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.