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Leadership in the Fire Service, Research Paper Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1675

Research Paper

Abstract

This paper explores the relationship between transformational leadership and the role of leaders in the Fire Service industry. By comparing the key characteristics of transformational leaders with the requirements of leadership in the Fire Service sector, the paper concludes that leaders in the service must display not only transactional leadership, but transformational leadership. the idea of transformational leadership is then defined as being inspirational in nature and as holding profound influence over followers and entire organizations. A range of scholarship is surveyed that relates to the nature of transformational leadership. A corresponding list of “must have” qualities is laid out in relation to the specific role of any leader in fire Service. the paper concludes that leaders in Fire Service must be both transactional and transformational elders.

Leadership in the Fire Service

In terms of providing leadership in the Fire service sector, there are several key characteristics and personality capacities that are mandatory. A candidate for a leadership position in the Fire Service industry must not only demonstrate the required training and competency “on paper,” but must be able to embody crucial skills and behaviors in the field, while overseeing matters that are often a matter of life and death. For this reason, the leadership characteristics that are required fro those who serve as leaders in the Fire Service industry parallel the highest standards for leadership in other sectors while also requiring certain specific traits and capabilities that are industry associated. If a prospective candidate for leadership is found to be lacking in one or more of the important traits that are needed for leaders in the Fire Service industry, that candidate must be seriously re-evaluated and potentially retrained before being allowed to take action in the field. The following discussion will show, clearly that leadership in the Fire Service sector is best understood as transformational leadership, which is that type of leadership that impacts all associated areas of influence, and not merely those which can be easily quantified under a job description.

In order to understand the nature of transformational leadership it is necessary to separate the idea of leadership, somewhat, from the notion of enforcing policy or tasks from the notion of inspiring and exemplifying the desired behavior and attitudes. Transformational leaders impact those who work for them or with them in ways that are both subtle and obvious. A case where the influence of a transformational leader is subtle but powerful is in terms how the leader projects an air of self-confidence. Those who are followers of a self-confident leader tend to display more self-confidence and work-related competence. Another example of the subtle but profound influence that transformational leaders exert is based in the emotional responses of those whom they lead. In the study Finding the Best and the Brightest: A Guide to Recruiting, Selecting, and Retaining Effective Leaders (2005) D. Thoms points out that one of the identifying traits of transformational leadership is that it inspires followers at an emotional lever. This in contrast to transactional leadership which merely enforces policy. Thoms observes that transformational leaders “tend to ephasize behavior that elicits emotional responses from followers. They distinguish between transactional influence, which provides rewards for specific follower behavior” (Thoms, 2005, p. 13). The connection between a transformational leader is one that is built on much more than enforcement of rules.

In addition to the subtle qualities that are associated with inspiring followers, transitional leaders exhibit other areas of influence that stand apart from the impact of transactional leadership. Obviously, a transformational leader can also be one who has mastered the protocols and requirements of transactional leadership; the two styles are not mutually exclusive. instead, transformational leaders enhance their power, influence and competency through the use of transformational leadership while maintaining the pragmatic exactness that is associated with transactional leadership. In the article “Transformational Leadership: Industrial, Military, and Educational Impact. Military Review” (1999), C. Butler mentions that four key types of influence are associated with transformational leaders.

In addition to the previously mentioned modes of inspiration, Butler mentions “intellectual stimulation” and “individualized consideration” as important aspects of transformational leadership. Butler defines intellectual stimulation as the process by which leaders help “followers expand their capabilities and develop more skill.” He defines individualized consideration as the process by which transformational leaders “acting as coach or mentor, pay particular attention to each follower’s needs for achievement and growth” (Butler, 1999). Obviously, Butler’s definitions indicate that transformational leaders are closely associated with and deeply informed about their followers on a professional and personal level. These qualities are of the utmost significance in relation to leaders in the Fire Service industry. This is due to the fact that so many decisions by Fire Service sector leaders must be made under difficult conditions and sometimes even in the midst of looming catastrophe. Simultaneously a Fire Service sector leader is responsible for administrative duties and must know, clearly, which employees are or are not performing at a high level.

