Officer or Leader

Tactical Safety for Firefighters
By Ray McCormack
Officer or Leader

The question came up via Twitter regarding a class on officer development, should the officer be called a leader instead? I did not take this class so I am blind as to its content. The dilemma for most is; isn’t the officer a leader already? Yes the officer is the crew leader, however how much Leadership they provide will vary.

I will keep my remarks to Fireground Leadership because it is the most compelling and important component of any Officers role. There are both officers and there are leaders of companies, some are both and some are only officers. If you are fortunate you have a leader, if you are not then you have just an officer. Many officers either have not developed the leader within or have become so trained to only receive orders and direction that they lack initiative.

Leadership on the fireground requires initiative even within highly developed tactical fire departments that use SOPs or SOGs. In departments that lack foundational battle plans officers typically operate under the whim of chief officers often falling back into an awaiting direction mode.

Leadership on the fireground is what the promotion is all about. Cultivating that role is difficult under any system and either system will have many officers. The big turn around towards effective fireground leadership is knowledge and implantation. You must have knowledge of the fireground to make variations on plans, to accept orders and be mindful of how best to carry them out.

Your knowledge is gained by reading, studying, and fireground experience. Your implantation of task is also based upon study, reading and experience and your awareness as to what is taking place. You must understand the ” tempo” of the fireground, sometimes it’s easy to follow and other times it’s racing and compromised when you can handle that all by yourself then you have achieved leadership.

Effective fireground leadership is the hallmark of good fire officer. It takes time to develop just as other leadership qualities. If you do not have it together on the fireground risk goes up because you are not a critical thinker. There is no ceremony that tags you as an effective leader on the fireground it comes from going to fires and making decisions. Maybe that’s why it’s called an officers class.

Keep Fire in Your Life

One thought on “Officer or Leader

  1. If I could do it all over again, this is what I would’ve done: Do 1 or 2 enlistments in the Corps, get out and work for the VA. The VA loves hirnig vets some positions are only open to vets. Or work for the Post Office or what ever Federal Gov’t job is close by. You’ll get hired if your page 11, 12 & 13 don’t have much ink. Your time in the Corps counts toward retirement. In a few years, you’ll be earning 26 days leave each year plus 8.5 sick days per year plus 12 paid holidays.

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