As we talked in the previous article, developing to become that good leader that people want to follow is based on establishing some core principles that guide your decision making. Below are the set of core principles I used to shape what I did in the fire service. These did not always make everyone happy and I did not always abide by them. I believe all in all, they did serve me well. I hope they help you establish your core principles.
• Knowing your limitations- Each and every one of us has limitations. That might be a surprise to some reading this! I believe this issue to be the number one obstacle to being a leader. Quite frankly, you might be good at taking a test, or being every ones buddy, and be inexperienced and under trained in the art and science of firefighting. Therefore, your limitation is “don’t get in the right front seat” of fire apparatus! How many of you would or even could admit that???
• Watch and learn- Watch what others do, how they do it, and why they do it. Then judge whether it is something you should be doing. Read, take classes, watch video, talk to people that have been doing the job. It all matters and shapes a great leader. In other words be a sponge!
• Never back down for fear alone- Do not let fear drive your decisions. If you are afraid to do something or take a stand on an issue, make sure it is based on other factors like, “I saw this before and it didn’t end well”. The failure to act or acting out of fear alone cost lives.
• Speak your mind when it matters to the common good- Trust me when I say, I learned this one the hard way! If you are committed to an idea and it fits the common good thought process, full speed ahead. If it doesn’t fit the “common good” and is self-serving, bite that tongue. You will garner far more respect and accomplish great things if this process is followed.
• Take care of your Brother/Sister and their families- The most talked about and least understood of all the principles. I don’t mean be there for them when things are bad, I mean be there for them period. As I have stated many times, all we have is us! There is no one who is going to come to our aid. You may disagree with another Firefighter, but as a great Chief I know said to me a long time ago, “don’t let issues destroy relationships”. Always remember we are doing the same job. Be the one that can agree to disagree.
• Don’t be afraid to do thing differently- I was never the one that was adverse to change. Until I got older. Then some of the change I saw in the fire service ran counter to my principles. The point here is, learn from other incidents and what went well and didn’t, then make adjustments and be an advocate of that change. The best example of that today is the NIST/UL information. It is counter to what we have done for 50 years, but I believe it has merit.
• When you screw up fess up- Pretty simple here, we all screw up. We don’t all take responsibility. In today’s fire service I see this quality less and less. Sadly, mostly from administrators!
There are many more parts to what makes an exceptional leader, but these got me through pretty well. Until next time, be safe and learn!
Part 2 of 2