Leadership In The Line Of Fire


Click Read more at the bottom of an article's teaser, to display the full article.

Leadership In The Line Of Fire

Submitted by Jonathon Walker on Thu, 01/23/2020 - 11:17
File Photo Source: FEMA
File Photo Source: FEMA

No one ever expects tragedy to happen, and yet tragedy has and will continue to happen every day to someone. When tragedy does happen, those involved look for someone to take charge and be a leader. With the combination of fear, the uncertainty of the unknown, and the lack of control that happens during a tragedy, the leadership of a city or community must be willing to take charge and be that leader. On October 1, 2017, that tragedy was in the form of a mass shooting to the people in Las Vegas, NV who were attending a concert. The tragedy that was orchestrated by Stephen Paddock has been described as “the single deadliest mass shooting in modern American history” (Fadel, 2019). It is not until the aftermath that the leadership team is able to learn from their mistakes and possibly have a better outcome when the next tragedy happens. It was only after the chaos has settled down and the heartache had become felt that the leadership of Las Vegas was able to conceive what had happened. In the event of another tragedy such as what happened in Las Vegas, hindsight can be used as foresight to help as many people as possible.

There is no I in Team

When the shooting began, there were so many aspects of leadership that can be discussed. There are the obvious aspects of leadership when it comes to law enforcement and the fire department, but there is also the aspect of leadership for the crowd itself. When talking about transformational leadership, the basic idea is that leaders encourage the team members to make them better (Northhouse, 2019). The team could be the fire department, police department, or the crowd that is trying to take cover while chaos is happening all around them. In the aspect of the crowd, a transformational leader would be best utilized in making sure that the crowd was able to get out of harm’s way. This would be accomplished by means of “duck and cover” or running for an exit from the concert to a nearby building or behind a vehicle. The transformation leader would encourage the public to find cover and to help as many people as possible. The transformational leader could even recognize the pauses in the shooter’s gunfire and let a group of people know when it is safe to run farther away from harm. The transformational leader would not be someone that would push others out of the way so that they could get farther away from harm. The human instinct of self-preservation would be the last priority for the transformational leader. A transformational leader for the police department would be one that provides encouragement to the officers that were in the line of fire. This style of leadership would also be in communication with the team of officers to find out what is needed to be able to have better chances of stopping the shooter from hurting more people and also get an idea from the officers on scene about what is needed to get the public further out of harm’s way and to safe zones. When the officers were trying to get to the shooter in the hotel, a transformational leader would be going up the stairs up elevator with the team so that the team knows that the transformational leader is part of the team and not just there to give orders. The transformational leader for the fire department and rescue team/medical team would be an enormous asset in this situation. The transformational leader in this situation would be in constant communication with each ambulance crew about how many patients still need care and what supplies are needed. In this situation, the transformational leader would be at ground zero and making sure that patients were taken care of, but also making sure that the crews taking care of the patients were also taken care of.

Key Personnel

In a situation like this, there is not one single person that stands above the rest. Instead there are numerous people that worked together to make sure that the goal was reached at the end of the day. A key person in this situation would be the laypersons in the crowd that took charge to make sure that the highest number of individuals in the crowd get to safety as much as possible. It is those individuals who were able to stay calm, or at least appear calm so that others would follow their lead to safety. This would especially prove beneficial for those that knew the layout of the property where the shooting happened. Once exits were found, many of the victims were able to get farther from the shooting and be cared for by emergency medical service (EMS) crews (Kimerer, Jennings, & Corbett, 2018). Another key person in this situation would have been the incident commander (IC) for this incident. Once first responders got on scene, and IC system would have been set up to make sure that all individuals that were at the concert were taken care of and to also make sure that the incident was resolved as soon as possible. More key individuals would be the police chief and the fire chief for Las Vegas would have kept in constant contact with the IC to make sure that everyone was safe and taken care of and make sure that the shooter was dealt with appropriately.

