, thus scripture must be inerrant.

This defense is by no means exhaustive but a firm foundation, I think, for a convincing argument for the inerrancy of scripture that .

Jesus Christ is the Son of God, NOT merely a great teacher or prophet. In the words of C.S. Lewis, Jesus did not leave open this possibility to us.  Jesus’ actions and words are direct proof that He was asserting Himself as someone who possessed Divine authority.  We see this in the titles that He chose for Himself (Son of God, Son of Man, one greater than Abraham, the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, I AM and others).

These titles are direct affirmations of deity.  He further asserted His deity by His actions:  forgiving sins, cleansing the temple, healing on the Sabbath, the calming of the storm, and other acts.  Jesus elevated His word over that of the Law in the Sermon on the Mount, “Ye have heard that it was said…but I say unto you…” (Matt 5:21-22, 27-28, 31-32, 33-34, 38-39, 43-44).

If Jesus was not who He claimed to be in word and in deed, He is, as C.S. Lewis contends, either a liar or a lunatic, but a great teacher or prophet he cannot be.  The New Testament writings also reinforce the claims of Jesus Christ and it is certain that the early disciples knew and believed the claims of Jesus.  His deity is not the product of the Council at Nicea (as falsely asserted in trendy books and movies like The DaVinci Code), but the teaching of Jesus Himself and carried forth by the early church.

The writings of Paul and other New Testament writers teach that Jesus was creator, pre-existent, in the image of God and, more strongly, God Himself (I Jn. 5:20; Jn. 1:1, 20:28; Titus 2:13 and others). These people walked with Jesus, talked with Him, ate with Him, and witnessed His miracles. They saw Him resurrected. Their lives were changed by His presence.

If I can hold to this, the rest of the details take care of themselves. Don’t get caught up in the minutiae in those circumstances when your faith is weak or challenged. The record is true. Our Savior lives. The rest always works itself out. Let not your heart be troubled…


Posted in All Things American, Religion & Politics

Freedom & American Exceptionalism: Part 3


The American Revolution was inspired, in part, by the notion that the British Parliament looked on the American colonists as subjects dependent on the Crown for every part of their existence and activities. The Crown wanted control of their direction and choices. Charles Townsend, in arguing for the adoption of the Townsend Acts—which taxed colonial glass, paper, paints, lead, and tea—supported his argument by declaring that the colonists were children “planted by our care and nourished up by our indulgence.” Thus, Townsend believed, Britain was entitled to the first-fruits of colonial revenue, completely at Parliament’s discretion, without regarding the rights of citizens or their individual interests. He was rebuked by Colonel Isaac Barre, who said in defense of the colonies:

“Planted by your care? No, your oppressions planted them in America…they fled from tyranny…They, nourished up by your indulgence? They grew because of your neglect of them…And believe me, remember I this day told you so, that the same spirit of freedom which actuated that people at the first, will accompany them still…”

This was the spirit of freedom that Tocqueville found in his tour of America in the early 19th century. Americans, he said, will “inform you of what his rights are, and by what means he exercises them.” Every man worked to earn a living, Tocqueville observed, and expected his neighbors to do the same.

Whether in a skilled trade or agriculture, man expected remuneration and expected to earn a profit. In this there was pride in self-sufficiency and honor in labor. Since men engaged in commerce freely, consensually, and individually, most communities did not need the interference of government to conduct their affairs.

Free Enterprise

Self-preservation, Locke said, was the very definition of “reasonable behavior.” Self-preservation then, of necessity, requires the right to work and to keep the profits—whether material or currency—of that work, so one could provide the essentials of life. To that right could be extended the rights of property ownership, though Locke extended this right to mean more than simply material things. It extended to whatever a man possessed—his faculties, his abilities, his thoughts—that which he produced himself, whether with his hand, mind, or conscience.

He had the right to use these things however he wished in his pursuit of self-preservation, so long as he did not harm to his neighbor. As part of a community, he could enter mutually beneficial economic exchanges with others also engaged in those same individual pursuits.

The right to keep the fruits of his labor and freely engage in mutually beneficial economic exchanges without excessive government interference—as Tocqueville had observed—was instrumental to America’s success, Reagan said. The belief that government should somehow be the primary recipient of what individual citizens earned was contrary to our founding principles and the God-given rights of men.

