Leadership Lessons from Bushfires Royal Commission

Leadership Lessons from Bushfires Royal Commission

10 August 2010

published by manningham-leader.whereilive.com.au

Australia — I’ve been reading over the past week, parts of the Royal Commission report into the bushfires, partly to answer the question of what standard of leadership did the Commission hold the heads of the various agencies to when it made criticisms about their leadership? I think there are some valuable lessons here for any leader and organisation. The key points that came out for me are:

  • Delegations of authority. In the case of all three agencies (CFA, DSE, VicPol) authority had been delegated down the line but there were no processes or initiatives in place to get assurance that those delegations were being effectively discharged. You can’t delegate accountability. All leaders have to delegate to get the job done but they also have a responsibility to get assurance that their accountabilities are still being discharged.
  • Role definition.
    • The roles of “command, control and coordinate” have specific meanings in emergency management procedures. The terminology was used loosely and the respective roles were not adequately performed as intended, resulting in confusion and lack of direction.
    • There were examples of inadequate liaison and challenge between agencies. How clear are we on the full scope of our own and our team members roles and how do we assure ourselves that those scopes are understood?
  • Making the big calls. Failures to declare a state of emergency, issue or check for appropriate and timely community warnings or intervene in struggling operational matters exacerbated the situation. It was a failure of leadership to step up and make these calls. How often do we step out of the detail to check in on how we’re heading versus our vision or goals and make the call that there’s been a breakdown and we have to get back on track?

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