Sample Certification Exam Questions – Leadership & Influence, Part 2

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By Daryl Lee Spiewak, CEM, TEM, MEP, Lead Trainer for the CEM Commission

Last month we discussed and analyzed a few examples of examination questions on leadership and influence in emergency management. This article continues our discussion of leadership and influence in emergency management, with an emphasis on techniques for facilitating change, and includes an analysis of a few example examination questions.


Emergency management processes, procedures, laws and authorities, technologies, budgets, and priorities are constantly changing. So too are the various threats and hazards our jurisdictions, organizations, and businesses face.

In addition, the knowledge base of emergency management increases almost daily with all the researchers and students studying, analyzing, and reporting on emergency management. Therefore, change is an ongoing characteristic of an effective emergency management program and emergency managers must lead the way to the “New Normal.” So how do we do that? We do it through transformational leadership.

The FEMA Independent Study Course 240b, Leadership and Influence, defines a transformational leader as one who “is able to determine a course for change in the future, articulate it as a vision, and stimulate coworkers and self to challenge traditional ways of thinking.” In other words, a transformational leader is one who has “the ability to respond quickly and effectively to change…as well as…motivate and inspire others to embrace change.”

For the purposes of the certification examination, candidates need to know and understand the change management process. FEMA uses data and analysis from the book Change Process Guide, by Linda Ackerman, to describe a change management process with seven components:

  • Leadership mindset about change,
  • Purpose of change,
  • Change process,
  • Predictable forces set in motion,
  • Structures for managing change,
  • Sustaining the energy for change over time, and
  • Personal response to change.

FEMA goes on to state, “Communication is the common thread that is woven throughout all of the change process components. The ability to communicate effectively about change is a critical aspect of a leader’s success at facilitating change.” To communicate with stakeholders when initiating change, FEMA says we should use a communicating process referred to as the “Four P’s” in a book titled, Managing Transitions, by William Bridges. The Four P’s are: purpose, picture, plan, and part.

Sample Core Questions

So what would some core questions look like on the certification examination? Here are a couple of questions, with a simple analysis of each one to help you prepare.

1. What should a leader do when setting up implementation structures to facilitate change?
a. Focus on interim systems because there will be time later to deal with long-term impact.
b. Consider primarily long-term impacts because the short-term will take care of itself.
c. Include representatives of all key stakeholder groups.
d. Place the greatest emphasis on how the change will impact the highest levels of management.

Analysis: This question is about structures for managing change. A leader facilitates change by “anticipating needed adjustments to such structures as organization and systems, policies, plans, and resources and by including all key stakeholder groups.” At first glance, it appears the correct answer will be c, as it says to include key stakeholders.

The first possible response, a, is not correct because a transformational leader needs to consider both short- and long-term impacts as a result of the change. Dealing with long-term impacts at a later date may result in a failure of the change initiative.

The second possible response is also incorrect for much of the same reasoning. This response says to ignore the short-term impacts. Choosing not to deal with short-term impacts may prevent achieving the change initiative’s long-term goals.

The fourth possible response is also incorrect. Many change initiatives will have no impact on senior levels of management. Though they need to be made aware of the changes, the greater emphasis may be required at the lowest management level simply because of the nature of the change itself. Therefore, the correct answer to this question is c, our first choice.

2. During times of change, it is important for leaders to ____________:
a. Make sure that they put the right spin on the situation, especially when things are going badly.
b. Discourage stakeholders from expressing their misgivings.
c. Explain the situation once, then move on – don’t dwell on it.
d. Communicate first through actions, then words.

Analysis: This question is about communicating change to the stakeholders. Here we are determining which technique is an effective one for building and maintaining trust while communicating the change. Three of the techniques are incorrect. Only one technique is an effective method of communication. Therefore, to correctly answer this question, we need to identify and select the effective communication technique.

Spinning the facts or your message is another way of twisting the truth. When a leader twists the truth, people know it and lose respect. The leader loses his or her integrity, and the stakeholders will not trust the words of the leader.

Therefore, the stakeholders will not accept the change and may even sabotage it. This is not an effective communication technique to foster change. “Recognizing and communicating emotions are not only natural, but also a necessary part of the change and transition process.” It is an important technique that allows stakeholders to “blow off some steam.” So in the second possible response, when a leader discourages stakeholders from expressing their misgivings regarding the change initiative, pressure builds and that stress can result in all kinds of negativity as well as failure of the change process. This is not an effective communication technique either.

The third possible response ignores the “Rule of Six.” This rule states, “When people receive new information, they often don’t ‘get it’ the first time around, even though we think they should have. That’s why it’s important to communicate new information related to the change six times, in six different ways.” This response says to explain the change once and move on to other topics. This is not an effective method for communicating change.

This leaves the last possible response. Here the response says the leader should communicate change first through his or her actions, and then follow the actions up with words that support the actions. A transformational leader “walks the talk.” The message is consistent between actions and words. It demonstrates behavioral integrity. Therefore, the correct answer to this question is d.

Next Month

Next month we will continue our discussion on leadership and influence with emphasis on building and rebuilding trust, and we will analyze some practice exam questions. Please send any questions you have about the examination or the certification process directly to me at info@iaem.com, and I will address them in future articles.

IAEM Bulletin, April 2015

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