The pursuit of justice is a wide-ranging field with many challenging and rewarding careers. While a criminal justice program can teach the theory and practice of the justice system, it takes a special personality to be a leader in this field. Whether you are in law enforcement or the court system, it is important to understand the leadership skills needed in criminal justice.
Skill #1: Situational Awareness
Law enforcement officials come up against many unexpected situations. A strong leader is not surprised when dealing with a problem that was not covered in a criminology class. You must be able to step back from a stressful situation and analyze what is happening. This allows you to respond to the unexpected in a strategic way, rather than reacting and putting people into unnecessary danger. A wise strategy is necessary whether you are interviewing a suspect, analyzing the evidence or preparing a court case.
Skill #2: Team Management and Organization
Leaders in the field of criminal justice understand the value of teamwork. Once you have a strategy in place for dealing with a situation, you need to know what tasks need to be completed and who are the best team members to complete them. Part of effective team management is the ability to know the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals on your team. You want to have a sense of how people deal with stress and how they adapt to new ideas. When your team members know you understand them, they will know that your decisions are not random. They can trust that you have their best interests in mind.
Skill #3: Trust and Relationship Building
Law enforcement officers must be able to rely on and trust one another. In some situations, there is not a second chance for a mistake. As a leader, you want to help your team trust one another. This will help them make faster decisions in the field. Cultivating relationships is also critical for law enforcement officers working with the public. When people trust their law enforcement officials, they are more likely to share information and work in cooperation with the police. This kind of trust leads to lower levels of crime.
Skill #4: Active Listening
An important part of leadership is listening to the people on your team. In the justice system, there are many people with specific roles, skills, and knowledge. You cannot form an effective plan if you do not know all the details. Each team member will approach an unusual situation from a different point of view. Their input will help you make a better plan. When people feel heard, they are also more likely to trust you and come to you with ideas and information. If people feel ignored, they will be less likely to share their ideas or may go around your back to share them with a superior.
Skill #5: Delegation
As a leader in the criminal justice system, you will quickly discover you cannot do everything. Trying to fix every problem or perform every task undermines the talent and abilities of your team, as well as leading to burnout. When you know and trust your team members, you will be able to assign them tasks that are meaningful and important. If you have established yourself as a strong leader, your team members will also be willing to handle less appealing work out of respect for you and loyalty to the team and its mission.
Skill #6: Conflict Resolution
Conflict resolution skills are critical in criminal justice. In terms of team management, differing points of view will inevitably lead to disagreements. A wise leader can use conflict productively, helping people reach solutions that make the team stronger. In the field, the ability to deescalate conflict can be a matter of life and death. When you can keep your cool in stressful situations, it will help the other people around you calm down. This can minimize the threat of violence and help maintain strong relations with the community.
Criminal Justice Program at Florida National University
If you are considering a career in criminal justice or law enforcement, Florida National University can help you get started. Our Bachelor of Science and Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice programs will give you the background education you need as well as helping you learn the leadership skills needed in criminal justice. To learn more about the programs at FNU Florida National University, contact us to request information or call us at 305-821-3333.