There is an inherent problem with fire service leadership articles and it may not be glaringly obvious. Leadership articles are a dime-a-dozen. It’s difficult to scroll firefighting related websites and blog pages without seeing at least a few data-dumps on how to be an effective leader.
The reason so many contributors and bloggers write about this topic is because it is literally the foundation of a properly functioning, happy fire station. If you are a company officer or an aspiring one, I am here to help you sort through the swampy wasteland of leadership resources and to provide some intervention.
The vast amount of online resources for leadership is a great thing to have at your fingertips. There are numerous leadership videos on YouTube and countless fire service articles. Nearly every fire officer has his or her own philosophy on leadership.
The main issue with all of the available leadership advice is one of application. We can learn a lot from reading articles and listening to lectures, but taking these lessons and actually applying the information to your current leadership style is an entirely different story.
It’s fair to say that most of us gain our leadership skills from our predecessors, some are said-to-be born with it, others are affected by there inherited psychological base. No matter which category you think you belong in, the leadership tools available are only as good as the open-mind deploying those resources into action.
Leadership resources are not just gee-whiz-bang things on the Internet; they are quite literally a call to action. That means “work”… or as physicians call it…”practice.” Failing to actively practice the lessons given by leadership tools creates a swampy wasteland of under-utilized resources.
On the level, there isn’t an article you will read that will make you a great fire officer, or for that matter an effective leader. The articles are merely tools by which you gain knowledge and make the conscious choice to employ that information within your crew or shift.
In the end, basic leadership boils down to being approachable, adaptable, having a positive outlook on every situation, giving common respect to those you supervise, setting the example, and remaining calm and cool especially with tone of voice. We all breathe the same air and bleed the same blood, without common respect on a human level, there can’t possibly exist effective leadership.
Take pride in your leadership education, be honest with yourself, and obtain anonymous feedback from your firefighters. Reflect and ask yourself what kind of leader you want to be? How do you want your firefighters to see you or remember you? Most importantly, what leadership traits do you want them to absorb from you and carry to the next generation?
If your station morale is low or your firefighters are fearful of you, the problem is not them. If you are reading fire service leadership articles and then going about your day as if nothing has changed, the problem is you.