ORG300 – Applying Leadership Principles

Colorado State University – Global Campus

One major way I am an influencer in my life is at my job at Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility. While attending the Correctional Training Academy, all new hires are taught that they are role models for the offenders and that we always need to be aware of that. As Scanlan describes in terms of leadership influence, “People around us will be built up or brought down by our words, our actions, and the impact of our decisions (Scanlan, 2006). Through my actions, my words and my attitude, I can help influence the offenders I interact with. By modelling appropriate behavior for them, it is my goal to always be a positive influence for them. Because I work with people who probably never had positive influences in their lives, I have to be sure that I am aware of what I am doing and who is watching me.

Positive Influencers

One way I can positively influence them is to build trust between them and myself. This may sound weird at first but most all offenders do not like law enforcement professionals. I am not a correctional officer and I have the luxury of not wearing a uniform that offenders have come to despise. Regardless, offenders don’t feel like they can trust anyone and that we are all just there to punish them. When I get the chance to interact with them on a more personal, yet still professional, level I am able to model for them that we all make mistakes. One way I know that I can build trust with them is to show them consistency. In no way am I making friends with, nor establishing a foundation with the offenders that could compromise myself. By maintaining consistency with everyone I interact with I build a reputation that can be relied on.

Another way that I am able to influence them is by letting them know that I choose how my day will be. I spend 5 days a week with them, and trust me, offenders notice almost everything. When I choose to show them that I am happy and content even when I’m having a hard day, they pick up on that. As a leader, it is important that I represent to them that leaders and role models don’t take their problems out on others when they are struggling; only you are in control of your emotions. If an offender is having a bad day though, there is not much that I can actually do. I lack the additional training that officers have, and I don’t work with the most stable minded of individuals. And while I may not be able to do much for them in that moment I can offer to notify someone who can handle them better than myself.

Something else that I do is I try to show them that I am listening and that I support the positive changes that they have made in their lives. Again, most of these men have never really known what it is like to have someone genuinely rooting for their success. I have seen it many times when offenders start to open up and you can see the physical difference in their actions and the growth of their confidence in themselves. Just as I would want those that I spend most of my time with to be excited or kind towards my own personal efforts and successes, it is important that I model that leadership for others as well. Every day I have to be aware of what I am doing and who is watching me; it wasn’t until I started working in prison that I started to understand just how much my actions and words can mean. The positive factors that I display all translate towards holding a more official leadership role. The growth in my leadership skills since working in prison has actually helped me gain the confidence that I needed to apply for a promotion as the warden’s assistant at another facility.

Negative Influencers

While I try to maintain a positive influence as much as possible, there are times when I need to apply different methods which can come off negatively. An example of this when offenders cross my professional line. There are things that offenders can say to me and there are things they should not say to me, so when one says something inappropriate I can “chron” it in their file. “Chron” or chronological report is how staff can track the behavior of offenders while they are incarcerated. Usually chrons are negative and the offenders know this, so when an incident happens I inform them that I will be chroning it in their file. It is not my favorite thing to do, but I do have to stay security minded before anything else. It can be very hurtful to an offender, especially when they don’t understand the full reason as to why I make those notes in their files.

Another negative influence, which is something that is beyond my power, is when there is an incident in the facility. In prison we have to execute fair punishment to all. An example of this would be when an incident starts in a cellhouse, all cellhouses have to lock down. Obviously the incident is isolated and usually contained, but all offenders, regardless of where their “home” is, have to lock down. This can put everyone in a bad mood, staff included. It can prevent staff from going home at the end of their shift or keep them locked in their respective buildings for long periods of time. This does have a negative impact on everyone. It can cause incidents to start in other parts of the facility, or discourage offenders from trying to continue to better themselves because they are being punished for something they weren’t involved in. This can be hard, so when these things happen it is always best to try and be in good spirits about it.

Lastly, there are always those offenders who want to continue their inappropriate behavior and make things harder for everyone. These offenders have no regard or concern for those incarcerated with them. They enjoy being in prison and think that they are just as powerful on the inside as they were on the outside. When offenders come to prison, to most, it is usually a huge wake up call and they actively try to change themselves and cut ties. Because there are still those who see prison as nothing more than a new place for them to live for a while, where they can continue to behave as they did before incarceration, it can be very stressful for those who want nothing more to do with that life. Sometimes they feel like they can’t escape it and give up, fall back into a former gang, join a new one, or start their own. This is probably one of the most negative influences that offenders encounter in prison.

In conclusion, modeling positive leadership styles to offenders can be very tricky at times, but I do believe that it is critical to continue to be a positive influence and show the offenders that it is never too late to be the person you could have been. The three ways that I show the offenders that I can be a positive influence to them is by building trust with them, showing them that happiness is an option, and by showing them that the world has not completely given up on them. This isn’t always easy working in prison but the more I continue to demonstrate these actions the more I can prove to the offenders that not everything is against them. The positive leadership characteristics that I share with others are crucial in how I influence those around me.


Scanlan, L. (2006). Leadership = Influence. Healthcare Financial Management,60(3), 98-99. Retrieved October 11, 2019.

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