The personalization of the leadership role, in terms of creating an atmosphere that embodies transformational qualities, is dependant on specific individual qualities. One of the most important personal qualities that a leader in the Fire Service sector must possess in selflessness. A leader in the Fire Service sector must be willing to put their personal interests, comforts, and even their very lives beneath the requirement to act and serve with excellence. Selfishness and self-interest are traits which throughly inhibit the ability of a Fire Service leader to perform competently; they are also traits that make enacting the influences associate with transformational leadership impossible.

In the book Ethics, the Heart of Leadership (2004) Bass & Steidlmeier comment on the negative impacts that self-interest exerts over leadership capacity. The authors write that “Personalized leaders, primarily concerned with their own self-interests, could not be truly transformational leaders” (Bass & Steidlmeier, 2004, p. 179). The authors also warn about the danger of public leaders being misidentified as transformational leaders. Although the odds of a genuinely self-interested leader being falsely seen as a transformational leader, according to Bass & Steidlmeier, are unlikely, the negative impact of such a misunderstanding would be tremendous. This is due to the tremendous influence that transformational leaders wield over their followers. It is a clear indication of why, in the Fire Service sector, the quality of integrity is a necessary attribute for any leadership candidate.

The impact of ethics and morality on the practical aspects of leadership are sometimes hard to quantify. That said, a commitment to honesty and integrity is quite possibly the single most important quality that a leader in the Fire Service sector must have. This is because all of the characteristics of a leader either somehow connect to honesty and integrity or flow directly from these qualities. For example, because a leader in Fire Service must expect his or her followers to obey their orders immediately in dangerous situations, trust in the leader’s decisions must be at a very high level. This fact connects in a more or less self-evident way to the notion of familiarity between leader and follower that was previously mentioned. A leader in the Fire Service sector must forge close ties with all followers, and base all interactions and orders on absolute trust. This is one example of why honesty and integrity are indispensable qualities to a Fire service leader.

Another important aspect of the concepts of honesty and integrity is that such behavior on tye part of a transformational leader often impact not only that leader’s immediate followers, but the organization as a whole. J.C. Rost in Leadership for the Twenty-First Century (1993) acknowledges that the connection between an individual leader’s behavior and the overall level of corresponding morality and ethical astuteness on the part of the organization is based on the influence of transformational leadership. Rost writes that “One could make the argument that if leaders and followers raised their levels of morality, the morality of the groups, organizations, and societies to which they belonged would also be raised” (Rost, 1993, p. 125). This last observation connects to the often public role of leaders in the Fire Service sector.

All of the aforementioned observations about the nature of transformational leadership and its relationship to leaders in Fire service indicate that among all the characteristics that a leader must have, the notion of responsibility emerges as a profoundly important quality. Leaders in the Fire Service sector have a vast amount of duties and responsibilities and they must be able to embrace them in a way that not only solves practical problems and dilemmas but which serve to inspire both those under their protection and those under their command. Just as honesty and integrity are necessary for competence of action, a sense of responsibility is required for both administrative and field work. Again, the notion of responsibility connects with the previously cited qualities of selflessness and integrity in regard to the role that is played by a transformational leader in Fire Service.

finally, alongside selflessness, charisma, integrity, responsibility and self-confidence, a leader in Fire Service must manifest a adaptable intellect. This means that a leader must be ready to deal with quickly-changing conditions and shifting environments. A leader in Fire Service is therefore a person who shows a good balance of training and personal characteristics that prepare them to meet an array of challenges and responsibilities while maintaining a high level of personal confidence and integrity. In every aspect of a Fire Service leader’s career, the lives of fellow workers and citizens are involved in a way that calls for the utmost circumspection. In training leaders, it is important to stress that the close to intangible aspects of transformational leadership are as important, in the Fire Service Sector, as the more easily quantified aspects of transactional leadership.

References

Butler, C. (1999). Transformational Leadership: Industrial, Military, and Educational Impact. Military Review, 79(3), 91+.

Ciulla, J. B. (Ed.). (2004). Ethics, the Heart of Leadership. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Rost, J. C. (1993). Leadership for the Twenty-First Century. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Thoms, P. (2005). Finding the Best and the Brightest: A Guide to Recruiting, Selecting, and Retaining Effective Leaders. Westport, CT: Praeger.

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