Printed on: Jan 17, 2021
The Competencies included in this module focus on the creation of a strategic vision for the court. To perform this function, the court leader must demonstrate creativity, stamina, drive, conceptual and analytical skills and the ability to execute. These traits position the court leader to work with judicial officers and other system leaders as part of a leadership team, to assess and respond to trends and to promote overall court capacity.
Effective court managers/leaders create, implement, and nurture a clear and compelling vision for the court, bringing a strategic perspective to their work, while staying attuned to daily operations. The combination of leadership and proactive management enable the court to fulfill the public’s trust in the judiciary through service and adherence to the rule of law. The effective court leader is ultimately measured by the judiciary’s performance in the key areas procedural due process, the protection of rights, transparency, accessibility, the stewardship of scarce resources, and the achievement of timely justice in individual cases. Effective court leadership delivers on these promises through a well-defined and fully operational governance structure.
This Competency focuses on the traits and behaviors effective court managers/leaders should demonstrate. At their core, great leaders “turn ideas into reality and sustain them over time, independent of the leader.” Thus, great leaders exhibit behaviors that require skills described in detail in the other Core Competencies. Leaders are optimistic, positive change agents who focus on important strategic goals. “…Leadership exists, when one or more persons engage others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality.” Leaders are also visible, approachable, and model behavior courts need inside and outside of the organization. Court leaders, both judges and court executives, can achieve this result by working effectively in judicial executive teams.
A sound governance structure establishes the legitimate authority for leadership to bring into action what needs to be accomplished and for the further development of trust between a central office and autonomous work units. The governance structure needs to be clearly articulated so there is no confusion as to who has the responsibility and authority to lead. This is particularly important since the judicial branch works from a position of interdependence with others.
 Link to Purposes and Responsibilities
 Link to Maintaining an Effective Court Governance Structure
 Cite to Warren Bennis
 James MacGregor Burns in Leadership
 See also Maintaining an Effective Court Governance Structure
 Link to Ibid.
 A Case for Court Governance Principles (p.3)
Regardless of the context in which a court operates, court managers who also provide proactive leadership for the court, should be able to:
Court managers who are also proactive leaders in their courts must draw upon a variety of competencies, which they will likely develop over time as their experience and perspective mature. Paramount among these are:
 See Creating a Strategic Vision for the Court
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:
One of the more challenging responsibilities of a court leader is developing and maintaining an effective governance structure for the court. The governance structure provides the framework for the court leader to manage court operations with consistency and predictability, by providing the guidance and policies for both day-to-day operations and long-term decisions. A well-developed and effective governance structure should include a set of rules and responsibilities that gives individuals and/or groups of individuals in supervisory/management roles the authority to make binding decisions regarding the organization’s policies, directions and strategies. In developing an effective structure, the court leader will need to ensure that the structure:
Because there is wide variation in complexity and organizational structures among courts, developing and maintaining constructive governance mechanisms can be a daunting task for a court leader. Some states have multiple layers of courts, a variety of elected officials and short tenures for leadership judges and funding authorities at various levels. The court leader needs to be aware of and account for all of the complexity of their court when developing the governance structure. In addition, the court leader needs to ensure the structure adheres to ethical standards in all aspects of court operations.
Courts must be fair and impartial, and they must be perceived as such. The court leader’s role is to promote clearly articulated policies, procedures, responsibilities and decision making processes applicable to all aspects of court operations to foster transparency, accountability and open communication. The court leader must also work to cultivate and sustain a governance structure that promotes the principles of independence, for both the court and the individual judges deciding cases, even as they simultaneously work to advance relationships with others throughout the government and community.
Although the efforts of a court leader to promote and sustain an effective governance structure in the court will necessarily be dictated by the organizational and jurisdictional context in which he/she works, the court leader should demonstrate competency in the following areas:
© 2021 National Association for Court Management.