Jefferson listed “cutting off our trade with all parts of the world” and “imposing taxes on us without our consent” as the two primary means by which British Parliament imposed on the free enterprise of Americans. Reagan’s criticism of government deciding how much of our earnings we could keep, and the terms on which we could do business, was simply a contemporary illustration of a two-century old argument.

Though the right to the fruit of one’s labor could also be found in Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, where he based this belief on natural rights, one can refer to the both the Old and New Testament for the divine right to do the same. The great pioneer of Western Civilization, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward” (I Tim. 5:18 KJV).

Here Paul cites the ancient Mosaic Law. The principle is metaphorical and illustrates a divine expectation. It need not apply just to the ox. The man who labors is also entitled to compensation for his labor. It is unjust to take from a man that which he has worked for. Government has no right to take the earnings of a laborer any more than the farmer has the right to not compensate the work of his beast—a simple illustration of a natural right. For many to be truly independent and self-governing, he must be free to pursue the relationships which best served his interests.


These very simple concepts of individual freedom given in Reagan’s Inaugural Address can be found with an observant walk through history. They were responsible for America’s prosperity. This is why she is exceptional. The creative energy and entrepreneurial spirit of Americans was their personal property and government had no authority to take from it or stifle it. If we remove government obstacles, Reagan said, America could be restored to greatness. This was her God-given heritage.

In his closing remarks in Democracy in America Tocqueville said that “Providence has not created mankind entirely independent or entirely free.” He was right. He is dependent and accountable, in equal station, to the “Laws of nature and of Nature’s God.” Will government lead men to servitude or freedom? Freedom. That was Reagan’s and history’s hope.

(C) 2018. All rights reserved.

Posted in Bible Study, Theology, & Christian Living, Religion & Politics, Uncategorized

Taxes, Budgets, & Free Markets: The Bible Speaks

When it comes to fairness and ethics in the 21st century, people have different ideas about what is right and moral.  This disagreement–or difference in the application of morality–is the foundation, I believe, for engaging in the serious discussion of fiscal policy and the divide between government and Middle America.  In our post-modern world, where selfishness reigns supreme, there is seemingly scant interest in what is fair for you; what is fair for me is the primary motivation. Oftentimes me is government. Or me is those who depend on government for their income. Any hardship that falls on you after they are satisfied is your problem. I firmly believe any fruitful conversation about these issues needs to embrace a biblical framework.

In speaking to economics issues, I want to specifically address taxes, budgets, and free markets.  All get considerable treatment in the scriptures. Jesus spoke on monetary issues more often than he did heaven and hell.  Thus, I think we can see the importance of fiscal responsibility within a Judeo-Christian—or biblical—worldview.  We might be surprised to see that the Bible has much to say about taxes, budgeting, and free markets (financial freedom)–and these lessons are applicable to our political discussions.


Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government power to levy and collect taxes.  Our government most certainly—legally speaking—was empowered to do so by those representatives elected by the people and individual states who ratified the Constitution.  Is there an obligation to pay?

When Jesus was asked if it was lawful to support a secular government via paying taxes, Jesus said it was: “And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him” (Mark 12:17, KJV).  The concept was repeated by Paul the Apostle in Romans 13:7a, “Render therefore to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom is due…(KJV).”  Yes. We are obligated to pay taxes.

However, the power of compulsory taxation is not a power to be abused simply because we are obligated. The question government must ask concerning taxes should be “We have the power to institute a tax for fill-in-the-blank purpose, but should we?”  Sound moral ethics must define the “should” portion of the question. Conflicts in ideology muddy the issue. Nearly all agree that taxes should be applied to national defense, infrastructure we all use, and common interests like community safety.

But what about other things? Should taxes be used to cover the fiscal mistakes of the irresponsible (Wall Street bailouts, Congressional overspending, etc.)?  Should taxes be used to support those unwilling to work?  Again, individual ethics will distinguish between ‘unable’ and ‘unwilling.’  Should taxes be used to fund issues which violate the moral conscience of a taxpayer, i.e. abortion, building casinos, or stem cell research?


