“Audacity, more audacity, always audacity!”
-Georges Jacques Danton, French Revolutionary Leader
The term “Audacity” often gets cast in a negative light. It can be used to describe someone who offends or irritates. It is shocking and widely unappreciated by many. Without a doubt, most would agree that audacity is a word that creates a certain level of hostility in the workplace.
So if audacity is such a vile word looked down upon by the masses, why would I suggest that Company Officers embrace this term and actually promote it within their crews?
Individuals that add audacity to their tool box of life experiences are not passive spectators.
They do not sit idly by and allow others to dictate what occurs in their lives. They are passionate, aggressive and intent to conquer. Goal oriented and results driven. Audacity, in short, is a trait we should seek to nurture in our firefighters.
Audacity is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as, “a confident and daring quality that is often seen as shocking or rude”. If we dissect its meaning we can clearly see that the “confident and daring” aspects of the equation are the desired traits any leader would want to foster in their members. Confidence is contagious. To be daring is attractive.
On the flip side of the coin, what do we do about the ugly step sister portion of the equation?
The Ugly Side
“Shocking” and “rude” are two ways to describe someone least likely to contribute to the success of a team. These words are professional dead weight at best.
Several questions immediately come to mind. Can we breed audacity in the workplace without the negative aspects outweighing the positive? Is it possible to allow a firefighter to freely speak his/her mind without fearing they will negatively impact themselves or our authority as a manager? Are we able to promote fire ground leadership amongst all members of the crew without allowing for freelancing?
“Tact in audacity is knowing how far you can go without going too far”
-Jean Cocteau, Novelist
The simple answer is: yes, and it is easier than you think.
By including tact and professionalism in conjunction with our pursuit of building audacity we will ensure we maintain a tight grip on the managerial rope we allow our crews to work off of.
Create the environment and set the tone. Audacity will only work if we develop the rules of engagement and stick to them.
Continuously emphasize key points such as safety standards, the chain of command enforcement, respect for rank, public perception and anything else we value. Audacity is a desired characteristic; however, at no point should it take precedence over professionalism or departmental policy.
Once crews understand their professional obligations we can begin to release that inner beast in them.