How to handle a particular personnel situation is often the topic of interview questions for promotion. These can be difficult to answer because the question rarely contains all of the information needed to make a good decision. This can work to your advantage or to you disadvantage depending on how you choose to resolve the use.
In most cases, the short answer to how you’d respond to a personnel issue should be “It depends.” However, if you stop there you’re probably not going to score well on the interview. Take the response to the next step and share with the panel what it depends on. What are the critical criteria that are essential to evaluate to make a good decision.
Say “It depends on additional information that provides the critical criteria that would help me make a quality decision. In this scenario, that criteria would include…” and then list the things you would consider when evaluating the situation and how you would respond. There are many ways to handle problems and each scenario is dependent on the situation.
The best leaders have many tools in their toolbox to help them build and maintain successful organizations. If their only tool were a hammer, then every problem would look like a nail. If a hammer is your only tool, you’ll end up using the hammer on a board that needed a saw. This will cause you expend unneeded energy because you used the wrong tool. You may eventually shorten the board by beating it until it breaks. Obviously, there’s a better way to get the task complete. Use the right tool, at the right time, in the right way, under the right conditions. That’s situational leadership!
Fire Chief (ret.) Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO, MICP
Center for the Advancement of Situational Awareness & Decision Making