Budget is both a noun and a verb.  I think that’s an important concept to grasp.  Budget, the noun, is defined as “an itemized summary of probable expenditures for a given period” (American Heritage Dictionary).  Budget, the verb, is defined as “to plan in advance for the expenditure” (American Heritage). The Bible has much to say about this—but I am sure no politician wants to read it.

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish” (Luke 14:28-30, KJV).

“Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. For riches are not for ever…” (Proverbs 27:23-24a, KJV).

These verses teach us that responsible budgeting means ensuring the money is there before you financially commit to a project.  The Bible looks down upon trusting in money you do not have (see also I Tim. 6:17).  Since Congress has the “power of the purse,” it also has the responsibility to budget accordingly.

Poor budgeting leads to debt (Proverbs 22:7) while good budgeting leads to surplus (Proverbs 13:11).  Sustained economic growth is the by-product of responsible budgeting.  If confiscatory compulsory taxation is the government’s answer to irresponsible budgeting, citizens seemingly have a right to charge the government with theft, do they not?

Free Markets

The Bible encourages ownership of property and goods.  Job owned property (Job 1:3), Abraham and Lot owned property (Gen. 13:1-11), and Jacob owned property (Gen. 31:18), along with many others.  So, the Bible does not condemn private ownership of land.  Thus, it can be implied that if I, as a private owner of property, wish to sell what I have to another, I may do so.  In fact, the Bible indicates this as well:

Leviticus—an Old Testament legal ethics book—reads “And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour’s hand, ye shall not oppress one another” (25:15, KJV). There is no mention here of a government intermediary brokering the deal, or taking a piece of the “action.” There is only the divine reminder that God has an interest in us dealing with each other fairly. Let’s look further.

Deuteronomy—another Old Testament legal ethics book—reminds the Jews, “Meddle not with them; for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given mount Seir unto Esau for a possession. Ye shall buy meat of them for money, that ye may eat; and ye shall also buy water of them for money, that ye may drink.”

There are a couple of solid principles here: 1) God recognizes the private ownership of land and  property and 2) expects the Jews to not only purchase from one another, but to do so honestly.  In other words, you do not overcharge a patron for something based on the urgency or importance of the item.  You do not charge a starving man twice as much for food because he is desperate; there is an expectation of responsible ownership and charity.  It peeves me that government places such high tax on gasoline because they know the citizens will pay it, or the taxation of food.  Government has no business making itself a 3rd person in what should be a two-person transaction.  Government did not produce the food and will not consume the food.  Thus, what is government’s interest in that free market exchange of goods between consenting parties?

Government Interest

Let us be cautious about believing what we are told, especially those things that are meant to play on our emotions.  Look at the following example:

“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein” (John 12:6-7).

The ointment was Mary’s to give and the Lord’s to receive.  Judas, feigning concern for the greater good, demands to know why he was not given the ointment to sell and distribute as he saw fit.  His concern was not noble, it was theft.  That is a valuable example to follow when we listen to our elected officials.  Begin to ask yourselves if government’s interest in your earnings is more about what is “in their bag,” and how they can redistribute it to solidify their power,then it is about concern for their constituents. It will change the way you view government, I promise you.

(C) 2018. All rights reserved

Posted in Justice Studies, Leadership

Servant Leadership in a Servant’s Profession: Guidelines for Today’s Criminal Justice Leaders


The prevailing approach to organizational management has been understood as a vertical, top-down, hierarchal, authoritarian philosophy. Managers have been expected to control subordinates—in the office, the factory, shop, or government agency—autocratically giving orders and demanding obedience. Subordinates are expected to comply, if only out of fear of reprisal, without question. Leadership asserts authority and control, not service. More recent academic leadership study pursuits, profitably, have revealed what most employees already knew: there are more effective and productive ways of leading people.

With this greater understanding of leadership theories, organizations need to understand and adopt these theories; their employees have progressed. Employees today want to be asked, not ordered; they want respect, not scorn; they want control over their duties, not be programmed automatons; they want to grow as people, not be impersonal conduits to inflate the egos of self-absorbed managers.

In short, they want a sense of accomplishment and appreciation for what they do. Leadership, the modern employees asserts, is not abusive, contrived, Machiavellian, or deceitful.  It is respectful of their needs and desires to grow as people. The concerned and perceptive leader recognizes these needs and desires, harnessing and utilizing them for the betterment of the organization and the individual.

