"Terrorism" Leadership

John G. Dahms, Richard A. Mueller and David F. Peterson propose strategies for dealing with fire service leaders who can and do inflict terror on members.


The words "terrorism" and "leadership" are not often used together, but there are fire service leaders who use terrorism tactics to lead. These are people in leadership positions who can - and do - inflict terror on their members. The behaviors resulting from poor leadership decisions can decrease...


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The words "terrorism" and "leadership" are not often used together, but there are fire service leaders who use terrorism tactics to lead. These are people in leadership positions who can - and do - inflict terror on their members. The behaviors resulting from poor leadership decisions can decrease followership and increase organizational dysfunction. This article will examine the profile of the "terrorist type leader." It'll also explain how they conduct themselves and describe the weapons they use to terrorize the workforce. More importantly, this article will identify coping mechanisms and anti-terrorism measures to employ in order to remain safe in a terrorist environment.

Terrorism has been defined by the FBI as "the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives." These actions are meant to instill terror in victims with the meaning of terror being "an overwhelming feeling of fear and anxiety." Key words above, then, provide a good working definition of the leaders who stoop to the behaviors we will examine. Words such as unlawful, intimidate, coerce, political, social, fear and anxiety define the leaders that need to be monitored and, even more importantly, stopped.

Weapons of Choice

The first place to start is to identify the weapons that fire service "terrorist" leaders have at their disposal and willingly us to intimidate and coerce their subordinates. The acronym to remember the weapons of terrorists is "B-NICE," which certainly qualifies as one of the largest oxymorons ever penned.

B-NICE represents:

Biological
Nuclear
Incendiary
Chemical
Explosive

B stands for Biological weapons

These are the living organisms or "bugs" that often need a living source in order to sustain life. They include things like viruses, bacteria and toxins. Terrorist leaders can resort to spreading viruses through the workplace and are not above planting viruses in places where they know the virus will be cultivated. This means that the virus will grow and spread and maybe mutate as to be unrecognizable in a short time.

The easy part for the terrorist leader is all they have to do is plant the virus and then stand back and observe. In this way, rumors or deliberate non-factual information are the practical weapons they use to plant a virus. Other ways are to instruct or direct others to do the same. This removes the hierarchal terrorist leaders from culpability and deniability becomes plausible.

Anti-terrorism efforts require members to, first and foremost, resist spreading rumors. Continuing a rumor chain when the information is not yet proven to be factual places followers in the same positions as the terrorists who started them and essentially creating an informal terrorist cell. Rumors hurt organizations because they hurt the people in them, especially the person who is the rumor subject. A good leader will first recognize the damage rumors can inflict and break the rumor chain by not repeating them.

When leaders recognize rumors that have significant damage potential, they seek out correct and factual information. This may mean going directly to the source for verification. This may even include a chief officer. It has been said that the truth hurts for a short time, but lies can hurt forever. Leaders seek out truth and eliminate lies or the very least inaccurate information.

N stands for Nuclear weapons

Nuclear weapons, when deployed, release radiation and kill silently and insidiously. Over time, the radiation sickness manifests itself slowly by causing people to eat less, do less and even look less appealing. A malaise sets over everyone who has been exposed.

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