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.