Fire Engineering Training Community

Where firefighters come to talk training

We all know there are many different and unique leadership skills and abilities that various leaders posses and practice. From your perspective, what are the most effective and important skills that a fire service leader can posses and practice with their people?

Views: 289

Replies to This Discussion

1. They don't care how much you know, until they know that you care.
2. Keep their focus on solutions, not problems. If morale is slipping, remember these are get it done kind of people. Give them a good quality project to work on. Notice I said good quality. They have b******* fuse about a 1/2" long. Don't waist their time.
3. Don't preach, teach and participate. Meaning, don't complain that firefighters don't train like they should but instead give the fella's the tools to train and train with them.
4. Read John's book! (How could I miss that one)
Most of us can identify a good leader. But when asked what makes that person a good leader our first word is usually "uh." The fire service is a good laboratory for the study of good and bad leaderhips skills. As fire service leaders we are required to work in a wide variety of environments. Here are my contributions to the lists:

1. Praise in public, critque in private.

2. Excellent time management skills.

3. Personal and professional organization.

4. Job knowledge.

5. Be a good follower.

6. Ability to see the big picture.

7. Integrity.

8. Willingness to do the grunt work.

9. Let your yes be yes and your no be no.

10. Passion for the job.

Thanks for the opportunity to contribute. Be safe.
First rule in Leadership is, LEAD! sounds simple but many won't do it, they would rather be buds with everyone. Thats great but someone has to be the responsible one, the leader. The good ones dont even have to try, they just do it!
I started reading at the top (Mike Walker's comments) and they are all right on, starting with my favorite: "1. They don't care how much you know, until they know that you care" (Mike Walker 2008)! If your members don't have confidence in your ability to lead them and take care of them, no matter what, you are behind the 8-ball. A master's degree is a great tool that is useless to a manager if they are not a leader as well.

Make sure your members know:

1) As their leader it is your job to ensure they have everything possible to do the job safely and to the best of their ability AND GO HOME AFTER THE CALL/SHIFT/TOUR.

2) You will always have their safety and best interest at heart, even if they don't like your decisions.

3) Work with your members, not above them. That is not to say you do their job for them. If you do not participate in "routine" tasks or training with your members you do not know them. That is to say you do not know their strengths, weaknesses and the intangibles in between.

4) Nothing in emergency services is an individual event (if you believe differently it is time to reevaluate why you are here); Every event in emergency services is a LEARNING OPPORTUNITY!

Thanks for the opportunity for input!

One trait is communication. That means speaking and being heard. But nobody will listen to someone who won't listen. I've heard it said in several venues that God gave us two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion.

Nobody who is smart enough to be a firefighter is a dummy. They have some very good ideas, and you can use that intelligence to the advantage of your unit. Sometimes they need some help to develop their ideas, and officers have the means to help them.

Coaching is one of my favorite techniques to help my people. It's non-threatening, intimate, and builds trust in both of us, just what I want from someone who I am willing to risk my life with.
Great point! I especially like the "coaching" technique because as you said, it builds trust in both of you. Coaching is a great talent that some of us have and it does really help younger folks get a voice and start to contribute to what is going on around them. Thanks
I have always heard the "golden rule" and it is inaccurate. you have to treat people how THEY want to be treated not how YOU want to be treated.

Another issue I have is "guys who write recipes but don't cook" Basically guys that talk about leadership and what a company officer should do but have either A. Never been a true company officer or B. when it comes down to really lead will go back on everything he has been preaching about. I am not going to mention names or anything like that but there are lot of guys out there doing this and being asked to speak at a NATIONAL level and becuase of the brotherhood no one exposes them for the fraud that they are.

So a short answer to that is credibility you have to have been where I am in order for me to follow you. Mabey that makes me a bad follower mabey it doesnt but I think in order to get the guys to follow you have to have been in there shoes.

We are a service obsessed with "buzz words" and complex leadership strategies when really its quite simple to lead us (the firefighter).
are the only words we need to know and practice everything else is just fluff. IMHO
I find your opinions interesting Robert. Some of them I agree with but some I may be misunderstanding.

I think to get into a debate about Scripture (The Golden Rule, a statement made by Jesus Christ) would not benefit any of us so I'll leave the symantics of a statement left to those wiser then me but as to how people want to be treated, which I think is the point you are making does have merit to a degree. This especially holds true when it comes to firehouse relationships and even more specifically, firehouse practical jokes. The person on the receiving end of the "joke" should be able to decide when enough is enough.

