Leader/Follower Relations within the Juvenile Justice System

Due to COVID-19, I was unfortunately unable to complete my planned internship this summer. As upsetting as this was, my lack of an internship experience this summer actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. After graduation, I am planning on going to graduate school to further continue my academic studies and increase my career options. At the beginning of the summer, I was unsure of what my next steps were, what degree I wanted to achieve, and what field I wanted to go into. I also had to study for the Graduate Record Examinations, or the GRE, as it is a required test for most graduate school programs. Pursuing the alternative experience through Jepson allowed me to intensely focus on studying for this examination and also to figure out which graduate school program would be a good fit for me. This summer, I interviewed six individuals all involved in some way with juvenile justice or child psychology. My interviewees included four social workers, one counselor, and one psychologist. 

Given the nature of the population my interviewees work with, it was extremely interesting to hear how they describe the leader/follower relationships within their fields. In terms of how work is directed, all six interviewees claimed that their field of work is extremely autonomous and self-directed. Trude Arnette, who received her Master in Social Work, is an Attorney Assistant which is a position she created for herself twenty-two years ago. In this position, she is able to work on both the administrative and individualistic sides of the Juvenile Justice Committee. Because she created her own position, all of her work is self-directed which she states is the best part about her job. Trude’s day to day work structure is extremely variable. She is able to sit on various committees, attend meetings about funding and juvenile justice, act as a liaison for the Juvenile Justice Committee and connect with children in the system directly to ensure any issues are dealt with. While the autonomous nature of her job enables her to be in a very flexible position within her organization, one challenge of this is that there is not much ability for career growth, as her job was created and there are no standardized procedures for advancement. 

Another aspect of leader/follower dynamics my Jepson classes have discussed is the leadership styles of individuals at various levels of an organization. Although she does not have a direct supervisor, she states she has experienced many different leadership styles through the many different bosses she has had within the past 20 years. She states that her least favorite bosses led with laissez faire styles or were micromanagers. While these two styles are at opposite ends of the spectrum, both come with challenges. In her position, having a boss who does not get involved with his employees or interfere in their work structure is extremely difficult because her job is already very autonomous and without some sort of guidance from a leader, she is unable to figure out where she needs to improve and what areas she is strong in. At the other end of the spectrum, leaders who are overbearing in supervision stands in complete contrast to what Trude enjoys the most about her job. Her current boss leads with a more balanced approach. He is a man of the people, asking his employees how they are doing and wants a genuine answer in return. Trude added that this boss does not expect his followers to do anything that he would not do. Overall, my interview with Trude provided an interesting perspective on leader/follower relations in the Juvenile Justice System.