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Is integrity a valuable and vital element of an effective leader? Can you be a "good" leader and not have integrity? Is integrity any more valuable to a fire service leader than to a public works boss or railroad supervisor? What do you think?

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Integrity is without a doubt a key element to being an effective leader. The dictionary defines integrity as a "firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values." This is a leader in the Fire Service, to me this is the definition of a firefighter. While there are many things that define a good fire service leader, integrity is at the top. Integrity is more important in the fire service leader, because it helps your members define who you are. Leaders on the job with no integrity have little backing or confidence of the members, while a company officer or Chief Officer, who is well known on the job, for his or her soundness in handling fireground operations, is held in high regard. We all learn as leaders everyday, integrity, honor and trust is the goal every fire service leader must strive for. We have lives in our hands, both civilian, but most important, OUR BROTHERS!
You can possibly be a "good" manager without integrity, but I doubt you could be a leader. If I can't trust someone to do the right thing at any time then I can't follow him. I wouldn't even follow him to the bathroom (even if it's a multi-holer). I need to know that if I screw something up, and it wasn't out of carelessness or negligence or violated policy or SOG's, that my company officer is going to have my back. We have a captain who talked one way to a guy and talked another way about the guy. How can you trust someone like that? He is supposed to lead you to hell and back.
So before I start rambling as I usually do, I'd say yes, that integrity is a vital element. It's a foundation block in a leader's moral character. It builds honesty, trust, loyalty, etc. And I think that integrity is valuable in all jobs. If a public works boss doesn't have integrity then that attitude is going to flow down through the ranks and if that attitude gets down to the lowest level then I'm probably going to have a lot of potholes to avoid or set sail in my truck because of all the clogged storm sewers. I'm not keen on what a railroad supervisor does so I won't comment on that.
I'll leave it at that. Thanks for the question. Stay safe, Doug
You popped the cork on this one, Chief. Integrity is a buzz word on interview boards, but so few people really understand how to apply the word. It takes guts to have integrity and I think at times, we all struggle as officers and leaders of men to not only apply it, but to recognize the impending impact of those split second moments when it should have been the action you took, but you didn't, cause you didn't see it coming.

I can remember the sinking feeling in my gut as a young man, realizing how little integrity existed in the world of today. Men in my family held integrity as a essential trait of a manhood and I think I expected to find it when I left home. My history as a fireman has been linked to the search for a leader of integrity that I could respect and learn from. They have been few and far between. (not to say I haven't known any, but that I have had few opportunities to work for men known for it) So much so, that instead of looking for someone to follow, I eventually drew a line in the sand and said "I'm for integrity, whose with me?". Its amazing how many firemen are looking for the same thing, but can't always put a voice to it. If you stand for integrity, you will take hits, often below the belt, because folks have a hard time believing your not in it for yourself. "What's the angle?" seems to be the response to integrity. Those that test it for reality, find it appealing to know someone with such traits.

Integrity is essential to skilled leadership. Anyone can be the formal leader and coerce members of the group to follow. Hitler was good at that. Few can be the formal leader, leading people towards sacrifice and service and cause people to follow because they want to. It takes many traits to accomplish this, but I completely agree with Jeff, in that integrity is at the top of that list. Basically, integrity is the key ingredient to all of the other character traits that make for a good leader. Because without integrity, everything else you do is false and without real substance.

Even worse, many of our young officers and firemen don't have a model to work off of. There are many good men in the fire service today, but I believe they are overwhelmed by the type of society America has become and in order to teach integrity, it takes a leader who has a bit of the "Old Breed" in him, as we used to say in the Corp. That's why the more we reach out to each other through various formats, whether here on line, through mentoring, or through groups like the FOOLS, we are building up the fire service. I can be long winded, so I'll shut up.
Ben, you may be long winded, but you nailed it pretty well. It seems tough to find someone that "has a set" to stand up for what they believe is right for the organization. I don't know if it's peer pressure or just the fact that's easier to not make waves. I've taken quite a whipping at times for trying to change some peoples thought processes i.e. officer mentoring program, riding assignments, etc. I hear alot of "we've never done it like before, why start now?" I know by joining groups on FE I'm on the right track and learning alot from you guys, thanks.


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