Leadership in any endeavor is a complex and highly significant influence. In terms of the Fire Service leadership is not only indispensable to the success of fire and rescue operations, it may literally mean the difference between life and death. In the Fire Service leadership attains an even greater degree of sensitivity and consequence as it hold in other sectors. For example, just as the changing responsibilities that are faced among various leaders in various roles defines the nature of each individual leader, so the consequences of an individual’s decisions as a leader define the ultimate significance of the leadership position.
As J. C. Rost points our in Leadership for the Twenty-First Century (1993), the true impact of leadership is felt in all aspects of an organization and ripples through them almost like a charged current. Rost writes that “Leadership is about transformation.” (Rost, 1993, p. 123). this means that a leader, especially in the Fire Service, not only holds influence over all of the people and events that fall under his or her leadership, but that that a leader holds responsibility through the power of transformation for all that falls under his of her’s jurisdiction.
So, in the Fire Service one of the first precepts for effective leadership is the quality of responsibility. Another quality that is very important is self-confidence. A leader in the Fire Service must not only be willing to take responsibility for their decisions and actions, but they must be able to remain self-possessed and able tot rust their own instincts at all times.
Because a leader in the Fire Service must often make quick decisions, sometimes while under immense stress, self-confidence and fortitude are qualities that are essential to Fire Service leaders. Thoms remarks in his book Finding the Best and the Brightest: A Guide to Recruiting, Selecting, and Retaining Effective Leaders (2005) that leaders who play public roles must maintain their self-confidence for the public good.
He asserts that when “an individual has a strong sense of self, understands his or her strengths and weaknesses, and represents himself or herself accurately” that the function of leadership is strengthened particularly “when a leader is expected to take a public position on issues” (Thoms, 2005, p. 25). The way that leaders maintain themselves in the face of the public or the face of emergency and disaster is crucial to leading successfully.
Thoms also mentions that adaptability is an important quality for leaders. This is quite true in relation to leaders in the Fire Service sector where various situations, from management decisions to field-decisions are faced on daily basis. Thoms points out that different situations call for different approaches of leadership.
He writes that “Situational theories suggest that different situations require different leadership traits and behavior by leaders […] no single theory completely explains the effectiveness of good leaders.” (Thoms, 2005, p. 9). Since no single theory can explain leadership, fully, it is important that leader in the Fire Service industry exhibits a tendency toward adaptation.
Just as adaptability allows a leader in the Fire Service sector to address a variety of problems, conflicts, and concerns, Rost’s suggestion that leaders, in any capacity, affect change through the power of transformation, is particularly important in regard to the range of influences that Fire Service leaders exert. Rost specifically mentions a number of categories in which leaders can be said to exert a transformational influence.
Hi insists that “These transformations can be physical, intellectual, aesthetic, psychological, social, civic, ecological, transcendental, moral, spiritual, and holistic. A leadership paradigm […] must take into account all of these transformations,” (Rost, 1993, p. 126). Therefore a dynamic intelligence is required for any leader in the Fire Service industry due to the range of influences and responsibilities associated with the position.
Intelligence and adaptability are just as important as responsibility and self-confidence to a leader in the Fire Service sector. however, another quality may be the most important single attribute that any Fire Service leader could have. This trait is: integrity. And the rason that this trait is so important is because credibility and trust are the most important ways in whihc leaders can motivate those whom they must supervise and lead.
As Rost affirms, “The ideal situation, of course, is for leaders and followers to use ethical processes in working for ethical changes.” (Rost, 1993, p. 153). In a very real sense, not only the fire workers, but the citizens who are served by the Fire Service sector are relying on the ethical and moral bearing of Fire Service leaders. Therefore one of the absolutely essential qualities of any Fire Service leader is that they are ethical and honest in all of their dealings.
The reality that is faced by leaders in the Fire Service sector is that their leadership capabilities are important not only from a “paper” standpoint but they are crucial in that they are put to the test each and every day on matters ranging from organizational capacity to the life and death of innocent civilians.
A leader in the Fire Service sector must possess the usual and expected traits of courage, competence, loyalty, and compassion. However, these leaders must also embody the qualities examined in the previous discussion. thee qualities are responsibility, self-confidence, adaptability, intelligence and , above all else, ethical integrity. An ideal leader in the Fire service industry would possess all of these qualities and excel in each of them. Any candidate lacking in one or more of the categories must be seriously vetted to ascertain whether or not they can learn to possess the needed attribute.
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