The relevance of transformational approaches to leadership roles in United Nations Standing Police Capacity (SPC), Police Division (PD) of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO)


‘Critically evaluate the extent to which transformational approaches are relevant to leadership roles in your organization”

The chosen organization is the United Nations Standing Police Capacity (SPC), Police Division (PD) of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).

Its a master’s level assignment for a UK university. Word count is between 3500 and 4000.


Student’s Name:

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Introduction. 2

The growing role of transformational leadership approaches in UN post-conflict policing. 3

Role of transformational leadership in changing the organizational culture at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). 6

Transformational leadership approaches in the DPKO: the context of Peace Support Operational (PSO) environment  8

The establishment of an ethical climate. 10

Conclusion. 12

References. 14


Transformational approaches facilitate the development of a vision, a clear view of the future and the ability to excite and convert many potential followers. Transformational leaders tend to have a clear vision of how their organizations should be like in the future. However, being transformational entails more than just having a vision. It also entails the ability to sell their vision constantly. They need to have the energy and commitment to selling this vision to all their followers as well as potential followers. Transformational leaders make use of every opportunity they get in order to convince other people to join the bandwagon.

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In efforts to create followers within an organization, a transformational leader must be careful in building trust, and his personal integrity is a critical element of the whole package that they strive to sell. In other words, they have to sell themselves as well as the vision that they stand for (Bass1998, p. 65).

            Transformational leadership roles take many forms. Some transformational leaders know the way forward and simply want other people to follow them. Others have no clear strategy but are more than willing to lead the way towards an exploration of various possible routes that may lead to the promised land.

            Transformational leadership approaches are in use in many organizations today. One of these organizations is the Police Division (PD) of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), which operates within the United Nations Standing Police Capacity (SPC). The proposal for the creation of the SPC was first made in 2004, and the suggested capacity was between 50 and 100 officers. In 2006, the UN member states approved the initial operational capability of only 25 professional police officers. The SPC became operational in 2007.

            The various activities in which the SPC has engaged since 2007 provide many opportunities for transformational leaders to prove their skills and to steer the organization towards outstanding achievements. For instance, in November 2007, the SPC was instrumental in the establishment of the UN Police component in Chad and the Central African Republic. The deployment of Standing Police Capacity officers in Chad took place between November 2007 and August 2008. The unit had a complete police command structure, many frameworks of cooperation with both local and international counterparts, and detailed infrastructural and logistical arrangements. The mission had even clearly drafted mission-specific guidelines to guide the operations of the UN Police in Chad and the Central African Republic.

This paper assesses the relevance of transformational approaches that are used in leadership roles within the United Nations Standing Police Capacity (SPC), Police Division (PD) of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).

The growing role of transformational leadership approaches in UN post-conflict policing

The demand for police to offer services in areas where UN peacekeepers are operating continues to increase. The unprecedented increase in the number of peacekeeping operations today makes the demand for these professionals to become extraordinarily high. This creates many opportunities for transformational leaders within the rank and file of the UN to find areas where they can put their leadership skills into practice.

The UN increased the deployment of police from 2% of its peacekeeping forces in early 2005 to more than 12% in 2007 (United Nations, 2008, p. 113). Additionally, the mandates for various UN missions have continued to expand dramatically, whereby greater attention is being put on the police and activities relating to maintenance of the rule of law (United Nations, 2008, p. 116). This trend is a reflection of the fact that need to combat public lawlessness, establish public security, and support the rule of law in all post-conflict societies is being appreciated. The task of achieving these goals calls for an ambitious approach, and nothing short of transformational leadership approaches can facilitate the achievement of these goals.

The transformational approaches that are being used by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) bring together the best organizational leaders from various regions of the world. Moreover, the movements of the UN police officers from one conflict-zone to the other expose them to many experiences, which shape up their desire to adopt transformational leadership approaches in getting the law enforcement job done.

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Transformational leadership within the UN Police Division has been of considerable relevance since the police division switched from the position of being monitors to that of being mentors in various UN police operations. During the early 1990s, the UN police units that were deployed in peacekeeping missions in Mozambique, Cambodia, El Salvador and Namibia had limited mandates aimed at monitoring and reporting on the various activities of different local police forces (Teo 2005, p. 26). These missions can be conceptualized as traditional police duties, which were meant to ensuring that confidence was built through various activities of former combatants. These limited engagements were also meant to reassure local populations that had suffered in the hands of cruel domestic police.

