Interested in driving change in the fire service? Access the free transformational leadership online conference session today
In late January, Reginald D. Freeman, the new fire chief for the city of Oakland, California spoke about transformational leadership during the opening session of the NFPA Leadership for Emergency Responders online conference. In his “Everyone’s a Leader, Driving Change, Every Day” presentation, the former fire chief and emergency management director for Hartford, Connecticut spoke about his ascension in the fire service including stints as the international fire chief for Lockheed Martin, and as a civilian fire chief in Iraq for the U.S. Department of Defense. In May of 2021, Freeman headed west to the Bay area to lead a team of more than 600 responsible for responding to nearly 60,000 calls per year. Prior to his arrival, Oakland Fire Department (OFD) had struggled with issues that are not uncommon in the fire service including an autocratic, top-down style of leadership and an overall lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The department’s hiring and promotion procedures were also plagued and the lack of innovation at OFD led to a high-turnover rate amongst both employees and command staff. In his short time in Oakland, Chief Freeman has been able to draw on transformational leadership strategies to help secure a 10-year capital improvement plan and sponsored training courses. The highly involved fire leader has also spent much of the last year ensuring that his team and the community are in the loop. Freeman is a proactive communicator known for connecting with others via memos, meetings, and social media. Freeman knows exactly what responsibilities fall where and emphasizes the importance of having a healthy workplace culture so that talented professionals reach their full potential, and so all members feel their voices are being heard. The new Oakland fire chief says, “Everyone has value, it is up to good leaders to motivate and engage.” If you missed the FREE fire service leadership conference in January, you can still access Freeman’s transformational leadership session – as well as many others – on demand until next January. Register here to watch sessions, at your leisure.