Leading Up

Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Mar 2022


Looking out for our people includes not only those who work for us but also our leaders and peers. Leadership is about influencing others to accomplish tasks that are in the best interest of our organization, which often means influencing those above us (leading up). Similarly, we are open to upward leadership and, in fact, encourage and reward it.

Fire leaders are expected to lead in many directions, an expectation that increases complexity and risk.

Summoning the courage needed to intervene and influence peers or leaders can be difficult, especially if providing unwelcome feedback about behavior or pointing out an alternative to a potentially bad decision.

In high-risk environments, individuals cannot afford to assume that anyone has all the answers.

To build the kind of healthy and resilient culture required in the wildland fire service, we lead up, holding our leaders accountable, providing unvarnished situational awareness in challenging situations, and offering unbiased and viable alternatives.

Discussion Points

  • How can we practice leading up?
  • Describe a situation where leading up took place. How was the situation affected?
  • Describe a situation where there was opportunity for leading up but it was not done. How was the situation affected?
  • Discuss leading laterally: influencing peers or those with similar responsibilities.


Additional Resources

Incident Management Situation Report (IMSR)
10 Standard Firefighting Orders, PMS 110 
18 Watch Out Situations, PMS 118
10 & 18 Poster, PMS 110-18
NWCG Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461
RT-130, Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher (WFSTAR)
Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations (Red Book)
Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center


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