Blog by Mark Emery, EFO
President of Fire Command, LLC

If all learned skills must begin with the fundamentals, what are the fundamentals of leadership?

Many experts define leadership as the action of leading a group of people or an organization. What that definition describes is supervision and management, not leadership. The evidence is that a person can be promoted to a position of supervision or management without being a leader. Thus it is imperative to prepare leaders at all organizational levels.

Again, it is important to not confuse leadership with supervision or management. The distinction is crucial; not making this distinction is why groups and organizations experience ongoing conflict.

While it is possible to draft a job description for a Supervisor or a Manager, it is impossible to draft a job description for a Leader. Imagine saying to someone, starting Monday morning you will be a leader.

Consider this: The actions of a prison guard ensure that the inmate group gets things done; goals like cooking meals, mopping floors, doing laundry, meeting license plate production quotas, etc. Does that mean that the prison guard is a leader? Of course not, prison goals will be met whether or not the guard is a leader. The supervisory success of the prison guard is entirely based on position and authority.

Although the role, responsibility, and authority of people may vary, the intrinsic template of truly honorable leadership does not vary. Often missed by traditional leadership programs is the fact people should be a leader before they become a supervisor or manager. Each member must be able to lead themselves before they attempt to supervise others.

It is not uncommon for so-called leadership programs to morph into supervision and management programs. Thus, a leadership gap is perpetuated. Fundamentals of leadership essentials must permeate the organization, top to bottom. Not all people will supervise, but all people should possess the template for honorable leadership.

Once the honorable leadership template has been internalized individually, and institutionalized organizationally, honorable leaders will proliferate and the ultimate manifestation of organizational development will emerge: Trust.

About the Author

Mark Emery is president of Fire Command, LLC in King County, Wash. He is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer (EFO) Program and has a degree from California State University Long Beach. In 2010, he retired as an operations battalion chief with the Woodinville, Wash., Fire & Life Safety District.