Bushfire fighting and Emergency Service activities always have been, and undoubtedly will always continue to be, based on a strong commitment to cooperation between all those involved. Scientific knowledge and technical ability in combating incidents are of little value unless officers of all ranks can effectively achieve coordination of the human resources under their command.

Coordination and cooperation is dependent on effective communication, and effective communication involves a commitment by all our leaders. The misunderstanding of an officer’s directions, the failure to indicate the significance of their individual tasks in the total scheme of things, the absence of a means for bringing forward a member’s ideas and attitudes, the failure to enlist the interests and enthusiasm of others, and poor teamwork are all things that lower the level of efficiency within a unit.

Materials, equipment and even money are controllable and predictable within defined rules and practices – people, particularly volunteers, are not. Individuals differ emotionally, physically and mentally, in motives and in their interests, attitudes, sentiments and beliefs. Even when faced with a similar set of circumstances individuals react differently.

Leadership is something that takes all these things into account and is far more than just a keen eye, an impressive manner or a friendly smile. The ability to lead others in a particular situation depends not only on knowledge and experience of the factors involved in that situation, but also on an attitude that promotes trust and inspires members of the team to blend their individual skills and energies into a cooperative effort.

The leader is not a passive person, a leader is not someone whose main function is to be "up in the front".

Leadership is a working relationship among members of a team in which the leader acquires status through active participation and demonstrated capacity for carrying cooperative tasks through to completion.

All officers of the Bushfire and Emergency Service have an organisational duty to support the continued improvement of the Service, and they should demonstrate a personal duty to encourage other team member’s aspirations to leadership, and to assist all members to develop the attributes of leadership. This can be done in several ways:

It can not be over-stressed that the initiatives that make a leader must come from within. Nothing can make a leader overnight, nor can dependence upon senior officers develop leadership. Each must set the mind to what is wanted, study the job in order to develop the capacity for it, use every means to be fit for it, grasp the opportunities as they come, and then go to it.

The basic function of a leader is to inspire people to produce their best efforts

Experts know what should be done. Leaders not only know what should be done, but also how to get it done.

Qualities required of leaders in our Bushfire and Emergency Service are courage, will power, judgement, knowledge, integrity and flexibility of mind. With these you cannot fail to be a leader.

Throughout the Bushfire and Emergency Service there is a substantial team of men and women with no lack of potential leaders. The traditions and the motivations of people for this type of community service breed them. The continuing overall success for incident operations and organisational growth depends upon people aspiring to be leaders of our organisation at all levels.

It is up to us all to find and continually develop these potential leaders, and give them a chance to show their worth.

Peter Lucas-Smith
Director Bushfire and Emergency Service

Last updated 4 November 2014