Leadership Series Addresses Challenges in the Forensics Field

Some people say that there are leaders, and there are followers. But according to the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE) Leadership Series, everyone’s a leader.

Visit here, which provides an overview of and access to the 12-module series, and in addition to learning that “every forensic scientist is a leader,” you’ll be able to watch a promotional video, read about the philosophy behind the series, and gain access to the modules themselves, instructor bios and additional resources.

Developed to complement the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) Leadership Academy, the FTCoE Leadership Series introduces leadership concepts to the forensic scientist. John Morgan, FTCoE director, explains forensic scientists often receive promotions due to their excellent technical skills, but seldom receive management training. The result is placement in supervisory positions where they face operational challenges for which they have not been trained. The self-paced, stand-alone modules provide introductory-level information on a variety of topics, specifically from the viewpoint of a forensic scientist.

computer and microscope

“A lot of leadership training is very broad. You could take it and then go to work anywhere from a restaurant to a government agency,” Morgan says. “We felt it was important to develop something that spoke to forensic scientists and the specific challenges they face.”

In order to decide what those specific topics would be, the FTCoE worked directly with leaders in the forensic lab community, five of whom serve as instructors for the series. The topics selected for the series were the consensus choice from these experts, and the FTCoE adapted the materials from relevant content originally developed for law enforcement use.

“The Leadership Series addresses emotional intelligence, communications and other topics not addressed in depth by the ASCLD academy, which focuses more on operational aspects related to forensic science. The two can work together to give someone a solid grounding,” Morgan says. “In fact, many of the topics are of relevance to the bench scientist as well as managers and supervisors.”

The 12 topics in which participants get a solid grounding are as follow:

  • Generations: Addresses the differences among various age cohorts in the workplace and how they relate to work expectations, attitudes toward authority, loyalty and more.
  • Cultural Diversity: Looks at how different cultures, traditions and races have widely varying ways of looking at the world, and this diversity can be used to challenge assumptions and promote professional growth.
  • Personal Leadership: Gives perspective on what kind of leader to strive to be and provides examples of strong leadership traits.
  • Moral Compass: To be worthy of the trust placed in them by the community, forensic scientists must strive to serve their communities through the equitable administration of justice. Provides a comprehensive summary of the book “Moral Compass for Law Enforcement Professionals.”
  • Leadership and Ethics: Covers how to approach ethical problems in the forensic laboratory, including historical and hypothetical examples.
  • Leadership and Change: Forensic laboratories resist change for many reasons, including a reluctance to bring new ideas or techniques into practice that might lead to mistakes. Gives perspective on how change can benefit organizations and also cautions against making changes just for the sake of change.
  • Leadership Principles and Concepts: Covers the foundation of what leadership means, what is expected of a leader, types of leaders and how a leader influences others.
  • Leadership and Power: Explains power may derive from a position held or from knowledge and skills. Be aware of the sources of power in a situation so that you can use them wisely to promote a positive work environment.
  • Leadership Theories and DiSC: Gives a clear distinction between leading and managing, as well as introducing the DiSC Profile Behavior Pattern Assessment.
  • First Line & Mid Level Supervisor: Looks at the transitional challenges often faced by first-line supervisors in the forensic laboratory as they take on their new roles and responsibilities.
  • Founding Fathers: Examines the challenges that the American founding fathers faced as they began the process of establishing a new government and the teamwork they displayed in order to accomplish their goals in very trying times.
  • Emotional Intelligence: The forensic laboratory is a human organization with relationships and emotions and the joys and frustrations of managing people. Explains how emotional intelligence helps with navigating those relationships and emotions.

“The modules are not just one big webinar broken down into parts. Each module stands on its own and should take 45 minutes to an hour to complete,” Morgan says. “We issue a certificate of completion of any module an individual completes, which they may be able to use to meet their organization’s training requirements. We encourage people to take all 12 modules, but if some are of more interest than others, that’s okay too.”

In addition, the FTCoE produced a special season of its “Just Science” podcast series to complement the materials, “Just So You Know: Leadership Series”:

  • Special Release Season: Just Guidance Leadership
  • Special Release Season: Just Motivational Leadership
  • Special Release Season: Just Strategic Leadership
  • Special Release Season: Just Servant Leadership

And that statement on the website that every forensic scientist is a leader?

“Every scientist is a leader who makes very important decisions related to criminal justice. It’s important for all forensic scientists to recognize that they are in a unique position of trust,” Morgan says. “Forensic science is the one place in the criminal justice system where professionals are trusted to make objective assessments based on the evidence at hand, all the time. That’s a critical part of the leadership series and an important concept to impress on every forensic scientist.”

For more information on the programs of the FTCoE, contact Dr. John Morgan at jmorgan@rti.org. For more information on forensics programs of the National Institute of Justice, contact Gerald LaPorte, Director, Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences, at Gerald.LaPorte@usdoj.gov.

Article photo: Kite_rin/Shutterstock.com