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Stephen Paddock was found to have 47 weapons in the hotel room he was in when police managed to get to him (Fadel, 2019). That means that Mr. Paddock had to have made several trips to get all those weapons in the room. In this situation, Mr. Paddock was able to not alarm the casino hosts going in and out of the hotel to stockpile Mr. Paddock’s firearms (Fadel, 2017). Using hindsight, a metal detector would be beneficial to be able to stop someone from entering the hotel or casino in the future and deter anyone from trying to bring unauthorized weapons into the hotel. Having a team of armed security guards would be a way to help limit the number of people that could potentially become victims if someone attempted to bring an unauthorized weapon or weapons in a location. Even the presence of security personnel would help to deter someone from trying to bring in weapons. If it is unknown whether the security guards are armed, one might reconsider the risks involved in trying to enter a location and become a victim themselves. Another way to help prevent another shooting incident such as this would be including a scanner that individuals would have to let their bags go through. This would allow security team member to see what is inside bags that could pose a threat. There could also be a sign notifying guests that bags will be searched with no exceptions. This would be another way to deter individuals from considering trying to get a mass number of weapons to be used illegally. Using facial recognition may be a tool that could be used to locate persons of interest with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) such as Stephen Paddock’s father (Fadel, 2019). Mr. Paddock was not wanted by the FBI, but facial recognition could locate him so that security personnel could monitor him if he chose to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Thinking Outside of the Box

The idea of adaptive leadership is a leader being able to “adapt” their way of thinking based on the circumstances changing frequently (Northhouse, 2019). The need to “think outside the box,” as the phrase goes, would be crucial for the leadership team in the case of the Las Vegas shooting incident in 2017. With adaptive leadership, the leaders involved would be constantly evaluating what is going on and how does that need to be dealt with. That may include completely changing their thought processes based on new information about the shooter’s mentality or the severity of injuries that have occurred. The leadership of individuals in the crowd when the shooting first happened would be a changing constantly due to being right there in the line of fire themselves and having to overcome self-preservation. At one moment the shooter might be firing in one direction and it seems as though there is a break to get some people to safety. Suddenly those plans change due to an increased number of people that are involved or perhaps the shooter has changed their direction of fire. The IC for the incident would have to have adaptive leadership due to information constantly being given to them. There may be information provided that makes the current thought process null and void and the IC must now rethink what the plan in. The fire chief and police chief would have to have adaptive leadership in order to function efficiently. The officers involved would have to keep in the back of their minds that there may be more than one shooter until proven otherwise. The fire chief would have to remember how gun fire may affect more than one person and that there may be more patients than originally thought. The fire chief and police chief must also remember that the plan will change if suddenly one of their crew members becomes a patient or fatally wounded. When the IC or police chief is made aware of the shooter’s location, there is a potential for many changes in the plan when trying to get to the shooter. One example would be, if the shooter begins firing at the officers in the hallway of the hotel or if there is some form of boobytraps that the shooter has set up at the doorway.


Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd and killed 58 people and there were more than 500 people injured because of this incident (Kimerer, Jennings, & Corbett, 2018). Mr. Paddock managed to get multiple firearms into the 32nd floor of a hotel that overlooked the concert that he opened fire upon. There were no indications that weapons were taken to the room that he was staying in and there were no indications that casino staff should be on high alert for Mr. Paddock being in their hotel/casino. However, when this tragedy happened, there were multiple individuals involved that made sure that as many people as possible were cared for and that the incident was ended as fast as possible. It is incidences such as this that can be used to learn from in the future in order to prevent the past from repeating itself.


Fadel, L. (2017, October 9). The Latest In The Investigation Into Las Vegas Mass Shooting. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2017/10/09/556701125/the-latest-in-the-investigation-into-las-vegas-mass-shooting ↗️

Fadel, L. (2019, January 29). FBI Analysis Of Las Vegas Shooting Ends Without A Clear Motive Identified. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2019/01/29/689760960/fbi-analysis-of-las-vegas-shooting-ends-without-a-clear-motive-identified ↗️

Kimerer, C., Jennings, C., & Corbett, G. (2018, October). NFPA 3000: A First Step Down a Long and Perilous Path: Fire Engineering, 171(10), 41–48. Retrieved from https://www.fireengineering.com/2018/10/01/250418/nfpa-3000-a-first-step-down-a-long-and-perilous-path/#gref↗️

Northhouse, P. G. (2019). Leadership: Theory and Practice (8th ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.


Jonathon Walker has been a Licensed Paramedic in Texas since 2002. He has a Bachelor's degree in EMS Administration from Columbia Southern University and has been teaching EMS since 2010, for various services.