Wildland Fire Leadership Levels

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The wildland fire leadership levels illustrate the standard for desired leaderships skills and knowledge needed at various levels of the organization.  These levels reference information found in Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, PMS 494-2; the NWCG Standards for Course Delivery, PMS 901-1; the Individual Development Plan Guide; and OPM’s Proficiency Levels for Leadership Competencies.

 

Followers have several responsibilities: to become competent in basic job skills, take initiative, learn from others, ask questions, and develop communication skills.

Description

  • Leadership development starts the first day of the job.
  • Followers function as a team member.
  • Part of being a leader is exercising good followership and understanding human dynamics.
  • Followership begins the journey of becoming a student of fire.

Behaviors

  • Performs entry-level incident management tasks, contributing to team mission accomplishment and performance.
  • Takes responsibility for personal actions and decisions, demonstrating the core value of integrity.
  • Takes initiative to ensure the mission is accomplished and team performance is improved.
  • Practices the five communication responsibilities to develop skill and ensure individual contribution to risk management.
  • Interacts with team members, in a positive and constructive manner, to build team cohesion.
  • Acts with humility and learns from others to improve technical and leadership skills.
  • Asks questions to increase individual knowledge and improve the safety of self and team members.

Knowledge

  • Knowledge of the wildland fire leadership values, principles, and traits to inform expectations of their behaviors as a team member.
  • Knowledge of leadership concepts including courage, compassion, authenticity, humility, and empathy to inform expectations of their behavior as a team member.
  • Knowledge of the risk management process to understand their role in accident prevention and decision-making.
  • Knowledge of the decision-making process to inform their role in an effective decision process.
  • Knowledge of the impacts of cumulative and traumatic stress to assist in ensuring resilience and mental and emotional health.
  • Knowledge of the elements of human factors and barriers to situational awareness to understand how human elements can contribute to team performance and fireline safety.
  • Knowledge of the value diversity of thought and perspective bring to team performance to ensure respectful interactions with team members and to contribute to a positive team culture/command climate.

Development Goals

 

A new leader begins transitioning from a follower to a leader of small groups to achieve a common goal. They begin to implement team cohesion, accept responsibility for self and team, and apply effective communications.

Description

  • Proficient at leadership values and principles.
  • Understand transition challenges for new leaders, situational leadership, team cohesion factors, ethical decision-making, and debriefing techniques.
  • Lead by example.
  • Lead small groups to achieve common goals, objectives, and tasks.

Behaviors

  • Demonstrates accountability for personal and team performance to build trust and establish positive team environment.
  • Applies knowledge of leadership traits to lead small teams.
  • Promotes inclusion for new and existing team members to build team cohesion and create an environment for effective communication.
  • Solicits questions, both up and down chain of command, in order to learn from others.
  • Applies a risk management process to ensure safety of self and team members.

Knowledge

  • Utilize leadership traits to identify developmental needs in self and others.
  • Describe situational leadership to understand application of appropriate leadership styles.
  • Understand how wildland fire leadership values, principles, and traits inform ethical decision-making.
  • Understand how task, purpose, and end state are used to deliver leader’s intent.
  • Apply self-assessment tools to identify improvement gaps.
  • Practice self-care and team-care.
  • Knowledge of basic format to conduct a post-incident debriefing. 
  • Knowledge of the components of an operational briefing to deliver a simple assignment briefing.
  • Knowledge of human factors and environmental barriers to communication.
  • Knowledge of organizational structures (Incident Command System [ICS] and agency).
  • Identify the sources of power which enable leadership influence.

Development Goals

 

Leaders of people have increasing challenges. They accept responsibility, not only for their own actions, but for those of their team. Leaders of people act to develop credibility as leaders: placing the team ahead of themselves, demonstrating trustworthiness, mastering essential technical skills, and instilling the values of the organization in their teams.

Description

  • Lead a large group or unit of people.
  • Quickly assemble and lead a cohesive team to accomplish mission objectives.
  • Provide an inclusive environment that fosters the development of others, facilitates cooperation and teamwork, and supports constructive resolutions of conflict.
  • Continue to build personal leadership skills, and lead by example.

