Leadership in the New Zealand Probation Service: The perceptions and experiences of probation officers and service managers


  • Michael Dale Previously an Area Manager for the New Zealand Probation Service, currently a Site Manager with the Child, Youth and Family Service in Palmerston North.
  • Andrew Trlin Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Health and Social Services at Massey University, Palmerston North.


probation practice, probation service, service delivery, leadership,


This article draws upon information collected from Probation Officers and Service Managers for a study on probation practice and the contribution of leadership to the achievement of effective service delivery in the New Zealand Probation Service. Findings are presented in relation to: (a) perceptions of leadership; and (b) experience of leadership. The participants’ asserted that effective leadership rests upon the quality of the relationship that exists between leader and follower. In particular, positive experiences of leadership reflected an emphasis upon reciprocity and trust; and the Probation Officers provided a consistent message that effective leadership has a focus on practice and the provision of professional support. This was considered important in relation to Service Managers whose performance emerged as a factor that can directly affect the Probation Officer’s ability to practise effectively with clients. Perceptions regarding senior managers were less positive; a sense emerged that they lacked the practice credibility that comes with professional knowledge and experience and relied on their legitimate, positional power rather than on expert or personal power. The article concludes with the identification and implications for the Probation Service of three key themes that emerge from the results presented, namely: (a) the leader/follower relationship; (b) leadership from senior mangers and Service Managers; and (c) the significance of professional credibility.


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How to Cite

Dale, M., & Trlin, A. (2022). Leadership in the New Zealand Probation Service: The perceptions and experiences of probation officers and service managers. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 19(3), 23–37. Retrieved from https://anzswjournal.nz/anzsw/article/view/443