This Training Note is intended to provide information to students attending courses on the
subject of "Functional Leadership" as relevant to the Rescue and Fire Fighting Services
(RFFS) employed at airports.
To understand fully what is meant by the term "Functional Leadership".
At the end of the instructional session dealing with this subject, after detailed study of this
note and the associated notes covering this subject you will:
• Understand both the qualities and situational approach to leadership
• Understand that the functional approach to leadership is a better approach in respect to the
needs of the Fire Service today.
• Understand the leadership functions of the Fire Officer.
• Understand the different leadership styles.
• Understand the importance of effective delegation.
The subject will be dealt with under the following headings:
Introduction to Leadership.
The qualities approach.
The situational approach.
The functional approach.
Functional Leadership.
Leadership functions of the Fire Officer.
Leadership style.
Leadership training at the International Fire Training Centre is based on the functional
approach to leadership training. The Fire Service is one of the first non-military organizations
to adopt the functional approach. Before considering the functional approach, two earlier
approaches must be reviewed.
The oldest idea and perhaps the most common assumption about leadership is that the leaders
are born with inherent qualities which qualify them to lead; e.g. courage, integrity, commonsense, humor. Great leaders have been analyzed to see what qualities they displayed and lists
of desirable qualities drawn up on the basis of this analysis. Unfortunately the approach
breaks down on a number of points.
Researchers into this approach assembled all the known lists of leadership qualities made by
various authorities. There were many lists but no two lists agreed. Another fault is that we
can all recall some leaders who were very effective yet obviously lacked some of the widely
accepted qualities. For example, did Hitler have integrity or a sense of humour; did Churchill
have tact? Again, do we not all know people who have many of the qualities yet are quite
incapable of leading?
If these qualities are necessary, to what degree are they needed? How much courage? Do not
all fire-fighters or members of the Armed Forces need courage? Another problem is training.
Can courage or a sense of humour be developed, or does it mean that some people are leaders
and some are not and that this state cannot be changed? Finally there is the danger that the
qualities approach suggests that leadership is a matter of being rather than doing.
Although the qualities approach does not give an adequate explanation of leadership, there is
an element of truth in the approach. People with certain qualities have a good starting point
for leadership providing they recognize their assets and make use of them and recognize their
weaknesses and overcome them.
The reverse side of the coin is the situational approach to leadership. This suggests that the
leader in any group will be the person who possesses the necessary skill or knowledge to deal
with the situation or problem facing the group. For example, in a party shipwrecked on an
island, the
builder, the doctor or the sailor might assume leadership according to the task to be achieved.
However, the theory has weaknesses; knowledge or skill alone is not enough. We all know
experts who are incapable of leading anyone. Something more than technical skill is needed.
In an organization such as the Fire Service it would be unacceptable to pass leadership from
one expert to another like a rugby ball; this would soon lead to disorder. Moreover, groups
are seldom faced with single problems; there are usually conflicts of priority. For example,
on the island the group might want to build a boat, care for the sick and provide themselves
with a shelter at the same time. Who would then be the leader - the sailor, the doctor or the
So, the situational approach does not give the complete answer to leadership; however, it
contains its grain of truth. Just as the qualities approach suggests that the possession of some
qualities helps towards leadership if they are recognized and used, so too according to the
situational approach, the person who has the most appropriate skill and knowledge in relation
to the situation is likely to be a better leader.
A better approach to leadership and leadership training is made by analyzing the functions
involved. It must be borne in mind that leadership can only be applied to groups who are
confronted with the need to take action or make decisions. People who are assembled
passively, to watch a film for example, are not subject to leadership. A great deal of research
has been made into the psychology of small groups both in industry and in the Armed Forces.
From this research it has been found that within a group there exist three areas of need:
Task Needs
Groups arise or are formed to undertake tasks which are too difficult, too complex or too
impractical for one person to accomplish alone. For example, to win a soccer game, to fly a
large aircraft, to get to the top of a mountain, to keep the Station or Brigade functioning
efficiently. This is the area of task needs.
