Firefighter Training, Firefighting, Leadership

Learning Leadership by Observing

Issue 3 and Volume 169.

Informal learning, or learning by observation, is an important and accepted form of learning for the American and Canadian fire services. According to our officers, that is how they learned much of what they know about leadership. The North American Fire Officer Learning Leadership Survey1 asked approximately 500 fire officers what the source of their leadership learning was (Figure 1). Conducted at the Fire Department Instructors Conference International in 2014 and 2015, at the International Fraternal Order Of Leatherheads (F.O.O.L.S.) 2015 convention, at several state conferences, and through Ascend Leadership’s Web site, the survey found several notable and possibly surprising sources of leadership learning. The officers gave the following as their top three sources of learning: observation (20 percent); formal fire department/academy training (20 percent); and experience, either step-up or in-grade (21 percent). That “observation” rated the same as “formal training” surprised most trainers and educators who have seen the…

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