It is imperative that fire departments cultivate exceptional officers and leaders. The fire and rescue service faces current and future challenges, the scale of which demands clear leadership development. Increasingly flexible and varied working patterns, more diverse communities, an increased range of risks and statutory responsibilities and a growing emphasis on accountability and governance demand competent leaders with a new and flexible blend of skills and experience to get results. Certain characteristics are common among highly effective fire department officers. Fire department management must cultivate these leadership traits once identified. A system to prepare our fire department leaders of the future must be implemented. Without competent, effective leadership in place, fire departments cannot fulfill their most basic mission of purpose, to protect lives and property.
Winning fire service organizations are distinguished from losing ones by their extraordinary success at cultivating exceptional leaders. Great leaders have a vision and the ability to manifest it. All of us have the potential to become leaders. Very few of us are leaders all of the time, but we encounter moments in our lives when we can and should lead others. "Few people set out knowingly to become leaders; rather, they see a need and they find a way of taking on the challenge, and often others choose to follow their example". (Chopra, 2012) The challenge to develop leaders has a profound impact on the fire department. Winning leaders in the fire service face a multitude of dangerous situations, and they make snap decisions that have enormous implications on an almost daily basis. Without competent, effective leadership in place, fire departments cannot fulfill their most basic mission of purpose, to protect lives and property. In these turbulent times when the very foundations of the fire service are being shaken, our fire department leaders need to move beyond the pessimistic predictions of the downfall of public service as we know it, and concentrate on the fundamental principles of leadership.