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Organizational Leadership in the Wildland Fire Service - Chapter 1


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Organizational Leadership in the Wildland Fire Service - Chapter 1

  1. 1. Chapter 1: Organizational Leadership in the Wildland Fire Service 1 Organizational Lea d er shi p i n t he Wildland Fire Ser vice Objectives  Identify the different approaches to the study of leadership  Describe the leadership of self, others and organization model  Restate the general leadership tool discussed in the course Leadership Introduction Leadership has been the focus of great scrutiny and research for more than 60 years. Stogdill (1948) was one of the first to review the leadership research to identify traits that differentiated followers from leaders. Since then a variety of leadership theories have been proposed. In response to the almost endless number of corporate leadership publications, it is wise to consider the works of Selznick (1984), “Leadership is not equivalent to office-holding or high prestige or authority or decision-making. It is not helpful to identify leadership with whatever is done by people in high places” (p. 24). What is critical is that we systematically study leadership to identify its salient features, understand how these features affect performance and train or select individuals so that they are well equipped to lead. Today, researchers entertain a number of theoretical approaches to leadership addressing:  Traits  Skills  Styles  Situations  Contingency Theory  Path-Goal Theory
  2. 2. Chapter 1: Organizational Leadership in the Wildland Fire Service 2  Theory of Work Unit Leadership – See Miner’s textbook  Lead-Member Exchange Theory (LMX)  Authentic Leadership  Charismatic Leadership  Transformational Leadership  Transactional Leadership  Laissez-Faire Leadership  Team Leadership Like a group of blind people attempting to describe an elephant, most theories or approaches endeavor to explain a portion of the elephant, striving to differentiate their theory from the others, leaving the subject incomplete. Much of the research has focused on the tangible aspects of leadership tasks, and is often limited to supervisor-subordinate relationships in structured situations like business (though many assume the compliance level of military orders) where there exists a quantifiable outcome, usually money. Research examining leadership in conditions of uncertainty and ambiguity, like the tasks many of you face, is relatively rare. We need to examine leadership within wildland fire and identify those aspects that will respond to existing leadership approaches and theories. At the same time we need to identify those elements of the task that are not adequately addressed by current mainstream leadership research and find resources that fill the gaps. Leadership researchers Luthans & Slocum (2004) state that, “Faced with an unprecedented economic, technological, sociopolitical, and moral/ethical tumultuous sea of change, there is a need for new theories, new applications and just plain new thinking about leadership” (p. 227). For wildland fire, we need leadership that sets the path of organizations, envisions new processes and, creates new methods and goals to measure performance. Ultimately, we need to master leadership IN the organization while developing leadership OF the organization (Boal & Hooijberg, 2000). The dichotomy of leadership is described in a recent theory called transcendent leadership. Transcendent Leadership According to Mary Crossan and her colleagues, strategic leadership transcends our current understanding of leadership. It does not replace our current understanding of leadership, but rather is built on three separate components:
  3. 3. Chapter 1: Organizational Leadership in the Wildland Fire Service 3  Leadership of self  Leadership of others  Leadership of organizations What is appealing about Crossan’s conceptualization of transcendent leadership is that rather than differentiating itself from other theories and models, it begins to incorporate them into a larger understanding of leadership. The simple three- part framework Crossan creates, which we will use as a guide for parts of this course, gives us a convenient way to consider the different aspects of leadership. From Crossan, Vera, Nanjad (2008). Where Leadership Literature Fits Oren Harari’s examination of Colin Powell’s leadership entitled “The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell” identifies individual attitudes and actions that affect leadership in the three dimensions - self, others and organizations. See the table of “secrets” below. Note that some of the secrets fit in two aspects of the model. Simplify, for example, reflects a need to pursue simplicity within ourselves and in how we manage others, and extends to our needs to manage organizations, too. Also notice the relatively small number of secrets regarding the leadership of
  4. 4. Chapter 1: Organizational Leadership in the Wildland Fire Service 4 organizations. There are only three. This disparity is not limited to Colin Powell. In fact, in the academic leadership research, far more has been written about the leadership of self and others than has been written about organizations. Self Other Organization Be prepared to piss Promote a clash of ideas Let change lead people off growth Establish trust Pick the right people Let situation dictate strategy Walk the talk Listen Close with the enemy Listen Seek consensus (but don’t be ruled by it) Be vigilant in details Fit no stereotypes Be a disorganizer Simplify Check your ego at the Push the envelope door Simplify View people as partners Push the envelope Challenge the pros Make optimism a top Don’t rely on charts and priority titles Have fun in your Trust those in the command trenches Strive for balance Have fun in your command Prepare to be lonely In preparation of this course, the steering committee, instructors and coaches have worked to divide the relevant literature into these three categories. Over the remainder of the course, we will examine what is required to “Have fun in your command.” We will discuss how leaders can push the envelope with their followers and we will see how circumstances shape the organization and performance of groups of people. The course focuses on the state-of-the-art in leadership research. Like any field of research, new developments continue to occur. The goal of the steering committee is to provide you with the latest knowledge and tools that can facilitate your success as a leader. The course will also cover what might be called the tools and skills of leadership and unique leadership challenges. Tools include situation awareness, employee motivation and reward, vision, decision-making, stress management, and mentoring and coaching. Special attention will be paid to leadership within teams, both co-located and virtual. By the end of the course, you will have a
  5. 5. Chapter 1: Organizational Leadership in the Wildland Fire Service 5 broad understanding of contemporary leadership and be equipped with tools you can use to enhance your leadership skills. References Boal, K. B., & Hooijberg, R. (2000). Strategic leadership research: Moving on. Leadership Quarterly. 11(4), 515-549. Crossan, M., Vera, D., & Nanjad, L. (2008). Transcendent leadership: Strategic leadership in dynamic environments. Leadership Quarterly. 19(5), 569-581. Harari, O. (2002). The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell. McGraw Hill: New York. Luthans, F., & Slocum, J. (2004). Special Issue: New Leadership for a New Time. Organizational Dynamics. 33(3), 227. Selznick, P. (1984). Leadership in administration: A sociological interpretation. Berkeley: University of California Press. Stogdill, R. M. (1948). Personal factors associated with leadership; a survey of the literature. Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied. 25, 35-71. Weick, K. E. (1979). The Social Psychology of Organizing. Addison-Wesley: Reading, MA.