Blog by Doug Cline
International Society of Fire Service Instructors, Vice President

An officer best exemplifies leadership by devoting a major portion of his/her time to help stimulate improvement in both subordinates and the organization.

Today’s leaders are utilizing contemporary leadership styles: charismatic leadership, transformational leadership, transactional leadership and symbolic leadership. Officers need to know when to use each of these styles for optimum outcomes within the organization.

Charismatic: Inspires followers to be loyal and creates an enthusiastic vision that others work to attain.

Transformational: This style depends on the continuous learning, innovation and change within the organization. True transformational leadership is a rare quality.

Transactional: Involves an exchange between the leader and the followers in which the followers perform tasks effectively in exchange for rewards provided by the leader.

Symbolic: Bases theory on a strong organizational culture that holds common values and beliefs. Leadership starts are the top of the organization and extends downward. Subordinates must have full faith and trust in the leadership of the organization.

It is important that leaders be able to match and effectively utilize any of these various leadership styles, based on the types of individuals they are leading, to effectively lead their fire department or company.

This focuses on truly understanding the organizational theories, interpersonal dynamics and group dynamics of the individuals and groups that make up the organization. If you look at it closely, you will find most leaders utilize multiple leadership styles on individuals of the group simultaneously to effectively achieve desired outcomes.

Each of these leadership styles are a result of the various traits of an organization’s leaders. It’s important for officers to know the strengths and weaknesses of each theory and style, along with being capable of applying the principles that are most appropriate in any given situation.

About the Author
Douglas Cline is a student of the fire service serving as training commander with the City of High Point (N.C.) Fire Department and assistant chief of administration with the Ruffin Volunteer Fire Department. Cline is a North Carolina Level II Fire Instructor, National Fire Academy Instructor and an EMT-Paramedic instructor/coordinator for the North Carolina Office of Emergency Medical Services. Cline is a member of the North Carolina Society of Fire Service Instructors and the International Society of Fire Service Instructors where he serves on the Board of Directors as The First Vice President.