President’s Message

Transformational Court Leadership and Employee Job Satisfaction

As court managers we are individuals with distinct leadership styles. While I do not profess that any style is better than another, I am convinced that transformational leadership is a style that can transcend our profession. Court managers provide a wide array of leadership guidance, governance, and personnel management services in the courts. We interact and depend on several internal offices and external agencies to assist with the administration of justice. These relationships are critical to the overall effectiveness of court operations led by court managers. Leadership can be viewed as a mutual development between those who desire to lead and those who elect to follow. Transformational leaders motivate others to do more than they originally intended and often even more than they thought possible (Bass and Riggio, 2005).

We are facing the evolution of new technologies that are changing the way courts operate. There is more public use of court services. New specialty courts such as drug/DUI, veterans, parental, and child support courts are being created rapidly to address specific problem populations to reduce caseloads. This requires a motivated staff to embrace the technology while also accepting the responsibility of becoming trained and retaining knowledge of the technology and these new court programs. The court manager must facilitate such change through an effective leadership style. Our position as strategic leaders in the organization provides them a more accurate perspective that will allow them to view the change in culture, as well as determine what aspects should be retained and what needs to be transformed. Court administration has emerged as a global profession that is seen as critical in the successful development of courts and the promotion of the rule of law (Buenger, 2011). “In spite of the philosophically aggregate nature of judicial power when it comes to cases, the administration of the system is highly fragmented, diverse, and compartmentalized” (Buenger, 2011: 131). Courts with competent leaders and well-trained staff are not only essential to the administration of justice, but are figures of fairness throughout the community.

Job satisfaction is measured by how much an individual enjoys his or her work (or individuals enjoy their work). Factors that influence job satisfaction may include opportunities for advancement within the organization, work-hour flexibility, training opportunities, and leadership support. Supervisors are an important conduit of organizational influence on subordinates (Gilstrap and Collins, 2012). Leadership is essential to any organization, and courts are no exception. Previous researchers have described job satisfaction as a pleasurable experience or attitude an employee has toward, or as a result of, his or her job. Transformational leaders are those that stimulate and inspire followers to both achieve extraordinary outcomes and, in the process, develop their own leadership capacity (Bass and Riggio, 2005).

Transformational leaders motivate and promote employee self-assurance and sustain progression to higher achievement levels. Transformational leaders’ eloquent visualization for the benefit of their organizations inspires subordinates and improves emphasis on the value of variances and diversity among people.

Are you a transformational leader? How satisfied are your employees working in your court? What can you do to effectuate a culture of leadership that develops employees to grow and go in your court? This is just the beginning of a conversation on court leadership I hope to invoke to challenge and provide self-introspection of who we are as leaders in courts in all jurisdictions no matter the size and class of court.

Attending NACM conferences will assist you with CORE competencies, best practices, program development skills, resources, networking, and so much more. A premier highlight of NACM conferences is “The Doctor is In.” It offers a one-on-one opportunity with court services professionals on any desired court topic, including governance, human resources, process improvement, team building, technology, and, perhaps most importantly, leadership!

  • Bass, B. M., and R.E. Riggio (2006). Transformational Leadership, 2nd ed. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
  • Buenger, M. L. (2011). “The Need for Solid Court Leadership: Reflections on the Fourth National Symposium on Court Management.” In C. R. Flango, A. M. McDowell, C. F. Campbell, and N. B. Kauder (eds.), Future Trends in State Courts 2011, pp.130-34. Williamsburg, VA: National Center for State Courts.
  • Gilstrap, J. B., and B. J. Collins (2012). “The Importance of Being Trustworthy: Trust as a Mediator of the Relationship Between Leader Behaviors and Employee Job Satisfaction.” 19 Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies 152.