Vision is the lifeblood of a any fire department. It is what keeps it moving forward. It transported the fire service from bucket brigades to rapid intervention crews. It provides meaning to the everyday challenges that make up the complexity of delivering emergency services. It reminds fire department members why they are there.
Fire departments are connected to the economy. And in a down economy things can get very tactical. Many fire departments are just trying to survive. What worked in the past does not work today. What works today may not work tomorrow. Decisions become very pragmatic; they tend to become reactionary.
After a while, this begins to take a toll on the members on the front lines: the firefighters, officers, dispatchers, and support personnel doing the real work on the streets. They begin to wonder why their efforts matter. They have trouble connecting their actions to the larger story. Their work becomes just a matter of going through the motions; running the calls, repairing the trucks, and delivering the supplies.
The clarity of your vision, along with your ability to cast that vision, will determine what you’re able to accomplish in leadership.
This is where great leadership in the fire service makes all the difference. Leadership is about more than influence, it’s about fire department leaders, at every level, reminding their members of what it is they are trying to do – and why it matters. It is about painting a better picture of the future, and articulating that vision to everyone, everyday and everywhere.
Take a few minutes to think about these questions which may help you begin to examine your fire department’s vision.
DO YOUR DAILY ACTIVITIES align with your fire department’s long-range vision?
DOES YOUR FIRE DEPARTMENT’S VISION inspire commitment from your members (remember, members include all personnel, not just firefighters)?
HOW REGULARLY DO YOU COMMUNICATE the vision to those you lead?
HAS YOUR FIRE DEPARTMENT’S VISION been adopted by your members?
TODAY, THINK about what may be preventing your members from believing in and living your fire department’s vision. What is it?
What makes up a good leader? I would suggest that it probably depends on the situation or environment. Every event or group of people requires a particular approach; sometimes direct and commanding, while other times composed and guiding. I believe today’s best approach to leadership is “adaptability.” Adaptable leaders who are decisive and action oriented in the thick of the storm, and who demonstrate an openness to others and a desire to grow them in the calm before the storm, will promote and sustain a more practical and effective culture in the organization.
So read here Time Magazine’s Joel Stein’s take on “why the best leaders today are quiet, calm – even boring.”
Who do you believe makes the better leader? Loud, excitable, and charismatic? Quiet, calm, and boring? Or the right mix of both, at the right time?
Going Pro is Kern’s follow up to Blue Threat. It continues to build on human performance by sharing research, personal stories and observations on how to elevate professionalism, both personally and inside the entire organization.
Here’s some brief notes from the first few chapters.
Single unprofessional acts cascade as negative force multipliers into the system with the strong possibility of an exponential impact.
Individuals and organizations remain uniquely empowered to perform to higher professional standards, and in so doing, create a peer-to-peer positive force for change.
Mediocritters are critters of mediocrity. When they meet reality, they under-perform, and in the aftermath, blame others for the situation.
Elite performers (Level III Performers) say, I’m a pro because I am doing all I can to be the best I can and further the objectives of my peers, my organization, and the industry as a whole.
More to come ………
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Clearly, everyone has a view of what a leader looks like and how they should behave. What about the leaders who are just outside of the expected norms, like Patton? What do you think? Are we holding too tight to specific mental models of what a leader looks like?
Steven Pressfield is one of my favorites to follow. I like his historical novels (Gates of Fire and The Afghan Campaign ) and I like his inspiring works (Do The Work and The War of Art) that help us tackle our daily challenges. SP is a storyteller that addresses great questions, such as, “Who are we?” Where do we come from?” and “Why do we act the way we do today?”
Harry Truman once said, “You can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not mind who gets the credit.”
Here’s great advice from the Leadership Freak on an important element of leadership…… Humility!
I’ll never forget G.J. Hart’s observation about high potential leaders, “I can usually tell if they have the humility to make it.”
Humility yields success; arrogance blocks it. One source of arrogance is too much knowledge. However, there’s something that matters more than knowing. It’s practicing what you know. Putting knowledge into practice tests, reveals, and establishes true knowledge. Practicing knowledge helps produce humility.
“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” Goethe
The warrior sense of humor is terse, dry – and dark. Its purpose is to deflect fear and to reinforce unity and cohesion.
… Another time, a band of Spartans arrived at a crossroads to find a party of frightened travelers. “You are lucky,” the travelers told them. “A gang of bandits was here just a few minutes ago.” “We’re not lucky,” said the Spartan leader. “They were.”
… Lastly, these remarks are inclusive. They’re about “us.” Whatever ordeal is coming, the company will undergo it together. Leonidas’s and Dienekes’s quips draw the individual out of his private terror and yoke him to the group.
….A lack of leadership is often seen as a roadblock to a team’s performance.
….Rather than focusing on ineffective teams, Larson and LaFasto (1989) looked in the opposite direction by interviewing excellent teams to gain insights as to what enables them to function to a high degree. They came away with the following conclusions:
A clear elevating goal — they have a vision
Results driven structure — visions have a business goal