On the other hand; if you are refering to work expectations then I disagree if you are intending that it is my responsibility is to treat them the way they want to be treated. The fire service isn't Burger King. They can't always have it their way. "They" have a boss. "Their" boss has boss and this goes on and on to the bottom line; we all work for the citizens. The citizens rightfully expect a fire service that is capable, professional and willing to mitigate their emergency. I am concerned that too many have adopted the "What's in it for me" attitude and expect their supervisors to placate to their selfish whims when in reality that is the polar opposite to what a boss should be doing in our proffession. "They" may think they know all there is to know about their job but as I read recently on the Quotes page, "You can never know too much about a job that can kill you," and if I am "their" boss, its my job to ensure they can perform.

As to walking in "their" shoes: Maybe "they" need to wonder what it's like to walk in the shoes of another instead of expecting everyone to see just their perspectives. Just a thought.

If the message is true, does it matter who the messenger is? Believe it or not, we are ALL hypocrites to one degree or another. In other words, if my house is on fire and my family is endangered, I don't care who tells me the house is on fire, even if it is the arsonist himself. His message is still true and I better listen.

I do agree that the precepts of leadership are typcially simple but unfortunately the application of leadership or followship isn't. The complexities of humanity and generational motives are constantly changing so leaders must always strive to communicate the precepts of leadership in a manner that is understood by new generations.

Please do not read my words with a harsh implication because that is not my intent. I just read what you stated and it got me to think about another perspective. Thanks for writing your post. I hope it spurs more communication.
I like Goethe's take on the Golden Rule:
"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you'll help them to become what they are capable of becoming."

Maybe that could be the officer's golden rule. We are the trainers of those who follow us today, and they will follow in our footsteps when we are gone. The rarely spoken but extremely important job that we have is to have at least one subordinate who can step into our shoes NOW and do our job as well, if not better, than we can.
Very well said Sunshine. I am going to remember the Goethe statement.
I want toaddress credibility more: I do whole heartedly agree that the messenger needs to be credible or another way to state it, they need to know what they are talking about. To use Robert's example, I would never write a cookbook book unless the topic was 101 ways to prepare Ramen Noodles....

When I first entered the fire service I, like all other newbies, attended dozens of training sessions. It became quite apparent that if the instructor didn't know their subject matter my brother and sister firefighters would systematically disassemble the instructor, remove his/her intrails and then find the high points around the drill field to hang the dissassembled body parts for all to see. From that I learned to never try to B.S. the brothers and sisters. But like I stated previously, if the message is true, learn from it. I can assure you that none of us are teaching anything new, we're just stating it in a new fashion.

Another thought to comes to mind and many who read this will understand, some won't. "The prophet is without honor in his own house." Many times a very good instructor on the national level or any level for that matter does not have the same influence in their home department. I've seen this on several occasions. I have been asked to go to another state to speak about something, and yes I know what I'm saying is correct and have done it, when I'm done a person comes up to me and says, "I've been trying to tell these guys this for years and they thought I was nuts." So why did they listen to me? Because I was an outsider who stated in a manner that made sense and I didn't have to worry about the "filter of the past." What I mean is at home I'm just Mike. The guys I work many have known me since I came on the job. They still remember the lanky tall kid with a big mouth. They remember the first time I pulled a Minute-Man load and fell flat on my face. They remember the time I lost my temper and almost pummeled a fellow firefighter. They remember me falling for the pranks. They remember every failure I've made so for me to come across as an "expert" to them is a little difficult to swallow. On the same token, when I come to my actual home, my wife does not hesitate to remind me that I'm not Chief in her house...... but that is a whole different story.
First off I don't take anything personal I posted this hoping people would comment on it in either the positive or negative.

Secondly these are traits I desire in an officer or leader they anr not right or wrong just mine.

I agree I don't think it should be like burger king but it shouldn't be becuase the boss likes something or doesn't like something then its off the menu (is that one to many reasturant references?).

I do agree with you on the ompact that one has at home versus outside. I see it happen everyday. But while you might be just "Mike" to the boys when the stuff hit ths fan they listen becuase they know you have been there befor can't say that for everyone.

I appreciate you view on the subjects and welcome anyone else to chime in.


Policy Page


Our contributors' posts are not vetted by the Fire Engineering technical board, and reflect the views and opinions of the individual authors. Anyone is welcome to participate.

For vetted content, please go to

Fire Engineering Editor in Chief Bobby Halton
We are excited to have you participate in our discussions and interactive forums. Before you begin posting, please take a moment to read our policy page. -- Bobby Halton

Be Alert for Spam
We actively monitor the community for spam, however some does slip through. Please use common sense and caution when clicking links. If you suspect you've been hit by spam, e-mail

FE Podcasts

Check out the most recent episode and schedule of

© 2020   Created by fireeng.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service