This philosophy of management is called “servant leadership” and it is what is necessary to meet the demands of today’s employee. Servants serve others; thus, servant leaders make their personal aspirations, interests, and needs subservient to those they lead in accomplishing a common goal. As leaders servants demonstrate the deepest concern for followers, placing the collective needs of the community (whether their neighborhood, workplace organization, or families) ahead of their own. The relationships that are encouraged by this approach—and the trust that it builds—leads subordinates to follow along willingly; they will not need to be goaded into compliance. Servant leadership assumes the best of subordinates and seeks to reinforce that assumption with service.

This type of leadership finds it roots in the biblical record—though it is evident in other non-biblical traditions—with the expectation that followers emulate the behavior in deference to the God who expects it. Historically, servant-leadership has been deeply embedded in American culture, via our Judeo-Christian societal foundations and is deeply connected to our collective sense of community. It offers a sharp contrast to “Machiavellian” leadership approaches—which is utilized by most autocratic and political rulers—and finds its bedrock in the example of Jesus of Nazareth, who exemplified servitude in his selfless example, public ministry, and private mentoring.

Servant leadership helps form and encourage a mutual dependence—a symbiotic relationship—with its adherents. It recognizes that different individuals in their community groups offer a variety of contributions—not all contribute the same way—that help strengthen their shared groups, while also growing personally. Understanding this mutual dependence—and by allowing servant leaders to focus on it—is the best way to effect group change for the benefit of an organization and the individual.

Because servant leaders have an unyielding passion to not only take on the role of a servant, but also the nature of a servant, this concept of community relationships has relevance to the workplace; servant leadership traits impact workplace relationships and workplace performance. Servant leadership has a dual role: serve the organization by serving the people who serve the organization. If the goal of an organization is dedicated and committed performance, understanding servant leadership is imperative.

A true servant leader wants first to serve and then lead. In taking on the role of a servant, the servant-leader knows that the empowerment of individuals in their charge must be the primary goal, with autocratic oversight something to be avoided. Servant leaders seek to unite, not divide; they are persuaders, not dictators. They walk among their people and share their burden; they are not separate from them. Servant leaders do not have huge egos and they gain their adherents by being supportive partners, not domineering tyrants. The following five traits encapsulate servant leaders (SL):

  • Trait one—Guidance. SL must be guides. Guidance is recognized by many as the heart of servant leadership. They are the “coaches,” who take the extra time to mold and shape the character of their followers. Indeed, they take the time to ensure that followers grow in their abilities and strive to achieve their God-given potential. “Where no counsel is the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14 KJV).
  • Trait two–Listening. SL are good communicators. To be a good communicator, you must first be a good listener. Good leaders respond to problems by listening first, then acting on the information to arrive at the best solution. Being a good listener also implies accessibility and approachability. Beyond being accessible/approachable, SL must actively solicit feedback and accept the “tribal knowledge” of the workplace as a useful management tool. By using the “Law of Problem Solving,” SL deal with situations and find answers. “Without counsel purposes are disappointed; but in the multitude of counselors they are established” (Proverbs 15:22 KJV).
  • Trait three—Fairness. SL empathize with subordinates and accept them for who they are. They do not apply a standard to subordinates they find unfair if applied to themselves. Though an organization’s first concern may be monetary, it should not be at the expense of doing what is right. “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right” (Proverbs 16:8).
  • Trait four—Goal oriented and qualified. SL do not just set goals. They are also qualified to reach them. A ship’s captain knows that anyone can steer the ship, but it takes special knowledge to chart the course. It is not enough to know where you are going, it is also important to know how to get there. They recognize the values, beliefs, and mission of the organization and break it down into small attainable goals, while inspiring the big picture. Further, they are not afraid to delegate authority in achieving that vision. “And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens” (Exodus 18:25 KJV).
  • Trait five—Persuasive. “A prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor” (Proverbs 28:16, KJV). SL persuade, they do not dictate. Followers respond must more favorably to be being asked, not commanded. Dictatorial leadership practices are humiliating and breed resentment. Leaders who use these practices de-value subordinates and suppress their productivity.

