Control measure knowledge

Leadership is an essential element of an incident commander's role in resolving incidents. At an emergency, personnel in the fire and rescue service, people from other organisations and members of the public will look to the incident commander to lead and resolve the incident. They expect the commander to be calm, confident, decisive and professional. Commanders should be able to apply the most appropriate leadership behaviours, technical knowledge and command skills to resolve an incident.

The incident commander is responsible for leading the incident to a successful conclusion but they cannot be responsible for making all decisions or supervising every detail of an incident. For this reason, incidents are often divided into sectors and functions. Each person who commands one of these functions will also need to show competent leadership skills.

For a commander to show effective leadership, others should be willing to trust and accept their influence. It is a process that relies on interactions between people. In the context of incident command, effective leadership is more than exercising authority and power. The way in which a leader behaves will influence how other people respond. A positive relationship between the commander as a leader and crews will improve the performance of the team and contribute to improved safety. Effective leaders have interpersonal qualities which make them more likely to get the best from their teams. Some key areas are outlined in the sections below, and further information can be found in The Foundation for Incident Command.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Ensure that their incident command policies recognise leadership behaviours and the responses they elicit
  • Ensure that they adequately prepare incident commanders to undertake their role. The incident commander's success in delivering a successful resolution is heavily influenced by their leadership knowledge, skills and attributes.
  • Ensure that their leaders:

    • Are self-aware
    • Display and instil confidence
    • Demonstrate and foster trust
    • Foster two-way communication
    • Understand the use of authority
    • Set expectations and standards
  • Be aware that the culture of their organisation can influence behaviours on and off the incident ground. This may affect the way in which incident commanders lead the incident to a resolution and the way in which crews respond.
  • Consider their organisational culture and its influence on incident command; the leadership relationship begins before attending an incident

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Demonstrate leadership behaviours that instil confidence, foster trust and promote two-way communication

  • Apply the most appropriate leadership behaviours, technical knowledge and command skills to resolve an incident

  • Be prepared to adopt a leadership role at multi-agency incidents