Reflections on Leadership

By Jay C. Sendzik and Vincent J. Vitiello

The fire service possesses many unique managerial needs. It necessitates a semimilitarized structure, a distinct team spirit, and a strong disciplinary influence to ensure concerted and instantaneous reactions in emergency situations. It requires high-quality leadership and an extremely wide range of technical competence. In addition, it requires an ability to deal with the public in minor and major crisis situations.

The fire service is not profit oriented and it has an obscure productivity pattern. It is a major consumer of tax dollars, uses costly equipment, is heavily dependent on staffing, and has difficulty measuring effectiveness in relation to cost. However, despite the complexity of these needs, the fire service continues to play a vital role in providing public safety.

The threat of fire and the multitude of other related emergencies is always present. Today’s fire departments must combat these threats with less staffing and fewer financial resources while, at the same time, coping with tremendous increases in hazards. As a result, it is imperative every effort be made to deliver these services with the greatest degree of efficacy.

Since the principal resources of fire departments are its personnel, the underlying determinant of whether a fire department is successful in achieving its objectives lies with the individuals that comprise the organization. As such, competent leadership of firefighing personnel is more important than ever. This holds equally true in career as well as volunteer fire departments and pertains to all leadership ranks, from the first level supervisor to the chief of department.

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