50 FIRERESCUE MAGAZINE JULY 2017 FIREFIGHTERNATION.COM
A QUESTION OF IDENTITY
The following are the statements that comprised the survey. Key identifying words appear in red. Note three outlier
1. I carefully observe personnel to be sure they are performing tasks properly.
2. I instruct my personnel what to do, how to do it, and
when I want it done.
1. I want personnel to feel involved and relevant in the
2. I have the final say over decisions made within my group.
3. I consider suggestions made by others in the group.
4. I accept input from group members.
1. Big decisions should have the approval of the majority
of the group.
2. I prefer when decisions are made through group consensus.
3. I allow personnel to share my leadership power.
1. I’m someone whom people trust with private information.
2. I get great satisfaction from knowing that I’m the only one
who can solve a specific problem.
3. It’s hard for me to delegate tasks.
4. I’m often the one on whom people depend in a pinch.
5. I’m the first one to begin my day at work and the last one
to call it quits.
6. I lead by example rather than instruction.
1. I ask for advice from personnel when things go wrong.
2. I am concerned with personnel’s feelings as well as
3. Being fair is really important to me, to the extent that
I’ll solicit input from a wide variety of people to ensure
everyone’s voice is heard.
The laissez-faire (democratic) leadership style is characterized thus:
• Leaders offer little or no guidance to group members and leave
decision making up to group members.
• Style can be effective in situations where group members are
highly qualified in an area of expertise
The last style selected was the heroic leadership style. This choice
was based more on the public view of the fire service rather than
any research. Society and even literature portray fire personnel as
heroes, risking their lives for the safety of the people they serve. For
an engaging treatment of risk taking, see Clark’s (2015) chapter
entitled, “The Firefighter’s Genes: Fast/Close/Wet/Risk/Injury/
Death.” It may be argued that this “culture” becomes, over time,
ingrained in the minds of fire personnel as well as the public.
The characteristics of heroic leadership are generally character-
• Belief that he or she can do everything better than anyone else.
• Creates unnecessary dependencies between leaders and team
• Lead by example.
Questions were taken from an existing leadership survey, incorporating Lewin’s three styles, and sent out to chief fire officers in
both countries. In addition, several heroic questions were included
to complete the survey. Note that the survey distributed in Taiwan
was translated into Chinese (Taiwanese) to ensure that all questions would be correctly understood. Survey results were then
translated back into English. The breakdown of the 18 survey
questions were as follows: six heroic style, two authoritarian, four
participative, three laissez-faire, three outliers.
The last question was for the survey participant to select the
particular leadership style which best fit him. Initially completing
the 18-question survey, then selecting a personal leadership style,
helped to eliminate any bias in attempting to fit or force a style to
one’s self-identity of the style each might think one possesses. (See
One of the last questions posed to those surveyed was for each to
choose the five most important leadership qualities in a fire chief.
The question was open ended; fill in the blanks. There were no
guidelines or suggestions.
LIMITATIONS AND DELIMITATIONS
Any research relative to the fire service would be most complete
if it included the departments in the United States. Of course,
with more than 13,000 departments in this country, it is virtually
impossible to survey each chief fire officer. This was not the case in
Taiwan and England where, as noted above, chief fire officers are
less numerous and volunteered their time to this researcher.
For this research, only chief fire officers were surveyed. The
greater task here was to limit the choice of leadership styles,
specific to the fire service. The intent of this research, by virtue of
the survey, was to be more specific by using Lewin’s three different
leadership styles with the addition of heroic to identify the respondents’ association with a particular style.
SELECTED LITERATURE REVIEW
Any attempt to completely investigate the leadership literature in
print would be impossible. This literature review is specific to publications in fire-related leadership. The objective here is not to exhaust
the sources, as is generally the aim of a literature review. Rather, its
objective is to enlighten the reader to two points: First, that authors
tend to inform and advise as to selected leadership styles, and second
that there is little or no research conducted relative to leadership
styles of fire personnel, especially in the two countries investigated in
Generally, any discussion relative to leadership styles includes
two predominant types: transformational and transactional. All
leadership styles incorporate some form of either, especially in the
fire service where an effective chief might employ both, depending on the situation. Transactional leadership is dependent on the
leader’s power: power to reinforce his subordinates for completion
of a specific task, power to reward, and power to punish. Transformational leadership is based on motivating and inspiring subordinates to address issues. Where transactional leaders aspire to have
a task completed by subordinates, transformational leaders desire
subordinates to move beyond the task (Babou 2008).
The seminal study in any literature review on leadership begins
with research conducted by Lewin. Lewin et al. (1939) were the first