What makes a good leader?

Training for managers in the modern fire and rescue service leans heavily on the programmes offered by the Institute of Leadership and Management. I too have been qualified by them to their prescribed ideals of what a leader and manager represents and how they present it. Personally, my position is that you can train a manager, but a leader is born, even if the individual is not aware of it until suddenly confronted with a situation where they are compelled by an inner force to take control.

I don’t seek to undermine the learned academics of the ILM, but I am more inspired by the words of great leaders themselves, particularly those cited in the pages of the Royal Military Academy’s Serve to Lead, of which I possess the 1959 edition.

Within its pages is a concise summary of leadership from the perspective of Field Marshall Montgomery – The will to dominate, together with the character which inspires confidence. Perhaps it is having grown up in a service family, on service camps, surrounded by service people with the backdrop of a generation of wartime soldiering grandparents that orientates my leanings, and further more an unbroken generation by generation legacy of service in the Army all the way back to my third great grandfather who fought at Waterloo with the 32nd Regiment of Foot. I'd be a fool to think this has no influence.

While researching the history of Isle of Wight firefighting, a range of characters stood out, many of them for showing leadership that appeals to me through exhibitions of selflessness, bravery, determination, humility, and, or, loyalty.

What constitutes a great leader is subjective. What follows in this feature is the story of men I have never met, some of whom died over 100-years ago, but all evidenced something that triggered in me the need to find out more about them and how they led. As is your right, you may not agree, but I'm confident that I would have enjoyed the opportunity to have served under any of those I have included below, even with their oddities and foibles.

Click on the photo to access the page for each person.


Henry Buckett


Charles Langdon

Chief Officer

Wilfred Harry Brown

Chief Officer

James Dore


Acting Column Officer

Hector Percy Scott


Sidney Charles Sapsworth

Chief Officer

Nicholas Henry Thomas Mursell

Company Officer

Max Heller

ARP Officer

Sidney Frank Burchell M.B.E. M.M.

Section Leader

Herbert Foss