Skip to Main Content

First Responder Leadership Program

Executive Education | Open Enrollment

Course Date
In-Person, Charlotte
Join Our Mailing List

First responder leaders must build and lead high performance organizations and teams that can operate effectively and thrive in volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) situations. This requires exemplary leaders who can provide purpose, motivation, and direction to effectively accomplish missions requiring adaptable responses. VUCA also demands that leaders build the trust and credibility needed to influence staff, colleagues, and the community under stressful conditions. First responder leaders are tasked with creating team and organizational cultures that facilitate operating in VUCA – cultures typified by honor, ethics, high-performance, loyalty, duty, cohesion, and that leverage the strengths and talents of a diverse workforce.

This course has been designed specifically for the needs of first responder leaders. The two primary instructors are not only Wake Forest professors holding Ph.D.’s in the subject matter of leadership, management, and teams, but are also retired US Army Colonels with significant personal experience leading teams in combat and contingency operations. Hear from leaders in the field including a panel with Chief Johnny Jennings (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department), Sheriff Charles Blackwood (Orange County, NC), US Marshal Catrina Thompson, Chief Joseph Hundley (Forsyth County Emergency Services) and Special Agent Bob DeWitt (FBI SAC), moderated by Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr. (Forsyth County).  The course will combine key theories and frameworks on leadership and teams, with best practices and actionable tools targeted to enhance the capabilities of first responder leaders.

Program details including cost, schedule, lodging, faculty, and more can be found in the accordion section at the bottom of this page. Please contact with any questions about the program.

This program is not currently accepting registrations, please join our mailing list to be notified the next time it is offered. 

“In life, everything rises and falls based on the leadership that is present or absent. We are here to enhance the leadership of first responder executives so they may better lead and serve in their agencies and their communities.”

— Bobby F. Kimbrough, Jr., Forsyth County Sheriff

Key Takeaways

  • Centering Yourself as a Leader – Authentic and Influential Leadership
  • Exemplary Leadership and Leadership Styles for First Responders
  • Building Trust, Credibility, and Leader Presence
  • Shaping a High-Performance Culture in First Responder Organizations
  • Building and Leading High Performing Teams

Who Should Attend?

This program is designed for First Responder leaders within law enforcement, emergency medical services, and fire department wishing to develop and grow personal and team leadership skills. Mid and senior level leaders/officers are encouraged to join this program individually or in teams from their organizations.

Additional Information

  • Dates, Location, Schedule


    Future dates for this program are TBD



    Wake Forest University Charlotte Center, 200 N College St. #150, Charlotte, NC 28202



    Day 1 8:30am-4:30pm


    Opening Panel – Leading the Way in First Responder Organizations

    • Chief Johnny Jennings (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department)
    • Sheriff Charles Blackwood (Orange County, NC)
    • U.S. Marshal Catrina Thompson (Department of Justice)
    • Chief Joseph Hundley (Forsyth County Emergency Services)
    • Special Agent Bob DeWitt (FBI SAC)
    • Moderator: Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr. (Forsyth County)


    Session – Centering Yourself as a First Responder Leader – Authentic and influential Leadership

    • Leadership as an influence process – not a position (formal and informal leadership)
    • Elements of follower motivation
    • Leader character, values, and ethical-decision-making
    • Building a personal model of leadership and a Leadership Philosophy Statement


    Session – Exemplary Leadership and Leadership Styles for First Responders (3 hours)

    • Transactional and transformational forms of leadership
    • Core leadership styles and behaviors of exemplary leadership
    • The functions of effective leaders
    • Adapting your leadership style to the situation
    • Developing team members into leaders


    Day 2, 8:30am-4:30pm

    Session – Being a Credible First Responder Leader – Building Trust, Credibility, and Leader Presence

    • Establishing trustworthiness and credibility as a first responder leader
    • The elements of leader presence and developing your brand as a leader
    • Building trust within first responder teams
    • Restoring broken trust bonds


    Session – Shaping a High-Performance Culture in First Responder Organizations

    • Assessing the Current Culture
    • Creating a Vision for the Aspired Culture
    • Tools to Shape the Envisioned Culture
    • Building an Inclusive Culture that Leverages Diversity
    • Applying Tools to Create an Action Plan to Shape Culture


    Day 3, 8:30am-4:30pm

    Session – Leading High Performing First Responder Teams

    • Process the Team Member Assessment Feedback
    • Crisis Leadership
    • Aligning the Team Around a Shared Vision and Leader Intent
    • Communicating the “What” and “Why” while Empowering the “How”
    • Creating Coordination and Collaboration and Synchronizing Unity of Effort
    • Conducting Team Learning via After-Action Reviews (AARs)


    Session – Building High Performing First Responder Teams

    • Team Formation, Structure and Functioning
    • Accelerating the Form-Storm-Norm-Perform process
    • Creating role clarity in and between teams
    • Creating Social Cohesion and Task Cohesion
    • Establishing the Attributes and Disciplines of High Performance Teams
    • Building an effective Team Charter

  • Cost

    The cost of the program is TBD and is due in full at time of registration.


    What’s included:
    • -Three full days of advance leader development
    • -Breakfast, lunch, snacks
    • -Printed materials
    • -End of program certificate
    What’s not included:
    • -Lodging – We have secured discounted hotel rates for participants near the Wake Forest Charlotte Center. Please review the lodging section for booking options
    • -Parking – Parking is available in a nearby parking deck for $25 per day.
    • -Dinners – there are many restaurant options in walking distance in Uptown Charlotte where participants can get dinner on their own or with other participants

  • Hotel/Lodging

    Room Blocks


    Holiday Inn

    A room block as been secured at the Holiday Inn – City Center in Charlotte. Participants are
    should use the booking link or contact the hotel directly at (704) 335-5400 Monday-Friday 8AM5PM or by calling 1-800-HOLIDAY to make reservations. Identify yourself as a member of First Responder Leadership or provide the group code (FRL) when making the reservation. Room rates and parking are not included in the program registration fee. The room block rate will expire on October 12, 2023 at 12:00pm, so make your plans accordingly.


    Springhill Suites City Center

    A block of suite style rooms has been reserved at that Springhill Suites by Marriot just behind the Center (one block walk). The cut-off to make these reservations is October 23rd. Participants should use the booking link to reserve their room for the dates of the program (option to add up to two nights before or after the program).


    ALOFT Charlotte City Center

    A block of suite style rooms has been reserved at ALOFT Charlotte City Center (2 blocks from the Center). The cut-off to make these reservations is October 23rd. Participants should use the booking link to reserve their room for the dates of the program (option to add up to two nights before or after the program).


    Other Nearby Hotels

    There are many hotel chains in uptown Charlotte within walking distance of the Wake Forest Charlotte Center. Here are a few additional nearby suggestions, but participants are welcome to explore other hotels in the area they may prefer:

  • Materials

    Course materials are included in the cost of tuition and will be distributed electronically and/or on paper in advance of the program start date. Participants are recommended to have a laptop or tablet computer to access course materials during the program delivery.  


  • Refund and Cancellation Policies

    Program Cancellation


    This course is offered contingent upon sufficient enrollment. If a course must be canceled, all registered participants will be notified at least five (5) calendar days before the course’s start date. All registered participants will receive a 100% tuition refund. No fees will be charged for canceled courses.



    Individual Cancellation – Refund Policy


    Prospective participants who withdraw at least 10 days prior to the start of a course will receive a full refund of tuition paid.


  • Contact Us

    For more information, or to speak with a program adviser, please send an email to

Wake to What’s Next