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In Leadership, What quantifies the education and experience one needs as a minimun to put another ones life on the line?

In todays fire service as membership dwindles, how do we justify a members movement into a leadership role. ie, John Smith Has 4yrs and pump ops and makes 38% of fires and drills and becomes a LT or Capt. And at what point do we leave the position open. This question is open to all the ranks and if filled the same way ,were does that leave us on the fireground?????????

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Great question! I feel it takes a combination of experience, education and activity. The ability to lead and take on such a huge responsibility is a package deal that comes from hands on experience plus education. Not saying everyone in a leadership position must be a college graduate but leaders at any level must have a thorough understanding of the employee's rights as well as expectations. The employee groups of today look upon their positions quite differently than employees of 15 years ago. Harrassment was part of the job yesterday--not any more. The educational part of becoming a good leader is necessary to understand employees of this era. Experience and activity account for the safety side of the equation and there can be no substitute for experience. Far too often, inexperienced people are given positions for which they are not prepared, the fire service is not a place where inexperienced members can be elevated to leadership positions. BUT I also acknowledge that we must mentor other members in order to allow them the opportunity to gain experience. This can be done through good training in not only fireground related operations but also management skills, public speaking skills, organization skills, etc. These traits are absolutely necessary in all leadership positions. If a potential candidate for a leadership position possesses some of the necessary qualities, the department should recognize the need to offer further education to the candidate in order that he or she may sharpen the skills lacking. In the event no one is even remotely qualified, then perhaps the positions should be left vacant or consolidated. This is probably a bigger problem in smaller organizations because the numbers of available candidates are much smaller. It is also a problem in the small volunteer departments because many of the officers are elected or appointed based on popularity and activity, not experience! Your question should raise some interesting responses,,it is just one more area that the fire service needs to address as times are changing, our responsibilities are changing and the hazards we are facing are more difficult and more complex than ever before.
John,

You touched on some great considerations when addressing this topic ! As Fires are down in many Depts. the experience that was gained many years ago is no longer there. This inturn leaves a large void for up comming officers to move based on popularity. Intense training and commitment are the closest thing to that experience and we can only hope it does not fall short.

Stay Safe !! Dennis
Promoting unqualified persons should never occur but what exactly is the essential job function for each organization may vary. Someone has to be incharge and lead. Does that have t be a preson of rank? Each deaprtment must decide. If a certain combination of training and experience is needed but no one on the department meet them? Ideas that come to mind is provide the training. Try to create some training that simutes the needed experience. Make temporary appointments tied to the training. Rotate members to give them opportunities. Have potential officers shadow those already in rank so they learn the job. Make the promotion and mandate the training. Use task books to sign off those when they meet objectives and know what is needed. You just cannot leave the postion open without doing something else. If you have 4 positions but only 3 are filled then you can keep it open (I'm assuming it's a volly FD-not full time). If you have a chief and some company officers do you need intermediate people (captains, asst or deputy chiefs)? In many FDs these intermediate officers are primarily administration positions (thier firegound job is still to lead a crew). These admin jobs can be given to members and if needed or wanted ranks attached. But do not infere that thier fireground authority in comensurate.
WHEW.....I have to echo what John said..."Combination of experience, education (Certified), and activity. Plus i also believe that we need to do a better job of mentoring even regular FF's to be subordinate Officers in their absense. One thing I have always loved about my Chief is "He lets his Officers act like Officers"....allows them to make decisions, take commmand, etc. but he is always there to help you if needed.
Hey Bryce,

I agree 100% with the mentoring concept ! As a Captain I allow my LT's to operate many calls as well as depending on the call, any firefighters that will be comming into the ranks of an officer. This allows them the hands on experience they will need to peform at the level expected. It also helps them gain the respect and confidence of fellow firefighters as they move into the leadership ranks. Most of our Chiefs do not take over command (I couldn't tell you why) and this gives us an opportunity to take advantage of the moment.

STAY SAFE !! Dennis
My department is all volunteer and the officers are elected every 2 years. Our SOG states that if an officer is not on scene the driver of the first in truck is IC until they are relieved by someone of higher rank or more experience. We try very hard to get all of our members in the mindset that once they are approved to drive a truck they take on the responsibility of IC like it or not. As Asst. Chief I will purposely not take command when arriving on scene if the IC is doing good( if not doing so good I try to offer guidence as opposed to taking over) unless the IC just really pushes it on me or is over his/her head. But this gives the lower ranking members some on the job training even if it is just a false alarm or mva. But it allows them to get used to the decision making process and handing out orders without being overwhelmed, and by being there I kind of offer them a safety net if I think there may be a better way (which normally I only know because I have tried and failed enough to know what doesn't work). I believe in education of all types but it is hard to beat experience. Our lowest ranking officer is a Fire Officer I with 4 years expereince, the Chief has 34 years experience, and is a born leader. I believe however that the most important position normally falls to the line officers more so than the IC they are the ones with the best information on the fire conditions inside and they have to have the discipline to pull back. With good line officers the IC can relax and wait for them to make him look good.

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