However, frustrations mounted over the inability of the UN to put in place concrete steps of preventing and punishing persistent human rights abuses. For this reason, new training was offered to local police, an initiative in which the UN police division played a very critical role. This turn of events was crucial in the determination of the extent to which transformational leadership approaches could be employed in order to change the role of the police from that of monitoring to that of mentoring local police units. The mentorship opportunities existed especially in those countries where authoritarian regimes had existed for many decades.

            Transformational leadership is not similar to intrusive approaches as far as police and peacekeeping activities of the UN are concerned. During the mid- and late-1990s, the UN police started being called upon by the Security Council to assist in an active manner, in the reform, rebuilding and restructuring of various local police forces. Today, such transformational police missions are focusing on the task of building institutional police capacity as the core work of the police force. The approach that is being used includes reform efforts that are based on the strict principles of ‘democratic policing’ as well as increased transparency. In this endeavor, effort is on altering the behavior of various domestic police forces mainly through training in issues of human rights as well as community relations.

In most cases, the UN also tends to work with the local government in efforts to restructure the police forces, such that they are depoliticized. Sometimes, this involves purging different human rights violators, recruitment of new officers, as well as the establishment of democratic oversight and authority. Moreover, the transformational missions contain the component of rebuilding indigenous forces that ensure that the right equipment is used. The task of equipping this force is always based on the premise that the efforts will facilitate the task of carrying out various law enforcement activities and responsibilities. This is a critical undertaking, particularly in those countries where all local police forces have been completely decimated by perennial conflicts. The need for the UN police to conduct the assessment and to coordinate with the international donor community has been a necessity for a long time. Equally, the transformational approach component has been a necessity for a long time. It has been a source of opportunities for leaders to showcase their leadership skills.

Role of transformational leadership in changing the organizational culture at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO)

            The organizational culture refers to a learned behavioral pattern that is shared from one generation to the other. It includes the values and assumptions that are shared by various members about what is right, good, and important. Other shared elements include stories, heroes, and rituals that are a source of expressive bonding among all members. In other words, organizational culture holds the organization together by acting as a source of distinctive competence and identity. When an organization’s culture becomes a constraint in efforts at innovation, this could be an indication that the organization is losing contact with the roots that have shaped its past.

            In 2005, the DPKO reported that 340 new allegations were made against the UN Police. Out of these, 217 were leveled against uniformed personnel, in which case 193 were military while 24 were civilian police officers. Eighty allegations were leveled against UN staff while 42 were made against other UN civilian personnel. These personnel included consultants, individual contractors, UN volunteers, and junior professional officers.

            These allegations indicate the negative side of the United Nations organizational culture, which has easily permeated the police force of this international organization. Out of the cases that involved the DPKO, as well as other civilian personnel, four allegations were deemed as worth further investigations as at December 2005. Furthermore, thirty-three cases were sent to the headquarters of the UN police division for disciplinary action.

            The organizational culture of the UN police division is highly influenced by that of the peacekeeping operations in which the organization engages from time to time. At any given time, there is an ongoing peacekeeping mission. This is how significant the UN police division is to the modern world. Although the UN peacekeeping missions have played a significant role in solving bloody conflicts in many decades, allegations of all sorts, including those involving sexual assault have been leveled against the UN staff members involved. In other words, the image of everyone who works with the UN including the organization’s police officers has been under sharp scrutiny. The implication of this turn of events has resulted in the change as far as the perception of the organizational culture of DPKO is concerned.

            In 2005, the Secretary-General proposed that a deployment of a standing civilian police capacity within between 2 and 3 years was necessary, whereby some 100 police officers would be deployed. In the face of a dent in the organizational culture perception by the entire world as a result of various allegations, the police officers who were deployed in the following two to three years had an amazing opportunity of adopting transformational approaches in dealing with various operational challenges.

            The shared values within an organization persist over a rather long period of time, meaning that transformational leadership is required for these an organization such as the DPKO to be effective in its undertakings as part of the UN’s peacekeeping teams. In other words, there is a need for founders to come up with new strategies for revolutionizing the existing preconceptions in all organizations that would otherwise have been highly effective.          There is a far-reaching relationship between leadership and organizational culture at the DPKO. One of the most crucial manifestations of organizational culture and the leadership connection involves the values and guides that facilitate the creation of autonomy at lower levels. Through transformational leadership, it becomes possible for various values and guides for autonomy at all levels to be put in place. This creates a budding environment for organizational leaders.