Team Maintenance Needs
To achieve its objective the group has to be held together as a cohesive team, to work
together in harness. For example, eleven star soccer players do not necessarily make a
winning team. If they act as prim a Donnas, eleven lesser players working as a well knit team
might beat them soundly. This is the area of team maintenance needs.
Individual Needs
In any group each individual brings his/her personal needs.
The physical needs of food, shelter, warmth, clothing, money
Psychological needs; to be accepted in to the group, to be given status, to be allowed to use
skills and to contribute to the group, to achieve ambitions.
The Leader's Functions:With the recognition of the three areas of need, it can be seen that the job of the leader is to:
Be aware of the needs of the group
Perform the functions
Thought processes
Communications and Actions
To satisfy the needs of the group
To be aware of the needs of the group and to perform leadership functions, the leader
has to have skill and training.
If the leader does something to strengthen the team, by training for example, it will be
more likely to achieve its task and each individual will feel more confident.
Priority of Task Needs
Figure 1 also shows the areas equal in size. However, in any circumstances particular needs are
likely to predominate. For example, task need must predominate sometimes, especially in the
Armed Services or emergency organizations such as the Fire Service. In these circumstances
the leader must give priority to task needs at the expense of other areas of need, see Figure 2.
On the other hand, if an individual has a weakness or a problem which stops the team from
operating effectively to the detriment of the task, then attention to the individual needs
Figure -1
The skilled leader builds up team and individual needs in slack periods in preparation for
high task priorities. Team and individual needs can be thought of as batteries to be charged
up. The skilled leader recognizes that after long task priority periods he/she must seize
opportunities to attend to team and individual needs to recharge batteries.
In a Fire Service environment it is considered that the following are the six key functions
which a leader must perform to meet the needs of the group:
Sizing up the situation.
Determining the extent of the task.
Obtaining all available information.
Deciding plan of action and priorities.
Estimating assistance. As action progresses.
Adjusting the plan (see Evaluating).
Explaining the aims and plan
Giving reasons why?
Allocating tasks to crews/individuals
Setting crew standards.
Maintaining crew standards.
Influencing tempo.
Ensuring all actions contribute to the aim.
Encouraging crews/individuals.
Disciplining crews/individuals.
Creating team spirit.
Informing crews/individuals of all matters affecting their activities.
Reporting back information from crews to higher command.
Comparing achievement with plan (in order to modify plan and/or take remedial
action as required).
Checking performance against the plan, if necessary adjusting the plan (see Planning).
Helping the crew to evaluate its performance.
Debriefing after fires or tasks.
Giving credit and encouragement for good work.
Pointing out mistakes and weaknesses.
Discussing whether methods could be improved.
Note:- It should be clear that failure to perform any one of these functions will result in the
partial or total failure of the group to achieve its aim.
Leadership Qualities
In a fire fighting or rescue environment It is considered that the following are the ten essential
elements of leadership:
Informing crews/individuals of all matters affecting their activities. Reporting back
information from crews to higher command.
Being in charge of the situation or taking over from an original leader.
Maintaining crew standards. Influencing tempo ensuring all actions contribute to the Aim.
Recording, monitoring and evaluating progress of incident.
Granting authority or the right to make decisions to another team member.
Decision Making
Addressing the problem of how a task is to be done.
• Knowledge of Risk
By using pre-determined action plan for different areas of the aerodrome and different fire
hazards and risks, the leader will have a better knowledge of the action to take for given
Safety Requirements
Ensuring that the fire crew carry out their task with the minimum of risk to themselves.
Knowing and identifying when a team are exhausted and also knowledge that the leader
himself may have to work on longer than the fire team.
Having the ability to anticipate the possible escalation of an emergency situation and plan
Commanders will vary their style of leadership according to the situation. On the fire ground
leadership will be authoritarian and urgent, whereas in the fire station it may be of a more
Consultative or democratic nature. This range of styles is illustrated overleaf by considering
that most frequently arising leadership function: decision-taking.
The way we perceive “The way things are around here”…can exert a great influence on
leadership styles. We can associate three fundamental leadership styles to the three
management imperatives discussed above. Let’s take a look at this association.