Behaviors

  • Demonstrates expertise in job skills to provide guidance and training to team members.
  • Develops credibility and reputation to increase one’s personal sphere of influence.
  • Uses experience and training to develop novel solutions to tactical problems.
  • Directly mentors new leaders to develop counseling skills and ensure the organization has a leadership pipeline.
  • Demonstrates an appropriate response and aftercare of a traumatic event involving a team member.
  • Utilizes a risk-refusal process to ensure team safety while considering options for mission accomplishment.
  • Conducts an effective briefing to ensure mission accomplishment and unity of action.
  • Practices effective debriefing facilitation techniques to improve team performance and increase team cohesion.
  • Demonstrates direct statements, active listening, and message confirmation, and allows effective feedback.
  • Effectively demonstrates the five communication responsibilities and adapts to the unique needs of people and situations.
  • Demonstrates risk management and recognition-primed decision-making.
  • Demonstrates the appropriate leadership styles to accomplish the mission and build the team.
  • Identifies and manages acute and chronic fatigue to improve health and performance.
  • Exercises appropriate sources of influence to ensure mission accomplishment and maintain team cohesion.
  • Applies an appropriate leadership style (directing, delegating, or participatory) for a given team and situation to develop team members and increase team cohesion.

Knowledge

  • Describe how core values, principles, and traits guide tactical and ethical decisions.
  • Understand a leader’s role in influencing decisions up and down the chain of command and knowing when to lead up.
  • Understand application of various leadership styles to ensure high team performance and cohesion.
  • Describe the traits and principles which guide a leader's role to ensure team performance and a positive work environment when responding to harassment, substance abuse, conflict resolution, and hazing.
  • Identify the consequences and understand the positive use of position power and authority.
  • Describe human stress reactions to understand the impact of stress on team performance and individual decision-making.
  • Define the leader's role in each phase of teambuilding to enhance cohesion, effectiveness, and trust.
  • Establish or validate crew standards (standard operating procedures [SOP] or standard operation guide [SOG]) to ensure a common operating picture.
  • Ensure a positive and healthy work environment, and promote team cohesion by dealing with conflict, harassment, and substance abuse.
  • Understand various techniques for counseling and mentoring subordinates to ensure trust and open communication within the team.
  • Define techniques for rapid teambuilding.
  • Define characteristics of high-performing teams.
  • Understand how to use the situation awareness cycle and how to evaluate whether a leader's perception matches the reality of the situation.
  • Recognize and exercise the ability to control operational tempo.
  • Analyze barriers to communication to establish and maintain open lines of communication.
  • Develop and communicate leader's intent.
  • Understand the error chain (i.e., Swiss Cheese Model) to promote a safety-conscious team.
  • Understand how to integrate contingency planning into operations and anticipate upstream or systematic errors.
  • Evaluate and update one’s leadership individual development plan using peer feedback and self-assessment.
  • Explain how building a positive command climate relates to team cohesion.
  • Understand the importance of command and control.

Development Goals

 

The distance between the leader and the led increases the challenges of leading. Subordinate leaders frequently work in other locations, so face-to-face communication is not always possible.

As a result, the circumstances for building trust are more complex; even so, the trust must withstand the pressures of time and distance, enabling leaders to confidently communicate intent and delegate responsibility. These leaders act as the conduit between the organization and the people on the ground, interpreting the vision into mission and translating abstract ideas so subordinate leaders can take definitive action.

Description

  • Function as a mid- to senior-level organizational leader.
  • Utilize leadership tools to provide strategic direction and influence others to achieve organizational goals.
  • Develop personal leadership skills and command presence to increase effectiveness within the organization.
  • Fulfill the responsibilities of an effective team member and contribute effectively to upper management decisions.
  • Perform as an effective organizational leader within one’s functional area.
  • Communicate the needs of subordinates up the chain of command.

Behaviors

  • Demonstrates expertise in job skills to advise senior leaders and to coach and mentor junior leaders.
  • Provides direction in situations with significant consequence to ensure mission accomplishment and reduce organizational risk.
  • Propagates creativity and innovation to ensure organizational efficiency and relevance and to increase team member engagement.
  • Propagates consistent leader's intent and supports upper management decisions to minimize internal and external friction and ensure alignment with broader efforts.
  • Demonstrates a commitment to continuing education and self-development to ensure personal and organizational growth and positive change.
  • Utilizes appropriate strategies to motivate the team to accomplish organizational goals.
  • Effectively delegates workload to develop future leaders and increase organizational work capacity.
  • Influences team and organizational change to ensure continual performance improvement.
  • Demonstrates the ability to use planning tools and leadership doctrine to produce an action plan to meet organizational goals.
  • Demonstrates emotional intelligence during interactions with team members and external stakeholders to build trust and influence team and organizational outcomes.
  • Demonstrates moral courage in difficult situations to build team trust and enhance personal character.
  • Demonstrates the ability to focus on team success over personal success in the service of the common good.
  • Applies doctrine and values within the team decision-making process.
  • Shares pertinent information to all team members to facilitate a shared understanding of salient components and maintain a common operating picture.
  • Demonstrates ability to use a variety of communication methods, including listening and questioning, to identify gaps in understanding or risks to the operation.
  • Demonstrates ability to provide meaningful self-assessment, team member assessments, and an overall team assessment to improve performance and strengthen team ethos.
  • Applies knowledge of styles and methods to defuse conflict in a high-stress environment.
  • Demonstrates adaptability and versatility in complex environments.
  • Demonstrates ability to accomplish mission while effectively managing team's timelines.
  • Uses vision to create a foundation for organizational success and forward thinking.
  • Promotes and propagates positive team climate and organizational culture.
  • Utilizes reward and recognition to motivate team.
  • Applies and adapts mentoring and coaching techniques.
  • Demonstrates ability to contextualize outputs from the risk management process to assess, modify, and implement organizational strategies.
  • Fosters organizational opportunities for team and individual growth and development.

