Both Taiwan and England
prepare their respective
fire officers for a career in
the fire service differently.
(Images by Pixabay.)
BACKGROUND AND SIGNIFICANCE
There are numerous courses, publications, and seminars dedicated to leadership in the fire service as well as outside the profession. In fact, as in the case of any organization, whether public or
private, there is no doubt that leadership is an integral part of an
organization’s success. As will be seen, publications are quick to
instruct, advise, or suggest the leadership style a fire officer should
adopt. Advice such as this is, of course, important to one becoming an effective leader, but the question remains to what extent do
chief fire officers actually correctly identify their particular style?
One way to examine this is from the perspective of education.
Both Taiwan and England prepare their respective fire officers for
a career in the fire service differently. Similar to the United States,
England employs a single-tier system of entry and promotion
within the fire service—that is, firefighters enter the profession as
privates then through an evaluation process are promoted through
higher ranks to eventually chief officer.
In Taiwan, candidates for the officer ranks in the fire service attend
college and are awarded an undergraduate degree in fire science.
After commencement, applicants apply to various fire departments
for employment and enter the particular department as an officer.
The significance of this research may not be apparent at first
glance. A simple understanding of the various types of leadership
styles might be considered enough for the future or even present
chief officers. One could learn the styles and choose the one that
best fits, but does this adaptive approach deny, challenge, or even
compromise the existence of one’s existing leadership style? This
research will identify three topics: First, it will identify the chosen
leadership style of chief fire officers from two different countries who
represent different cultures and educational backgrounds. Second,
it will test the accuracy of that choice. Third, it will survey each
officer’s belief as to his most important leadership characteristics.
Collectively, this research will represent a beginning as to understanding what leadership styles are most common among chief fire
officers in what may be considered two very diverse cultures with
different avenues of promotion. Perhaps more important, it will
represent a launching point for continued research in leadership,
not so much for what should be but what is.
The methodology for this research is descriptive. Although the
research resembles casual comparative methodology, since it falls
short of attempting to determine the reasons or causes for such
preexisting differences among the selected groups, the choice of
descriptive is better suited for this project.
Relative to validity, the selection process to choose leadership
styles, which are most related to the fire profession, was challenging and subjective. Two distinct decisions were made. First, the
research of Kurt Lewin (1890-1947), a German psychologist and
the father of modern psychology, was critical in identifying appropriate leadership styles. From his research, Lewin (1939) identified three particular styles that were incorporated in this research:
autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire.
The authoritarian (autocratic) leadership can best be identified
by the following characteristics:
• Provide clear expectations for what needs to be done, when it
should be done, and how it should be done.
• Clear division between the leader and followers.
• Make decisions independently with little or no input from the
rest of the group.
The democratic (participative) leadership style is characterized
• Offer guidance to group members but also participate in the
group and allow input from other group members.
• Encourage group members to participate, but retain the final
say over the decision-making process.
• Group members feel engaged in the process and are more
motivated and creative.