|Frequently Asked Questions|
Based on our own experiences, most of us could probably come up with a pretty good definition of an effective leader. For the purposes of the wildland fire leadership development program, the following working definition is used:
Leaders are individuals whose values and character enable them to influence others by providing purpose, direction, and motivation, in order to accomplish the incident response mission and improve the organization.
The program is built on three distinct components: wildland fire values and principles, self-development, and formal training. The values of Duty, Respect, and Integrity and the 11 supporting principles are the foundation of wildland fire leadership, providing leaders a firm ethical base for the practice of leadership in the wildland fire environment. The self-development component includes a professional reading program as well as guides for experiental training techniques such as After Action Reviews, Tactical Decision Games, and Staff Rides. Formal training includes a curriculum with six levels of training from the least complex (follower) to the most complex (organizational leader) levels. A basic course in Human Factors lays the foundation. After that, firefighters advance to a course with a focus on the transition from Followership to Leadership. More extensive training follows in the Fireline Leadership, Incident Leadership, and Incident Management Team Leadership courses.
It will take at least until the 2009 training season to integrate all components of the leadership development curriculum and make the related changes to other interagency documents such as the Wildland and Prescribed Fire Qualifications System Guide (310-1).
The Leadership Committee made specific recommendations to the Incident Operations Standards Working Team (IOSWT) regarding leadership course requirements for certain positions. In general, the recommendations supported some requirements for leadership training for certain positions in the Operations and Command functional areas. This is due to the fact that the highest levels of risk are associated with these positions. The IOSWT considered the Leadership Committee’s recommendations and decided not to make any leadership training required for any positions in the current (2005) version of the PMS 310-1.
Developing effective leaders who operate in one of the riskiest occupations in the country will require training, cost money, and demand time and management support. However, consider the leadership development program as an investment – in time, money, and management support – that will help increase the effectiveness of our fireline leaders, which will, in turn, help ensure the safety of firefighters and the public during wildland fire incidents. It should also be noted that the first three formal courses in this leadership development curriculum are either being integrated into current S courses or replacing current S courses. So the additional training load is not as significant as one might assume at first glance. It might also be worth asking: what is the cost of a single accident that could have been prevented by the exercise of good leadership? Not developing our leaders can be incredibly costly.
I heard that Supervisory Concepts and Techniques (S-281) and Leadership and Organizational Development (S-381) were phased out. Will the S-281 or S-381 courses that people have already attended still count?
Neither of these courses were required for any position in the Wildland and Prescribed Fire Qualifications System Guide (310-1). In some cases, individual agencies had specified a requirement for these courses in their own manual direction. S-281 is no longer stocked in the cache system (as of March 2004) and S-381 is no longer stocked (as of October 2004). Credit for attendance at these courses (prior to the above discontinuation dates) will still register in agency qualifications systems, and qualifications that were previously obtained with these courses as prerequisites are still good.
Most fire agencies don't have the resources to support the cadre skill and delivery demands for the type of training courses required at the higher level of a true leadership development curriculum. However, the Leadership Committee has established course design criteria for the Fireline Leadership and Incident Leadership courses. This allows agencies to develop their own course material, establish cadres, or use vendors to meet their internal delivery needs if they choose to take that approach.
Course design criteria can be found on the Wildland Fire Leadership website at http://www.fireleadership.gov/courses/courses.html. There is a pulldown menu that says "More Information" and one of the menu items is "Design Criteria." The info found here will clarify the intent and cover the topics which must be included in the design and delivery of L-380 and L-381.
NWCG and its Working Teams do not approve or certify courses developed by third parties. Course certification is an individual agency responsibility. Let's say a large county fire department wants to design and deliver its own L-380 or L-381 course or contract with a vendor to have this done. The county fire department can certify, on its own, that the course meets the design criteria when delivered internally. If the county wants to deliver the course to firefighters from other agencies, then those agencies need to review and certify the course as well.
The NWCG Leadership Committee has taken the position that the leadership curriculum should not be about the minimum requirements. The NWCG Leadership Committee's position expresses the curriculum's potential to have a positive impact. Although third parties are not required to seek approval or certification, the Leadership Committee has extended an open offer to wildland fire agencies to provide assistance to agencies working on course review and certification, upon request. Contact Bill Miller at 406-829-6942 for questions.
The Leadership Committee has developed an evaluation process that is posted on the Wildland Fire Leadership website at http://www.fireleadership.gov/courses/courses.html. The link can be found in the pulldown menu titled "More Information" next to either L-380 or L-381. The Leadership Committee has extended an open offer to wildland fire agencies to provide assistance to agencies working on course review and certification, upon request. A list of committee members and the agencies they represent can be found at http://www.fireleadership.gov/committee/committee.html.
A training and development curriculum cannot be expected to replace supervisory and management responsibility. Screening and promotion is an agency’s responsibility, and supervisors or managers in an organization determine who will fill their leadership positions. Within the interagency wildland fire community, individuals who evaluate and sign Position Task Books have this responsibility.
A structured leader development process should give the people in our organizations more knowledge about leadership in general. In turn, it should be more difficult to promote underdeveloped leaders because everyone will be able to clearly define what leadership is and easily identify whether people in leadership positions embrace commonly accepted values and principles.
Absolutely not. Although effective leadership is critical to incident operations, it’s also very important to other aspects of incident management and helps ensure overall effectiveness and response. At this time, the Wildland and Prescribed Fire Qualifications System Guide (310-1) does not have any leadership training requirements. The NWCG's Incident Operations Standards Working Team (IOSWT) makes final determinations on this issue. If you have strong feelings about leadership training and how it should be dealt with in the 310-1, contact your agency’s representative on the IOSWT. The committee's membership list can be found at http://www.nwcg.gov/teams/ioswt/roster.pdf.