Critical Incident Leadership

The skills needed to lead and manage an incident within the command structure of an incident management team are broad and far-reaching. Though individual skills, traits, or attributes are not particular enough to manifest leadership (Zaccaro, Kemp, & Bader, 2004), two important skills that I have identified from my experience and from the text of Walsh et al. (2012), one of which I possess and the other could be enhanced or improved, are a wide breadth of acquired knowledge of the particular spheres of public safety, including operations of emergency and normalcy, and a particular political will that endeavors to ensure favor from most subordinates while carrying out the capacity of management (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2008).

Of the latter, I could certainly appreciate a need to remain favored and liked throughout the management of an emergent incident; however, the respect that is earned by the end of any successfully managed crisis is worth more to me than blind politicking, and I have no use for elected office unless that office has a use for me. I do understand how, if I managed to cultivate my political will, it might be easier to find resources and more willing accomplices to alleviate the tasks at hand, though I still wrestle with the notion of neighbors owing neighbors in times of emergent crisis.

To speak of the former is to identify acquired skill and knowledge that I can portray in solid foundation. Having been trained by some of the leaders in the field of disaster management as a member of their team, in both leadership and subordinate roles, I have the confidence to direct subordinates to the task at hand safely and efficiently while being directed or counseled (however my office might fall within a command structure). More important than being knowledgeable, though, is knowing when you require more knowledge. I am never afraid or apprehensive of my limitations, and I will always ask for assistance when needed.

It is interesting to discuss the traits and abilities needed by leaders in order to lead (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2008; Walsh et al., 2012); however, none of the literature can substantiate that any one particular trait or skill is particular to or required by a leader, or that it is found lacking in a follower (Zaccaro, Kemp, & Bader, 2004). So long as I am willing to take charge when needed and have the necessary knowledge to direct appropriate actions, I feel that I will continue to perform well in command positions, that is, until someone more adept avails themselves to the task.


U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (2008, January). National response framework. Retrieved from

Walsh, D. W., Christen, H. T., Callsen, C. E., Miller, G. T., Maniscalco, P. M., Lord, G. C., & Dolan, N. J. (2012). National Incident Management System: principles and practice (2nd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

Zaccaro, S. J., Kemp, C., & Bader, P. (2004). Leader traits and attributes. In J. Antonakis, A. T. Cianciolo, & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.), The nature of leadership (pp. 101-124). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.