Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Leadership Comes At a Price

With the most recent LODD report on the Homewood, IL firefighter death at a single family dwelling, it got me to thinking about our culture once again.

In a discussion thread (http://www.firefighternation.com/forum/topics/how-is-all-of-this-lodds), I mentioned that there are two camps on LODDs.

In one camp, you have those who believe that firefighting is inherently dangerous, risks are part of the job and LODDs are as low as they can go or “aren’t that ‘bad’”.

In the other camp, you have those who believe that safety has turned the profession into a bunch of safety sallies. Some in this camp also believes that safety is actually making firefighting unsafe, because it causes hesitancy.

There IS a third camp; the camp that I am in.

In this camp, you believe that you can deliver your services, fulfill your mission to your community, conduct a good risk/benefit analysis and still satisfy that desire in firefighters to fully engage the enemy (fire) without being seriously injured or killed.

You are neither “yard breather” nor “smoke-eater”.

But, what all of the discussion got me to wondering about is this:

Are we empowering firefighters to a degree that subverts or usurps command?

Have we spent so much time pressing for command and control that we have lost sight of the leadership role?

Why do I get the feeling that the “designated” incident commander is walking-nay, floating-towards the incident with whiteboard and binder in hand and no one is following him?

See; I understand that, on career departments, most of what gets done at a fire scene is from battalion chief on down. Day in and day out, the crews are developing relationships within the crew and refining skills to the point where you “just do it”.

In John Salka’s book, “First In; Last Out”, he wrote a lot about the FDNY culture of developing leaders from those who ask questions, challenges the answers in the form of more questions until they put it into practice. It is a system that seems to work well for them.

However; in a department where the officers don’t take a promotional exam, I have to question the department’s leadership, because typically, the top officer has a strangle hold on the others’ behavior and might believe THAT is leadership; when in fact, it is far from it.

How can you grow into a leader, if your growth is being stymied by a person who believes that taking training outside the department is a waste of time and money?

How open would this top dog be to being told, “Hey, chief; I was on a firefighting website and learned some hose drills that I’d like to show our guys”?

Or, maybe you read an article in one of the trade magazines. It doesn’t matter. I’m betting that you’ll be shot down by the tyrant. In their world, free thinking and discussion is treasonous.

Do you trust the people that you have met on the Internet more than some of the people that populate your department and especially those who are in officer positions?

Do you feel empowered or intimidated?

Do you feel confident or insecure?

Do you feel safe or at risk?

Do you have a plan or is your plan to rely on Luck?

Can you live your dream or be content with simply going through the motions?

Can you change it or do you even care to?

Can you become the person on your department that people will listen to, will follow and support, because they TRUST you?

Can you think of one thing that can stop you?

It is not a lonely journey when you take others with you.

It is a journey that is absolutely necessary to move your department and the fire service forward; led by the best and the brightest leaders-leaders who can accomplish the mission AND keep their people safe.

Your journey starts here…NOW!


The article is protected by federal copyright law under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella. It is written and submitted by Art Goodrich a.k.a. ChiefReason. This article or any other article submitted under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella cannot be reproduced in ANY form without the expressed, written permission of the author. Violations are punishable by applicable laws.
Please visit: www.fireemsblogs.com and my blog www.chiefreasonart.com.
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