8 skills of successful correctional officers

Here are some top leadership traits that will carry us far in our profession


This article, originally published July 21, 2015, has been updated with correct information.

As correctional officers, we owe it to ourselves and our partners to strive for quality leadership in our chosen profession. With good leadership brings camaraderie, the ability to work well with our coworkers and successfully managing inmates.

Successful correctional officers carry certain traits that allow them to be who they are and how they do their job whether innate or learned. Here are some top leadership traits that will carry us far in our profession:

Corrections officers wait for the start of a news conference in an enhanced supervision housing unit on Rikers Island in New York, Thursday, March 12, 2015. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Corrections officers wait for the start of a news conference in an enhanced supervision housing unit on Rikers Island in New York, Thursday, March 12, 2015. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Excellent Communication Skills: It’s no secret communication is key to successfully doing this job. Learn how to communicate effectively and learn to write reports that are clear and concise and record documentation in an appropriate manner. Communicate with your peers, whether good or bad in nature, and do so directly but diplomatically.

Teamwork Promoter: Working together and supporting co-workers will always go further than the success of one working solely. We are in this job together. Morale improves with camaraderie and teamwork.

Possess Practical Problem Solving Techniques: Good correctional officers are compelled to evaluate what is happening, assess the situation and determine the correct strategy towards a viable resolution.

Decisiveness: Successful correctional officers need to have the ability to handle uncertainty, the ability to process information quickly, the ability to weigh evidence with intuition and take action in a timely manner.

Resilience: Learn from mistakes, setbacks, or failure and use as a stepping stone to learn. The ability to effectively cope through losing or failing only strengthens a leader and allows them to bounce back more efficiently over time. Failure serves as a great lesson in life and on the job.

Selflessness: Put the needs and interests of others before your own self-interest. Do not be a leader out of ego, for the use of your power or authority but instead to successfully manage your environment. When a leader asks someone to do something, that person knows that what is being asked is for the larger good.

Practice Open-Mindedness: Correctional officers need to have a flexible and fluid mindset to adapt to changes and new challenges, which is fostered by being open to new perspectives and ways of doing things. We have to adapt almost daily to new situations.

Be Dedicated: By proving your commitment to your role, you will not only earn the respect of your team, but will also instill that same hardworking energy among your co-workers to be leaders. Work hard every day to halt inmates’ criminal behavior, keep the facility and staff safe and leave at the end of your shift knowing you did the best you could.

We are serving our life sentences. We spend more time at work than at home. We are there for a reason. Why not work as hard as we can, as best as we can? Why not fight for what is right and for what we believe in? Why not fight the contagiousness of negativity and lead by example using positivity? Why not work hard and be proud of being the type of leader we signed up to be? This is what separates us from mediocrity and keeps things fresh in our task-oriented world.

It's about our survival, both physical and mental. Be the best correctional officer you can be!

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