A court leader often provides leadership for the court. In doing so, the court leader should develop and promote a strategic vision for the organization by establishing a strategic course for an organization, communicating that direction to internal and external stakeholders and engaging them to work collaboratively toward achieving the organization's mission.


The court leader not only manages the court but also must provide “leadership.” Whereas management is primarily about directing how the organization accomplishes its mission, leadership is about establishing a strategic course for an organization, communicating that direction to internal and external stakeholders and engaging them to work collaboratively toward achieving the organization’s mission. Effective court leadership is exemplified through strategic thinking, planning and action–all of which are critical components for the creation of a vision and plan to lead the court.

To fulfill this role, the court leader needs to focus on creating and sustaining a strategic vision for the court. This requires the court leader to demonstrate creativity, stamina, drive, conceptual and analytic skills as well as the ability to execute. A court leader who is competent in these areas is well-position to work as a leadership partner with judicial officers, to assess and respond to trends, to promote overall court capacity, and to guide the court in achieving its mission.


Court leaders who play a role in creating a strategic vision for the courts they serve should work, to the extent feasible, be able to competently:

  • Create a Strategic Orientation — The manager/leader must be able to create and use a strategic plan as a critical tool to guide the court in planning for and implementing the capabilities needed for the future. This orientation requires the development of long-term goals and objectives as well as short-term and intermediate standards. The court leader should have a commitment to the future of the organization, rather than merely the daily routine, particularly given the relatively short terms for many chief or presiding judges. The court leader must also serve as an agent for change, guiding the court to plan for the future based on critical analysis of current data and trends.
  • Use a System Wide Outlook — The court leader must think in terms of the court system, not one particular aspect of it. The strategic plan and vision for the court needs to take into account the interdependencies and complexities that impact the court in terms of demographics, crime trends, fiscal and other realities and related factors. The court leader must also demonstrate skill in incorporating the court’s planning and vision into the broader context in which the court functions.
  • Serve as a Consensus Builder and Collaborator — The court leader needs to be able to develop and build group consensus, inspire trust, and generate support from all justice system participants.  Also, the court leaders should develop plans that can be implemented through consensus and foster a shared vision for the future.
  • Be an Innovator and Risk Taker — Creating a vision for the future requires the court leader to attempt new initiatives, including those that test new ideas and theories.
  • Create a culture in the court that values critical thinking and planning.
  • Institutionalize a strategic planning process that is ongoing, revisited with regularity and monitored on a periodic basis, taking into account major trends affecting society and the courts.
  • Communicate and Educate – Use orientation and continuing judicial branch education to communicate, educate and thus advance the values and vision of the court.
  • Ensure that leadership and management actions are adjusted as necessary with the court’s strategic vision and plan, ensuring successful execution and follow-through on strategic priorities.
  • Maintain a local justice-planning network with continuous and effective working relationships with all justice system stakeholders.