Tough-coercive leadership
In this leader ship approach, managers are tough on safety to protect themselves: to avoid
penalties. The manger’s approach controlling performance may primarily rely on the
threat penalties. To objective is to achieve compliance to fulfill legal or fiscal imperatives.
The culture is fear-driven. Management resort to an accountability system that
emphasizes negative consequences. By what mangers do and say, they may communicate
negative messages to employee that establish or reinforce negative relationship. Here are
some examples of what a tough-coercive leader might say;
Punishment- “Of I go down… I’m talking you all with me “ (I’ve heard
this myself)
Punishment- “If you violate this safety rule, you will be fired.”
Punishment- “If you report hazards, you will be labeled a complainer.”
Negative reinforcement – “If you work accident free, you won’t be fired.”
As you might guess, fear-driven cultures, by definition cannot be effective in achieving
world-class safety because employees work (and don’t work) to avoid a negative
consequence. Employees and managers all work to avoid punishment. Consequently, feardriver safety culture will no work. It cannot b e effective e for employees and managers at
any level of the organization. It may be successful in achieving compliance, but that’s it.
Tough-controlling leadership
Manages are tough on safety to control losses. Hey have high standards for behavior and
performance, and they control all aspects of work to ensure compliance.
This leadership model is most frequently exhibited in the “traditional” management
model. As employers gain greater understanding, attitudes and strategies to fulfill their
legal and fiscal imperatives improve. They become more effective in designing safety
systems that successfully reduce injuries and illnesses, hereby cutting production costs.
Tight control is necessary to achieve numerical goals. Communication is typically topdown and information is used to control. A safety “director” is usually appointed to act as
a cop: responsible for controlling the safety function.
Tough-controlling leaders move beyond the threat of punishment as the primary strategy
to influence behavior. However, they will rely to a somewhat lesser extent on negative
reinforcement and punishment to influence behavior. Positive reinforcement may also be
used as a controlling strategy. Though-controlling leadership styles may or may not result
in a fear based culture. Examples of what you might hear from a tough-controlling leader
Negative reinforcement ‘“If you have can accident, you’ll be disciplined.”
Negative reinforcement ‘“If you don’t have an accident, you won’t lose
your bonus.”
Positive reinforcement ‘“If you comply with safety rules, you will be
Tough-caring leadership model
Managers are tough on safety because they have high expectations and they insist their
followers behave, and they care about the success of their employees first. This is a selfless leadership approach.
The tough caring leadership model represents a major shift in leadership and
management thinking from the selfish tough controlling model. Managers understand
that complying with the law, controlling losses, and improving production can best be
assure d if employees are motivated, safe, and able.
Management understands that they can best fulfill their commitment to external
customers by fulfilling their obligations to internal customers: their employees.
Communication is typically all way: information is used to share so that everyone
succeeds. A quantum leap in effective safety (and all other functions) occurs when
employers adopt a tough-caring approach to leadership. Rather than being the safety cop,
the safety managers are responsible to ‘help” all line managers and supervisors “do”
safety. Line managers must be the cops, not the safety department. This results in
dramatic positive changes in corporate culture which is success-driven.
Although positive reinforcement is the primary strategy used to influence behaviors,
tough caring leaders are not reluctant in administering discipline when it’s justified
because they understand it to be a matter of leadership. However, before they discipline,
mangers will first evaluate the degree to which they, themselves, have fulfilled their
obligations to heir employees. If they have failed in that effort, they will apologize and
correct their own deficiency rather than discipline. What are you likely to hear from a
tough-caring leaders?
Positive reinforcement – “If you comply with safety rules, report injuries
and hazards, I will personally recognize you.”
Positive reinforcement ‘ “If you get involved in the safety committee, you
will be more promotable.”
Positive reinforcement – “If you suggest and help make improvements, I
will personally recognize and reward you.”
You can imagine that in a tough-caring safety culture, trust between management and
labor is promoted through mutual respect, involvement and ownership in all aspects of
workplace safety.
Are you really committed? Show me the time and money.
Top management may communicate their support for safety, but the real test for
commitment is the degree to which management acts on their communication with
serious investments in time and money. When management merely communicates their
interest in safety, but does not follow through with action, they are expressing moral
support, not commitment.
Related flashcards
Create Flashcards