- Leadership! What is it? Why are some "leaders" more successful than others in accomplishing their objectives? What "leadership qualities" do these individuals have that contribute to their success? And, what can others do to improve their leadership skills? Organizations continually strive to find the answers to those often asked questions. The Honolulu Fire Department (HFD) faced a similar dilemma. To date, no assessment has been conducted to determine the leadership skills of HFD Fire Captains. The purpose of this applied research project was to identify essential leadership qualities and, through a survey, assess the leadership qualities of each Fire Captain in the 4th Battalion/1st Platoon. The results were to be used to enhance their positive leadership qualities and to improve on their weaker leadership traits. This study used a descriptive and evaluative research methodology. The following research questions were addressed. 1. What do HFD fire fighters in the 4th Battalion/1st Platoon feel about the leadership qualities of their respective Fire Captains? 2. What do HFD Fire Captains in the 4th Battalion/1st Platoon feel about the quality of leadership they provide to their men? 3. What can HFD Fire Captains in the 4th Battalion/1st Platoon do to enhance their leadership abilities? 4. What can HFD do to assist their fire officers in enhancing their leadership skills? The procedures used for this research project were accomplished in three phases. Phase I consisted of identifying, through research, "essential leadership traits/skills." Four "essential leadership skills" were identified, they were: Human Relations Skills, Technical Skills, Administrative Skills and Decision-making Skills. A survey questionnaire was then developed to assess the four "essential leadership skills." The survey questionnaire used a rating scale of "(0)" for Not Observed, "1" for Strongly Disagree, "2" for Disagree, "3" for Agree, and "4" for Strongly Agree to record observations. The survey questions were also designed so that "ideal traits" were ratings of 3's and 4's. A pilot test of the survey questionnaire was then conducted before proceeding to phase II. In phase II, fire fighters of the 4th Battalion/1st Platoon used the survey questionnaire to assess their respective Fire Captains. Eight of the nine Fire Captains assigned to the 4th Battalion/1st Platoon volunteered to participate in the survey. Phase III involved compiling and evaluating the survey results then discussing the results with each Fire Captain. In order to get the Fire Captain's perspective of the survey, each Captain completed a Feed Back Questionnaire. The leadership assessment results appeared to be tremendously positive. It was reassuring to sense that fire fighters had trust and confidence in their Captain's leadership abilities. Generally, Fire Captains received overall ratings of "ideal range" for both Human Relations and Technical Skills categories. Those ratings indicated that the Fire Captains displayed the ability to understand people and being able to work with and through them. Captains were also perceived as being knowledgeable in their job and the work they supervised. The Administrative and Decision-making Skills were rated "below ideal range." Fire fighters rated the Administrative Skills category "below ideal range" because they perceived Captains needed to improve in the areas of planning, organizing, and controlling work place activities. The Decision-making Skills category was adversely affected because fire fighters indicated that they could not discern a consistent method or process in which Captains made their decisions. There were implications that fire fighters wanted more involvement in the decision-making process. Although the "Human Relations" category was rated in the "ideal range," particular attention must be paid to the sub-categories of "Motivator" and "Human Behavior," because both were rated "below ideal range." The "Motivator" category was affected by a low rating in "Enthusiasm and Teamwork." Fire fighters perceived their Captains needed to display more energetic and enthusiastic in developing and encouraging a work unit that works well together. "Human Behavior" also affected the overall rating of the "Human Relations" category. Fire fighters felt that their Captains needed to adopt and portray a friendlier, approachable demeanor and to be more empathetic towards their problems and concerns. The Feed Back Questionnaire provided responses from each Fire Captain's perspective. Even though none of the eight Captains surveyed had previously participated in a leadership assessment, majority of them agreed with the survey assessment of their personal leadership traits. One Captain even remarked that the survey "ratings were close to actuality." Other responses included statements like: "[survey] makes you aware of weaknesses that can be worked on" and "it [survey] provides an opportunity for self-analysis and areas for improvement." Most of the Captains were very positive with the survey results and were willing to undergo another similar assessment in a year. Another Captain also made an interesting remark when he stated, "all officers [in the HFD], from Fire Chief to the Fire Captain, should undergo a similar assessment." In addition to some startling information the Feed Back Questionnaire provided, the survey produced some "unexpected findings." The most significant finding was having the ratings of two Captains assigned to a multi-company station (housing an engine and ladder company), being comparatively lower than other officers in the battalion. This finding raises more questions than answers to probable causal factors. Explanations for this survey result would merely be speculations. Discovering the answer(s) requires additional research, further investigation and analysis. Even though the HFD has never conducted a leadership assessment of their Fire Captains, the survey results provided indicators that lead to the following recommendations. 1. The HFD should capitalize on the positive mood of the surveyed Captains, their acceptance of their depicted strengths and weaknesses, and their willingness to use the survey for improving themselves. 2. The HFD should seek assistance from personnel specialists in the City's Department of Human Resources in identifying "essential leadership skills" for fire officers. Identification of "essential leadership skills" can be used to "upgrade or customize" performance evaluation forms specifically for the HFD, as opposed to the generic form currently used for city-wide evaluations. Secondly, "essential leadership skills" identified can serve as a benchmark for all HFD officers to achieve and emulate. 3. The "essential leadership skills" should be included in the Department's Fire Officer Training Program as a means of indoctrinating "all officers" of the "essential" components of leadership. The HFD should also include company and chief officers in the Fire Officer Training Program. 4. The HFD should reinforce and maintain the "ideal Human Relations and Technical Skills" of their Captains. 5. The HFD should strive for improvement in "Administrative and Decision-making Skills." Improving company officer skills in utilizing the HFD Form 26A to prioritize work plans for the company would enable all company personnel to review a schedule of activities in advance to facilitate timely accomplishment of assignments. 6. The HFD should emphasize to all Captains the importance of timely and consistent decision-making. Captains should also include fire fighters in the decision-making process. And, 7. The HFD should investigate the implication that individual Captains' traits/skills may impact overall company and/or station operations at multi-company stations.