Knowledge

  • Perform a critical assessment of personal staff ethos and how personal core values can guide decision-making.
  • Propagate command staff values, culture, and climate throughout team and organization.
  • Define the difference between vision and intent.
  • Understand various techniques to deal with conflicting stakeholder goals and interests.
  • Understand the responsibility that comes with position power.
  • Understand how stress physiology and psychology affect team health and performance.
  • Define how to build organizational resilience.
  • Understand the spectrum of firefighter health and well-being.
  • Exercise conflict resolution in a high-stress environment.
  • Identify inefficient personal habits that work against the team.
  • Understand situational awareness at the organizational level.
  • Develop strategies for creating common understanding of organizational environment.
  • Understand the importance of a common operating picture.
  • Discern relevant information from available information.
  • Develop and propagate consistent leader's intent up and down the chain of command.
  • Understand perspective audience, and develop and deliver appropriate messages.
  • Analyze how to manage emotions and self.
  • Understand, recognize, and apply personal emotional intelligence.
  • Initiate and sustain changes in leadership behavior.
  • Understand the ripple effect of decision-making at the organizational level and unintended consequences.

Development Goals

 

For leaders of organizations, the challenges grow to looking broadly and further ahead. These leaders manage the most complex and high-profile emergency incidents.

Organizational leaders plan for future operations and mentor promising people for key roles in our organizations. They represent the face of the wildland fire service to cooperators, stakeholders, and the general public. Decisions made by these leaders have significant and far-reaching impacts.

Description

  • Function as a senior-level organizational leader.
  • Foster exchange of knowledge and experience in the art of leading large organizations during high-risk and complex incidents.
  • Provide long-term strategic vision for the future of the organization.
  • Promote an inclusive workforce, where diversity and individual differences are valued and leveraged. Establish effective, positive, and long-term organizational culture.

Behaviors

  • Utilizes foresight to anticipate the need for organizational change.
  • Mentors Leaders of Leaders for key roles in the organization to ensure organizational succession, stability, and longevity.
  • Anticipates, plans, responds, and executes within the social, security, political, infrastructure, information, and economic dimensions of the incident/organization while setting conditions for success. 
  • Establishes highly-effective incident response structures, using decentralized command and control models and intent-based operations.
  • Establishes and communicates long-term vision to drive organizational change.
  • Applies critical thinking to strategic-level planning.
  • Effectively promotes a diverse workforce, allowing for diversity of thought within the organization.
  • Develops new insights into situations, questions conventional approaches, encourages new ideas and innovations, and designs and implements new or cutting-edge programs/processes.
  • Encourages creative tension and differences of opinions. Anticipates and takes steps to prevent counter-productive confrontations. Manages and resolves conflicts and disagreements in a constructive manner.
  • Ensures available resources are in alignment with vision, organizational goals, and the needs of their people.
  • Ensures a common operating picture is maintained to align organizational decisions.

Knowledge

  • Identify successful traits of senior leaders to continue to develop self.
  • Identify how to benchmark and collaborate with outside organizations and apply within the organization.
  • Continue to develop personal and professional leadership skills to keep pace with current and future workforce needs.
  • Understand the importance of developing and utilizing political capital for organizational benefits (winning a battle vs. winning a war).
  • Understand how to develop a healthy and resilient culture for a large organization.
  • Understand how to mentor future leaders within the organization.
  • Identify how your organization can handle an event beyond capacity or worst-case scenario (e.g., San Diego Mega Fire, Camp Fire).

Development Goals

 

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Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
2021-02-02