Leadership Tip #3 – Be Supportive & Appreciative
As leaders in the volunteer fire service we have the unique challenge of managing our community of volunteers to do a job most people would never consider doing. We ask them to leave family functions, make training, and run calls at all hours of the day and night. Even if we are being consistent and are communicating, if we don’t show our members that leadership supports them we will lose the battle in the end.
Showing support for the membership can easily be accomplished by effectively communicating and being consistent in all activities related to the department. It can also be things such as backing up decisions by junior officers, supporting the training officers, and supporting members of the department getting high quality training outside the department if budget and circumstances allow. This means consistently following the core tenants of leadership.
In the volunteer world, it also means being supportive of the individual member’s family life. Support them going to family functions and school activities. Let them know that we care about their family life, and we encourage and want them to have a family life.
Intertwined here is the need to show appreciation for a job well done. Let them know they are doing things right and that we as the leadership are appreciative and thankful for their contributions.
All too often we get in the grind of reminding them how things should be done and we don’t always recognize when they are doing things right.
Showing appreciation does wonders for morale. This can be as simple as thanking them at the end of every training session and at the conclusion of every call. Bringing in snacks, handing out awards and chest candy (medals and ribbons for the uniform), BBQ’s, dinners, and shirts are all other good examples.
In addition to being appreciative to your members do not forget to include families and full time employers. Have department wide family get-togethers to show spouses you appreciate them supporting the members on the department.
If a full-time employer allows an employee to leave and run an emergency call without penalty, write the company a letter thanking them, mention their support of the department publically, and show the employer you are thankful.
Functional leadership is the key to the continued success of all departments, regardless of size and type. Being the best leaders we can be, whether we are the senior firefighter, station captain or chief, will have long-lasting effects on the department and the service that the department provides to the citizens it protects. We often forget that it boils down to leading like we would like to be led.
Communicate often, follow through by being consistent, and give thanks.
Photo courtesy of Erik Wood.
Read the complete series here!
3 Leadership Tips For Volunteer Fire Departments