Friday, April 26, 2013

On Leadership


Leadership has been very much on my mind this week.

First, I attended Coro New York's annual civic leadership benefit.  Back in 1992, I spent a life-changing year as a Coro Fellow.  The experience fundamentally altered my career trajectory, introducing me to New York City, the field of criminal justice, and a number of people like John Feinblatt and Maddy Lee that would go on to have a huge influence on my life.  Just as important, Coro profoundly shaped the way that I think about the world.  In particular, it helped me to see that there are numerous ways to be an effective leader -- and that autocratic and charismatic leadership styles aren't always the best, particularly in the long run.

I think my Coro experience is one reason I have been drawn to the behind-the-scenes style of reform that Herb Sturz pioneered at the Vera Institute of Justice and that John Feinblatt embraced at the Center for Court Innovation.  Last night, I attended a small farewell gathering for one of Herb's successors, Michael Jacobson.   One of the things that I admire about both Herb and Michael and John -- and that I have tried to emulate -- is their commitment to research.

It turns out that this trait is crucial not just for non-profit management, but for the field of criminal justice in general.  We are putting the finishing touches on a national survey of criminal justice leaders, including police chiefs, elected prosecutors, corrections officials and state court chief judges and administrators.  In reviewing a draft of the study this week, one of the things that struck me is that there appears to be a strong relationship between research and innovation.  Leaders who invest in research also are more likely to rate themselves and their agencies as innovative.  

More to come on our national innovation survey in the weeks ahead...