Developing a New Context for Leadership Development in the Los Angeles Fire Department

Trevor M. Richmond

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Leadership development in the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD), the fire service, and the broader homeland security enterprise is in need of comprehensive analysis. Homeland security leaders, when discussing the usefulness of the homeland security enterprise, are pointing to leadership as the single biggest determinant of success over the next five years. [1]   The question of how to prepare this nation’s leaders better continues to be a major challenge. Empirical evidence is lacking concerning the efficacy of leadership training. [2]  The training is not as successful as it should be. One solution is to understand leaders in their social environments. This thesis attempts to examine the contemporary approaches in leadership development and how they might be applied to an existing LAFD leadership program. The information gathered was used to recommend a new context for leadership development in the LAFD and similar homeland security entities.

The methodology used to evaluate the existing LAFD Leadership Academy (LAFDLA) was a formative evaluation that examined the major educational components of the LAFDLA. The goal was to assess the organizational alignment and the instructional contexts of the program.

It was concluded that many of the existing education frameworks in the LAFDLA could be modified or improved to support contemporary thoughts on leader development. It was also concluded that effective adult education is less instructive and more self-reflective and representative of actual experiences.

A renewed narrative reframes the dialogue on leadership development in the LAFD. It is proposed that with this new narrative, the LAFD and similar homeland security organizations can begin a conversation on what effective leadership development might look like. This new perspective considers leadership development as a social phenomenon. As leaders themselves are part of the social environment, they must understand the social aspects of individual and group dynamics. The relevance of individual and group distinctiveness becomes a predominant theme throughout this new narrative. Understanding these social nuances is fundamental in the evolution of the leaders. Today’s leaders must understand the sociology of leadership and how this impacts their leadership space. Leadership development is a process of growth through personal experience and recognition that everyone in the leaders’ environment can have influence. Leaders do not exist inside of a vacuum but within a social ecosystem that requires adaptation skills to thrive.

This evolutionary process of leader development does not seek an end state but a state of continual effort to understand the social nuances of leadership. Through this understanding, leaders can position themselves more effectively in their leadership environment. Looking at leadership development through this lens allows for a variety of concepts and alternatives to consider for leadership development in the fire service and similar organizations. This understanding is the beginning of a new narrative for leadership development in the fire service and comparable homeland security entities.


 

[1] Rollins Fernandez, “Introduction to Homeland Security, Day 5” (presentation, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, 2013), slide 21.

[2] Barbara Kellerman, The End of Leadership (New York: Harper Business, 2012), Introduction.

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