Moreover, there are many challenges relating to recruitment, selection and placement at DPKO, which could have been avoided if a transformational leadership approach was in place. This is a challenge that is often experienced in many large organizations, whereby decentralization remains the single greatest challenge to any organizational undertaking. A crucial challenge lies on the creation of a culture that is able to help the DPKO anticipate and adapt to changes that will ultimately be associated with efficient management principles over long periods of time.

Today, successful leadership in various multinational operations is highly dependent to a great extent on the ability by various commanders to bridge different cultural gaps. Cultural skills are a core component of any leadership strategy for any professional who works with the UN, particularly in the organization’s police force. Currently, cultural skills are not taught in training programs and military education. In other words, for a UN police officer to succeed in his work, he has to look beyond the formal training he is offered by the employer. It is not surprising, therefore, that many UN police officers find themselves in dire need of mentorship courses, although, they are expected to offer mentorship skills to police units of nations that are struggling to come out of civil war and long-standing conflicts.

Transformational leadership approaches in the DPKO: the context of Peace Support Operational (PSO) environment

The UN characterizes the PSO environment as one that is multidimensional, whereby many nations that are currently not part of the Western world, as well as a multitude f other organizations, are involved. According to the UN DPKO, 80 out of the top 20 troops that contribute to peacekeeping efforts are from Africa while five come from the Indian subcontinent. Moreover, out of the total number of personnel participating in peacekeeping operations today, 10% are local civilians while 5% are international civilians who are working under non-governmental organizations, international organizations, as well as other governmental agencies. It is increasingly becoming clear that the military leaders who are deployed in PSOs will be required to work with many other national cultures as well as non-military organizations. Those Police officers who have transformational leadership skills stand a higher chance of succeeding in such a highly multidimensional context.

In a multidimensional environment, the command would put unique demands on the shoulders of the commander. The commander would be required to exercise a convincing leadership influence both within his chain of command as well as laterally and upward, sometimes beyond the limits of his legal authority. The many actors who are involved in PSO oblige the commander to continue working with them so as to ensure that the success of the mission is secured.

Therefore, effective command in such a complex and challenging environment requires all leaders to possess cross-cultural competencies so that they are able to resolve both intra-personal and interpersonal conflicts for common intent to be achieved. These competencies are essential, not just for purposes of leading the multinational UN police force, but also for continually dealing with all other non-military organizations and local actors.

            The identification of outcomes in context is always a crucial step since outcomes are always an important part of leadership, the other parts being skills and leader attributes. The experience of past commanders in the UN Police division can be drawn upon to determine how organizational effectiveness can be defined. From such a definition, it becomes easy to determine the exact extent to which transformation leadership attributes are needed in the organization’s police force.

            A major challenge of the UN DPKO is the maintenance of a balance between diversity and cohesion at all levels of command, in various peacekeeping operations. One of the six basic principles of UN DPKO’s operations is the maintenance of the integrated and strictly international character of all operations, which is the best safeguard against attempts by parties to exploit differences that exist between national contingents in order to enhance the legitimacy of the mission in its entirety.

            Regardless of the role assigned and the size of the contribution, national contingents must be made to feel that they all are equal partners in an ambitious and noble venture. Sustenance of coalitions has been alluded to as one of the most demand of all leadership tasks in the UN police division. The need for transformational leaders is an ongoing necessity, which, it appears, cannot be easily fulfilled without initiating mentorship programs for all police officers.

            In efforts to maintain integrity, consensus-seeking is a valuable skill for the police officers, although it tends to be limited by the amount of command and control powers that traditionally go with being a UN police officer. Moreover, troop-contributing nations tend to work within the restrictions imposed through their respective government’s MOU. Additionally, they bring with them their own worldviews into the job. No wonder it is common for cultural beliefs, values, and norms to act to various color perceptions. Commanders are continually required to view the tasks of consensus building as essential outcomes of transformational leadership. The aim of this state of affairs is to ensure that embarrassing situations are avoided, which could potentially damage the relationship.