Criminal justice leadership is neglected as a topic of study. However, since organizational success is directly linked to effective leadership, criminal justice organizations must apply successful leadership models. Servant leadership is sometimes called ‘supportive’ or ‘participatory’ leadership—though the characteristics are very similar, if not the same. Thus, these leaders also can be properly called servant leaders.

Surveys conducted from within the criminal justice field indicate that a stronger servant approach is desired, but the method of incorporating it within a criminal justice organization meets some obstacles. With the criminal justice profession focused mostly on managing organizations, rather than leading them, it can be difficult to cultivate an environment that is truly leadership—let alone servant leadership—focused.

Education and training can play a central role in expanding an organization’s view of leadership. Examining and embracing current scholarship can help determine the direction of leadership approaches and developing the leaders necessary to implement them successfully in criminal justice organizations. Since leadership is seen as central to the effective delivery of criminal justice and similar to developing citizenship skills which manifests as loyalty, encouraging and rewarding education should be seen as essential to efforts to develop new leadership initiatives. Thus, there must be an emphasis on training. Academic preparation is a resource that criminal justice leaders cannot afford to ignore if they want to improve leadership skills in an ever-changing environment with ever-increasing responsibilities.

It is generally accepted that success in criminal justice organizations requires informed leadership approaches. Administrators must create an environment where employees are excited to come to work and feel good about their contributions to the organizations goals. For some, the chief advantage to applying servant leadership principles in a criminal justice organization is its commitment to developing employees who, in turn, improve the performance of the organization through increased allegiance. For others, the servant leadership paradigm fills the void of morality that some suggest exists in other leadership paradigms.

What are the benefits offered by servant leadership approaches? It has been shown that culture building and empowerment has lead to greater profits due to a more customer-focused attitude. For the criminal justice organization, this means a better return on the individual taxpayer’s investment and greater satisfaction with the service provided to the community.

With the ever-increasing strain on law enforcement resources, especially since 9/11, criminal justice organizations are being asked to do more with less. Increasing the proficiency of personnel by applying leadership models that inspire productivity would seem an inexpensive way to stretch resources and satisfy the community at large; leadership must extend beyond the four walls of the organization. Criminal justice agencies need to recognize the need reinforce trust with their communities via leadership and they can do this by examining and adopting leadership approaches that encourage more responsible stewardship of human resources.

The benefits of servant leadership are not limited to fiduciary benefits; it also encourages growth and mutual respect. Within the organization itself, the servant leadership model has demonstrated the potential to reshape the often adversarial relationship that exists between union and management—the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality that serves primarily selfish interests.

The emphasis on the common good and human aspects of the organization can re-build bridges of trust that may have been eroded or build one in workplaces where they may have been non-existent. The trust that such leadership promotes spurs greater productivity and innovation for the benefit of all stakeholders.

A public service organization—such as a criminal justice organization—should make every attempt to provide its service according to the expectations of the public it serves, within the constraints of the budget it provides. Servant leadership has been shown to have a positive impact on others, inspiring them to work more cohesively and efficiently, which has a direct impact on the yield of tight budgets. There is a tangible cost benefit to servant leadership philosophy.

Many criminal justice organizations lack effective leadership within their departments because they fail to identify effective leaders with servant potential. The real challenge to overcoming this is confronting the existing organizational management templates within criminal justice organizations—which may have been in place for years—and the expectations which are derived from those templates.

Leadership outcomes are a product of personality and servant leadership requires certain personality traits—namely identifying and tending to the needs of others. The prevailing management philosophies that exist in most criminal justice organizations are clearly opposed to this approach. Organizations need to evaluate why this is so. Are the lack of servant leadership approaches in criminal justice organizations related to failing to identify potential servant leaders or structural dysfunction within the organization? Some scholars suggest it is both. With that knowledge, how do criminal justice organizations overcome these obstacles to implement management practices that studies have clearly shown to be beneficial to organizational function?

Criminal justice organizations can be stubborn and resistant to change. Even though servant leadership approaches have been shown to be successful, incorporating them can face significant challenges. In the last two decades, however, with the growing body of literature on the subject attesting to its success, servant leadership philosophy is gaining traction in criminal justice organizations and being incorporated on a larger scale, overcoming the resistance of long-entrenched management practices.

