Dale P. Kapla

Date of Graduation


Document Type



This study examines variables that influence the leadership styles of Wisconsin police chiefs and how those variables affect organizational decision-making, type and extent of community policing policies, and choice of in-service training. Principal-agent theory is used to model these influences, providing further application of agency theory to local bureaucracies. Traditional principal-agent models posit that government agencies and their top-level executives are affected by external and internal factors; however, there is little known about individual factors affecting leadership style and policy decisions. This study includes individual factors as a dynamic affecting leadership style, decision-making, and policy choices of local police chiefs. This dissertation uses data from a 48 question self-assessment mail survey of 415 local Wisconsin police chiefs to determine leadership style. Four leadership styles are identified: Machiavellian, Bureaucratic, Transformational and Social Contract. Multinomial logit models estimate the effects of external and internal agency-level factors, including a chief's individual characteristics, to test seven hypotheses regarding leadership style. Leadership style is combined with these factors to test the final two hypotheses concerning a chief's organizational decision-making, type and extent of community policing policies and choice of in-service training. The results indicate the majority of police chiefs in Wisconsin utilize a combination of the four leadership styles, creating a fifth, Mixed style. Additionally, individual characteristics are shown to significantly affect leadership style, organizational decision-making, choice of community policing, and in-service training policies. Recommendations for local government leaders and policymakers are presented along with avenues for further research of local chief executive behavior.