Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Chairperson (Advisor 1)

Dr. Richard Brynteson

Reader (Advisor 2)

Dr. Kimora Kachelmyer


What makes one person an effective leader relative to another? The intent of this paper is to explore contemporary business thought on leadership and compare the effective leader with the learning organization. Are there any attributes common to the two? If so, what might they be? Through review of the literature and an examination of case studies the inter-relatedness of leadership and learning organizations in the fire service are highlighted.

Fire departments are organizations steeped in tradition. The inertial effects of tradition frequently affect the agility and evolution of such organizations. Historically based on the military organizational model, fire department leadership developed similar chain of command, authoritarian styles (Coleman & Granito, 1988; Grant & Hoover, 1994). Public safety services have remained largely monopoly enterprises. Formed for the public good, these services are not generally subjected to competition. The absence of competition often inhibits adaptation to changing environments and adoption of operating methods that improve services or promote efficiency (Coleman & Granito). It is imperative that fire departments examine the methods of management and leadership that have been developed by business. As competition for limited resources (funding and personnel) tightens, it will be necessary for organizations to optimize their performance, efficiency and attractiveness as an employer to improve or even maintain their levels of service and quality. Leadership and organizational philosophy are the key features of a successful system. The possibilities and potential of creating learning organizations in the fire service are explored in this paper through a review of leadership and learning organizations followed by a set of case studies that demonstrate traditional fire department organizational structure as an anti-type of the learning organization.


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