For new ideas of leadership to supplant the old ones, however, leaders must lead the way. Chief Burtell Jefferson, of Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) serves as an excellent example of “servant leader.” Jefferson ascended the ranks in the MPD, a department that was largely divided along racial lines, over a period of thirty-three years (1948-1981). Awarded a Presidential Citation in 1972 for reducing crime in his district by 13%, Jefferson was promoted to deputy chief and then chief in 1977. He was a visionary from the beginning, assuming the challenge of promoting changes within the department that would lead to equality of opportunity for black officers. It is easy to see why, given the racial tension of the 60’s and 70’s, Jefferson’s task was difficult.

However, Jefferson built support for his vision through coaching, mentoring, and commitment to high quality performance. He was able to convey his virtues and values to bring out the best in others, regardless of race. Jefferson established a great deal of good will in his department by his willingness to place the health of the department ahead of his own. To apply the wisdom gleaned from Jefferson’s success, a law enforcement executive needs to accept that steadfastness is necessary, and commitment to others via a personal example is essential.

Servant leadership is a long-term approach, transformational to life and work, as Jefferson’s career demonstrates. It is not simply a management approach. It is an essence—a way of being—with the potential to create positive change in society, not just the workplace. Transforming an organization that is used to “conventional” leadership practices to one that employs “servant” leadership practices is not an easy task and will require a conscious effort to change one’s way of acting and thinking. How do criminal justice organizations begin?

The first step is inclusion—bringing the maximum number of individuals to the leadership process. The unique and collective experiences of those within the organization are an invaluable resource to aid a leader in determining what is best for the organization. The wisdom gained in one career is multiplied exponentially by the number of people involved in the process.

The second step is empowerment of individuals to reach their potential while pursuing the common good. People are imperfect creatures; inspiring them to accept new ideas while at the same time inspiring higher performance takes time. Servant leadership, however, is a shared effort; it involves a mutual relationship between the leader and his subordinates in the organization. Mentoring is the servant trait most associated with achieving this goal.

The third step is to develop an ethical culture which respects the individual. Today’s criminal justice leaders have the burden to stress and enforce ethical guidelines and adhere to them. The best way to do this is to hold a high ethical standard as a leader and demand it in those who serve the organization.

The fourth step is to reproduce leaders with the servant mindset. It is not enough to simply promote the individual who has been with the organization the longest or has the best connections with those in charge. The citizens who are served deserve better. Servanthood must be a mindset—a core principle—and made a natural expectation in the promotion process. Leadership positions are not a reward for longevity or political allegiances within a department. They are positions of public trust and should be afforded to those who can be trusted with leadership authority.

The final step is to fiercely protect the boundaries established by servant leadership practice. Once established, organizations which have embraced servant leadership principles need to diligently guard against falling back into the habits that facilitated the change in leadership philosophy. It is easy to fall back into the old habits when given a taste of success. It is imperative that leaders maintain the environment where they continue to develop subordinates, seek their input, reward the efforts, and do careful follow-up.

The benefits to the organization that incorporates servant leadership principles are evident from current leadership research. Criminal justice—as a profession—is a servant’s profession; hence the motto “Protect and Serve.” There is no better place than a criminal justice organization to embody on the inside what they are expected to do on the outside. The change, however, will be difficult. It will require the leader seeking to change an organization to show determination, courage, and the embodiment of servant leadership principles himself. As stewards of the public trust, criminal justice organizations should be expected to lead the way.

Posted in Leadership

Want a Strong Organization? Develop People!


Ronald Reagan kept a plaque on his desk in the Oval Office that read, “There is no limit to what a man may do if he does not mind who gets the credit.” What this revealed about Reagan, and a revelation that should be applied by all in leadership, is that he valued the people who were entrusted to incorporate his vision more than himself. They were not merely employees meant to cater to his every whim, but key pieces of a larger puzzle, each with his own unique contribution to make.

Reagan made a commitment to his people—to value their input and make it part of his overall vision. Good leaders share the same basic assumptions about people, their motivations, and their abilities and good leadership begins from the premise that people want to perform their jobs well and then seeks to build upon that premise. People do not need distrustful oversight to be motivated to perform well and such leadership only breeds destructive adversarial leader/follower relationships. How can leaders develop positive relationships with followers, relationships that enhance—rather than hinder—organizational performance?

