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Ideas From an Emerging Field: Teaching Emergency Management in Higher Education


Public Entity Risk Institute





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Since 2001, FEMA and others have been defining and refining competencies for emergency management professionals. In so doing, they have addressed directly and indirectly the qualities of leaders. We know that leadership is not a person or a position. It is a complex relationship between people, based on trust, obligation, commitment, emotion, and a shared vision of the good. We also know that transformational or change-based leadership has become an organizational necessity given the fact that emergency management as a profession is just now coming into its own and emergency management jobs are not traditional in terms of the how, where, what is being done, and by whom. Today, we see an emerging new breed of emergency managers and they can best be defined as change agents. They are in formal leadership positions as well as functional specialties and all are doing things in radically new ways toward a common vision. They are certainly not traditional public managers. After surveying 300 leaders from the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, State and Local Emergency Management Departments as well as Police, Fire and Sheriff Departments, my research shows these leaders know how to enact innovative ideas by working within existing bureaucratic hierarchies and by injecting a sense of passion and purpose that brings along the more risk averse. Respondents were asked 7 questions and 50 of the respondents were actually interviewed so as to allow them to clarify and discuss more fully their answers to the 7 survey questions.


Administrative agencies; Emergency management; Government productivity; Leadership; Management; Organizational change


Defense and Security Studies | Organizational Communication | Policy Design, Analysis, and Evaluation | Policy History, Theory, and Methods | Public Administration | Public Affairs | Public Policy




Presented at the FEMA 11th Annual All-Hazards Emergency Management Higher Education Conference, June 2–5, 2008, Emmitsburg, MD

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