Transformal Leadership In the Fire Service

The topic of leadership has been thoroughly researched and examined throughout history. Researchers have studied the relationship between leadership and a variety of factors, attempting to draw conclusions on the effectiveness of different leadership...


The topic of leadership has been thoroughly researched and examined throughout history. Researchers have studied the relationship between leadership and a variety of factors, attempting to draw conclusions on the effectiveness of different leadership styles. The concept of transformational...


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Leaders who engage in the leadership behaviors of transformational leadership experience positive outcomes:

• Higher levels of intrinsic motivation

• Increased levels of performance

• Better retention rates

• Higher job satisfaction

Transformational leadership creates positive outcomes for both leader and follower, so everyone wins.

Developing effective leaders and keeping firefighters highly motivated is considered critical to the future of the fire service. Numerous researchers have confirmed that organizational commitment is a key factor in producing high levels of motivation with public sector employees. It has been asserted by many researchers through the years that leadership style directly affects organizational commitment levels. I conducted a study in the fire service to ascertain whether the perceived leadership style of direct supervisors in the fire service had an effect on organizational commitment levels of the firefighters.

There were 1,919 firefighters who participated in the study and answered a variety of questions about their direct supervisor in the fire service and their own organizational commitment level. Every rank of the fire service was represented in the study, from firefighter all the way to fire chief. The study showed that when transformational leadership style was present, organizational commitment level was higher. The lowest levels of organizational commitment were present when a laissez-faire style of leadership was employed. The positive effects of employing transformational leadership in the fire service are too strong to ignore.

Fire departments respond to over 25 million emergency situations each year and effective leadership is at the heart of the incident command system in the fire service. Recruiting and retaining committed firefighters is a challenge for both volunteer and career fire departments. The recent economic downturn is crippling the budgets of fire departments and making it more difficult to hire additional firefighters. Ensuring that firefighters stay motivated and committed in both career and volunteer departments will be an ongoing challenge for leaders in the fire service.

Low morale in fire departments can often be traced to the leadership styles employed throughout the chain of command. Followers see a lot of hypocrisy and a lack of integrity in their leaders. Transformational leadership involves behavior choices, and those choices are often hard work and require a tremendous amount of effort. Some leaders are just too lazy to invest the time and energy to employ this type of leadership style. What they fail to recognize is this style of leadership will save them a lot of time, energy and crisis in the long term.

Transformational leadership is the process of identifying the needs, motives and values of leaders and followers to facilitate the best interest of everyone. With transformational leadership, the leader strives to inspire and foster motivation in followers and create a bond through a shared vision. Transformational leaders stimulate followers to levels of performance beyond normal expectations. Leaders who recognize the importance of transformational leadership will reap the benefits that this leadership style affords. If you want to see your followers transformed into amazing leaders, transform yourself first by using a transformational leadership style!

KIMBERLY ALYN, Ph.D., is a best-selling author and an international fire service speaker. She is the owner of Fire Presentations (www.firepresentations.com), a company dedicated to keynote presentations and training workshops for the fire service. Dr. Alyn has conducted the largest known fire service study on the topic of leadership and works with fire departments across the country on firefighter and officer development. She is the author of 10 books and a variety of CD/DVD productions. Dr. Alyn holds a bachelor's degree in management, a master's degree in organizational management and a doctorate degree in management with a specialty in leadership. Dr. Alyn can be reached at 800-821-8116 or kim@firepresentations.com.