The first basic assumption is to realize the need people have to feel wanted. No one wants to feel like they are simply a body completing a checklist of duties provided by a task master. More importantly they do not want to feel like they are expendable at any time, only to be replaced by some other “galley slave” at the whim of an unappreciative leader. People want to know that their individual efforts are noticed, valued, and considered an integral part of the organizational mission—whatever that is. People want more than just a paycheck. They want significance in their lives, significance that gives them good reason to get up and go to work every morning. Making people feel their contributions are important and appreciated fulfills that need and makes them feel valued.

The second assumption is that encouraging people in their job performance goes hand in hand with making them feel valued. Very little is gained by providing only negative feedback. An illustration will serve to emphasize what I mean. It was once suggested to a supervisor of mine that a co-worker get a letter of recognition for his performance during a particularly difficult police call. His performance of his duties went above and beyond his job description and lives were saved because of it. The supervisor responded flatly, “I don’t give letters of recognition to people for doing their job, that’s what they are paid to do.” However, this same supervisor was quick to issue letters of admonition for simple mistakes made on the job, even mistakes made in good faith. What did this accomplish? It created an atmosphere where subordinates spent the majority of their energy trying to avoid mistakes, rather than performing well. The “perform well or else” approach produced mediocre work—work that was just good enough to avoid negative attention, yet did not come close to reflecting the employees best ability.

This leadership style may result in “obedience” but it does not establish positive relationships. Seeking only to criticize an employee, but never to praise them, will never earn a leader respect, only resentment. Obedience is not respect. Respect for authority is something a leader must earn by making a personal investment in personnel—to develop them, to lead them, and to respect their contributions. This investment in personnel earns the loyalty of followers, followers who will work hard for the leader toward organizational success.

Thirdly, success is a process that must be taught—and learned. Many leaders project the attitude that they have always been successful, giving the impression to subordinates that their leaders cannot relate to the “little guy” who makes the organization work or know how he is affected by the decisions the leadership makes. If a leader can demonstrate that his success comes from the lessons he learned from failure, and that his organizational decisions are made with this in mind, he will show that he is committed to helping subordinates learn and grow from their mistakes. This will develop a dedicated and motivated workforce that knows the leadership is committed to developing them as people and increasing their value within the organization. They know they can be successful working hard, not just producing mediocrity.

People are naturally motivated; leaders just need to ensure that the motivation given them is positive motivation. Like my aforementioned example, do we want to motivate people with the threat of a reprimand or with rewards and praise for good work? What motivates us? Positive motivation inspires people to contribute to the goals of the organization, not simply to avoid doing poorly. Effective leaders reinforce the one while discouraging the other. We do not want people striving for mediocrity; we want people dissatisfied with mediocrity. This should serve to encourage subordinates to introduce positive changes with the encouragement of their leaders, especially changes that will benefit the organization and increase its productivity and morale.

With knowing how to motivate people, leaders should also know the contrary, what discourages or, put another way, what de-motivates people. People are discouraged by negative motivation. Openly criticizing performance shows a leader who is not interested in building people up, but in tearing them down. The same can be said for manipulating people. Manipulating people erodes trust in leadership and reveals someone who sees their subordinates as pawns on his personal chess board, to be used for his own ends. Leaders should take the time to get to know their people and become sensitive to their needs. Subordinates need personal fulfillment and growth. Leaders must recognize and encourage this growth, because it provides a tangible benefit to any organization.

It is vital that leaders understand that an organization’s most valuable asset is its personnel. If an organization is going to be successful it must stress the development of this asset and commit to the time it will take. If the leadership of an organization is self-serving and interested only in personal accolades, it will not work to develop this asset. Thus, the productivity of the organization will suffer—because no individual leader can do it all. In applying these principles leaders will begin to bridge the great gulf that prevents them from creating allies instead of adversaries. Leaders who do not apply these principles, and tend to manage from the premise that subordinates are lazy and disposable, destroy this potential. By seeing the organization as the “little guy” sees it, the leadership demonstrates that they care for their people as much as they care for themselves. That is a noble and worthy goal to achieve in any organization.