to identify the three leadership styles of autocratic, democratic, and
laissez-faire. It is their research in this area that forms the groundwork for any discussion on leadership. Moreover, their identified
leadership styles remain unchallenged and have been built on and
adapted to transformational and transactional leadership types.
Grant and Hoover (1994) appear to look at the big picture relative
to leadership in the fire service. They discuss Lewin’s three leadership
styles but conclude that the authoritarian leadership style may be useful on the fireground but not in the daily, nonemergency operations
and activities (Grant and Hoover, 23). Bass and Bass (2008) write
that authoritarian leadership is often presented in negative, often even
pejorative terms. The authors do say that its style can be beneficial to a
leader in certain situations (i.e., fireground operations.)
Alyn’s (2010) doctoral dissertation examines the relationship
between “perceived” leadership style and firefighter organizational
commitment. Her chosen leadership styles, transformational,
transactional, and laissez-faire (read participative, autocratic, and
laissez-faire) showed a positive relationship with respect to the first
two and organizational commitment, while the last failed to do
so. In other words, firefighters exhibited both transactional and
transformational tendencies but not laissez-faire.
In another thesis, Shin’s (2013) research of volunteer fire departments in Oklahoma found that the most prominent leadership style
is transformational (participative), second is transactional (
autocratic), and laissez-faire leadership was the least common form.
Relative to the heroic leadership style, Burns (1978) divided transformational leadership into four subcategories: intellectual, reform,
revolutionary, and heroic, although some authors have inferred that
Burns’ description is more close to transactional. Dated research by
Frost et al (1983) concluded that the willingness to expose oneself to danger is associated with effective leadership in potentially
life-threatening situations. In other words, leading by example is an
effective style of leadership, especially during emergency operations.
This ably fits with the culture and tradition of the fire service where
firefighters are thought of as being heroes (Clark 2015).
Taking a different stance, Marinucci (2009) recognized that
there are many styles of leadership and wrote that one cannot
simply copy a particular leadership style if it does not fit one’s
personality. Rather, a good chief must list the traits of those whom
one respects and work to develop one’s own style. Carter (2007)
concluded that there are all types of attributes associated with the
different leadership styles, especially associated with the fire service.
From his research, he identified six related leadership styles: charismatic leadership, situational leadership, contingency leadership,
citizen leadership, servant leadership, and the transformational/
transactional leadership continuum, all of which possess certain
necessary elements for leading in the fire service. In a similar vein,
Glick-Smith (2016) contended that there is no right or wrong way
to lead and identified several popular leadership styles. She advises
to find the style that personally works for the particular situation.
Another author, Chief John Salka (2004), proposed uncovering
the leadership within oneself. The author wrote about organizing
one’s thoughts in a personal statement “that reflects your leadership
vision” (p. 36).
In an International Association of Fire Chiefs’ authored book
entitled Fire Service Leadership: Theories and Practices (2008),
several fire service leaders expressed their opinions about leadership
style. The question posed to experts is: What style of leadership
do you believe will be necessary for fire service leaders to interact
effectively with the next generation of firefighters? Chief Ron
Coleman replied there is no such thing as a style of leadership.
Leaders come from two varieties, those who succeed and those
who fail (p. 93). In a similar attitude, Dr. Burton Clark stated that
style is not the issue, rather the leader must be able to inspire followers to achieve new heights of excellence (p. 93).
An integral part of leadership is the qualities a leader should possess. Part of the survey used in this research was a question to the
participants to list the five most important characteristics in a fire
chief. This question was posed to gain an idea of what constitutes
an effective fire chief. Den Hartog et al. (1999), in their “Global
Leadership and Organizational Behaviour Effectiveness” study,
listed 22 effective leadership attributes, the most important of
which are trustworthiness, dynamism, motivator, decisiveness, and
intelligence. A decade later, Feuquay (2010), in a survey of leadership characteristics, found that a substantial proportion of respondents believed that leadership characteristics normally associated
with higher ranks—strategic thinking, team development skills,
community and government relations, vision of the future, and
incident management skills—are also important at lower ranks.
Randy Bruegman’s (2012) work, Advanced Fire Administration,
articulated a number of true leadership characteristics: Clarify what
you value most, fully commit to what is important, embrace the
challenge, paint the big picture, engage others, control what you
can, take charge, and tell positive stories (pp. 378-9). Burns (1978)
called them end values, which include concepts such as liberty,
justice, fairness, and equality, all of which would raise the morality
of the leader, the follower, and the organization.
In a recently released dissertation, Buttenschon (2016) interviewed several fire department “leaders” throughout the United
States and found five common leadership themes: principles for
leadership development competencies, creation of mentor relationships, forms of leadership training, exhibited leadership styles, and
evidence of the role of family.
In sum, one can see that the previously referenced published
sources do not specifically recommend a particular leadership style
but rather identify a variety of styles. The academic sources cited
do draw definite assumptions, mainly that transformational leadership (participative) is the leadership style chosen as best and that
laissez-faire is the least important to a fire service leader.
The pie charts seen in Figures 1 and 2 indicate the selected leadership styles of chief fire officers in both countries. The numbers are in
percentages. The leadership style most chiefs identified with in both
countries was participative, whereas authoritarian was the second
highest leadership style chosen in Taiwan while heroic was that
second choice among chiefs in England. The Taiwanese listed heroic
then laissez-faire to round out the four leadership styles. In England,