In the UN DPKO, it is clear that there is a possibility of people working together without necessarily trusting each other. It is also common for cooperative behavior to be driven by many other reasons, including fear, strategy, social values, and professional norms. All these aspects are best harnessed among employees through transformational approaches in leadership activities, these approaches are critical in the elimination of feelings of risk, vulnerability and uncertainty.

The establishment of an ethical climate

            The establishment and maintenance of a healthy moral environment in the Police Division of the UN DPKO is crucial to the success of the activities that are undertaken on the basis of coalitions. Respect for various principles of local laws and customs as well as international humanitarian law is a requirement for all the members of contingents that are involved in various missions. Transformational leadership skills become critical in maintaining ethical perspectives since an individual who possesses these skills normally also posses the energy and personal motivation to learn as many things as possible on international and local laws and their relevance in police operations.

            Leniency towards those people who behave in an unethical manner may make everyone in the department to lose faith in the commander. Commanders are required to enunciate their views clearly as far as professional attributes, boundaries of professional conduct and discipline are concerned. Emphasis on these issues applies mainly among military forces that are at different stages of professionalization.

            Everyone who has a leadership role to play in the UN police is always faced with many tough challenges in efforts to build an ethical climate. Today, we live in the world of instant media, where decisions made within the Department as well as news on the mission accomplishments are exposed to the full glare of the world. Through ethical practices, commanders at every level are able to deal with opposing requirements in a highly effective manner. Since there are no clearly set-out laws on how departmental relations ought to be handled, transformational leadership approaches are required in order to reconcile the needs of people who are at different levels of professionalism.

            The task of developing trust while working in nations where violations of human rights have taken place may be a tricky issue. This is just one of the many realities that the UN police leadership has to face in their daily execution of day-to-day duties. The extent to which these leaders succeed depends on the extent to which they are willing to adopt transformational approaches to problem-solving. Greater levels of success attract many followers, who, in this case, include the rank and file in the UN police force as well as administrators in the UN DPKO.


            In summary, the success of the mission of the UN police division is often complicated by the different aims that tend to be pursued side by side the objectives of the UN. Different actors who enter into the scene tend to have different definitions of what constitutes success. For this reason, there is often a need for leaders with transformative agendas to lead the way in all UN’s policing missions. It is common for the actions of many NGOs to be governed by their prevailing media image as well as by humanity. For instance, in Kosovo, a distinct clash of culture was noticed between NGOs and the military, mainly on issues of human rights, command and control, and attitudes towards the media.

            In almost every mission that DPKO sent UN police officers, commanders reported encountering a clash of the military’s conservative, hierarchical and institutional culture with the open and liberal culture that thrives among civilian communities. In most cases, commanders who possess transformational leadership qualities tend to feel that the challenges that NGOs pose are more or less of an operational nature as opposed to a cultural one.

            In other words, successful leadership of a multinational force such as the UN police may be defined in terms of the extent to which as many followers as possible are attracted to the mission. Leaders with reformist agendas have to be ready to face complex environments that are characterized by multidimensional and cross-cultural aspects.

            The characteristics of every coalition commander are always put on the spotlight whenever the person’s ability to transform the force is being evaluated. Credibility is always among the foremost issues addressed. By its very nature, leadership in the disciplined forces is strongly founded on qualities such as being reliable, trustworthy and professionally competent. These qualities are often aggressively evaluated whenever the leader is leading a coalition of nations as well as working with many other organizations. Regular interactions, as well as attendance of various courses sponsored by the UN DPKO, allow the leaders to establish the sort of credibility that is professionally recognized. 

Moreover, keeping the larger perspective is a critical element of being an effective leader of any command within the UN’s Police Division, since it indicates one’s ability to offer inspiration under challenging operational conditions, where there is a need for close focus on the larger intent in spite of spates of short-lived uncertainties and ambiguities. The larger perspective has to be large enough to the transformational leader’s thinking as well as actions as to encompass issues of long-term planning and decision-making.


Bass, B, 1998, Transformational leadership: industrial, military, and educational impact, New York, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Teo, T, 2005, Cross-Cultural Leadership: A Military Perspective, Retrieved from  on October 20, 2010.

United Nations, 2008, Yearbook of the United Nations 2005, United Nations Publications, Toronto.

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