Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program

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L-381 - Instructional Design Criteria
January 2005

Incident Leadership

The L-381 Design Criteria offers an alternative approach to training. There is no standing course package available through the NWCG Publication Management System. Agencies have the authority to develop lesson plans based on the course criteria outlined here. The purpose of establishing course criteria is to give agencies the latitude to develop or acquire leadership training that fits their organizational needs while meeting the intent of the leadership curriculum. The following criteria is intended for use by training officers and managers for determining their best source for L-381 training. These criteria can be used to evaluate a training product that is developed internally or acquired through other providers such as a contractor, a university, or other source.

Target Audience
Personnel desiring to be qualified as Division/Group Supervisor or Incident Commander Type 3.

The L-381 training experience should provide leaders of Divisions, Groups, or Type 3 incidents with the leadership tools to effectively exert command and control over a quickly assembled team in a time constrained and rapidly changing incident environment. Beyond a set of tools and techniques, this training experience should be designed to make an emotional and lasting impact. Essential guiding principles for achieving this impact include: enhancing the students' understanding of the human dimension when leading others in dynamic work environments; utilizing experiential training techniques that will engage students in ways that challenge them to perform under realistic and high-stress situations; and motivating students to examine their role as a leader and their strengths and weaknesses as a leader.

Minimum Course Length
32 course hours

Instructor Qualifications
The combined cadre must have career backgrounds and expert level knowledge in principle-centered leadership, emergency incident operations, human factors and decision-making. All instructors must be facilitative instructor qualified, and well prepared in order to execute simulations and lead classroom activities in order to achieve the learning objectives outlined in this course criteria. Refer to the NWCG instructor levels and requirements in the Field Managers Course Guide online at

Instructional Design Guidelines

  • Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program Components - Include the following program components that can be found at www.fireleadership.gov.
  • Training in Context - Utilize group exercises and simulations to apply concepts that are presented during instructor presentations. Exercises and simulations are to comprise 50% of the course presentation, as a minimum.
  • Student/Instructor Ratio - In order to conduct effective exercises and simulations, cadres should be structured to provide low student to instructor ratios (8 students per instructor or better).
  • Case Studies - Provide classroom case studies and references from organizations that normally operate in high-risk, high-tempo work environments. Examples of such organizations include the military, commercial aviation, nuclear power plant operations, structure fire departments, etc.
  • Assessment - Integrate the After Action Review process into the exercises and simulations to allow opportunity for self-assessment and for performance assessment by peers.
  • Integrated Curriculum - Content must be consistent with the preceding courses in the NWCG Leadership Curriculum, the L-180 Human Factors on the Fireline, L-280 Followership to Leadership, and L-380 Fireline Leadership.

Content Guidelines
The course content information included below is a guide for course evaluation or design. The intent of the NWCG Leadership Curriculum is to create a series of courses that are taken by individuals as they progress in their careers from less complex to more complex leadership roles within the Incident Command System. This series of courses needs to be connected conceptually from one level to the next. For example, the Leadership Values and Principles need to be expressed using the same terminology at all levels. Definitions of key terms (e.g., situational awareness) need to be consistent at all levels. The course content information included here should assist training officers, course developers, and managers in evaluating existing courses or in developing new courses to insure they fit the intent of the NWCG Leadership Curriculum.

Command Presence and Command Climate
1. Describe techniques and processes that contribute to building a positive command climate.
2. Establish a positive command climate that promotes communication within a command team and with assigned operational resources.
3. Exercise appropriate levels of command so that positive control is maintained as distance increases between the command team and assigned operational resources.
4. Provide a command climate that encourages cooperation and communication with clients (such as public, municipalities, law enforcement, political leaders, etc.).

Leaders Intent
1. Provide clear command guidance and initial leaders intent for an emerging incident.
2. Communicate and clarify command guidance and leaders intent to subordinates regarding changing environment and changing mission objectives.
3. Evaluate subordinates understanding of leaders intent during an ongoing operation.

Rapid Team Building
1. Describe the characteristics of a high performing team and the techniques for rapid teambuilding in a time-constrained environment.
2. Apply the teambuilding principles to achieve cohesion in a quickly assembled command team.
3. Identify typical team/crew stress reactions and develop stress control measures for common stress reactions within a team/crew.

Communication Techniques
1. Demonstrate communication techniques that focus the organization's efforts and minimize conflict and error in high-stress, high-consequence situations. As a minimum, the techniques addressed should include the five communications responsibilities for firefighters and active listening.
2. Demonstrate adapting communication techniques to the unique needs of different people or situations.
3. Participate in the After Action Review process to provide opportunities to learn as a team from a previous event.

Detecting and Mitigating Decision Errors
1. Describe error detection and mitigation processes at the command level.
2. Integrate contingency planning into an ongoing operation, and identify and mitigate error chains as they occur.
3. Enable subordinates to participate in error detection and mitigation processes during an ongoing operation.
4. Anticipate upstream or systemic errors that may impact your team during an ongoing operation.

Operational Tempo Awareness
1. Describe factors that affect operational tempo and command challenges associated with those factors.
2. Detect shifts in operational tempo and span of control within an ongoing operation. Adapt tactics, plans, and leadership techniques to mitigate risks.
3. Analyze the effectiveness of a team/crew's ability to manage changes in operational tempo on an incident and develop future trigger points for managing those changes.

Self-development Actions
1. Conduct a self-assessment of individual leadership skill weaknesses/strengths and review previous leadership development plans.
2. Construct a development plan to enhance personal leadership skills using peer feedback, self-assessment of performance, and instructor feedback.
3. Analyze the effects of personal stress reactions on decision-making. The analysis should include identification of stressors in a scenario and determination of how stress reactions may have affected ability to make decisions.