I hate bullies! Always have, always will. Unfortunately, this is a leadership trait of far too many company and chief officers. As I see it, there are fundamentally three types of supervisors:
Leaders: Their ability to motivate and empower firefighters to excel is their key to success. People enjoy working for leaders and they have the highest productivity and retention rates of all the management styles. Leaders can be tough and demanding (there’s nothing wrong with that), but gain respect due to their ability to justify their decisions with sound strategy, knowledge, experience, and most of all, showing respect to others. They think through issues and respond appropriately, acting in the best interest of all.
Buddies: They avoid confrontation and dealing with negative issues because they cherish their status as “one of the guys”. Buddies often get taken advantage of by under-performing subordinates and lose top performers due to a lack of motivation and proper training. These officers can be effective, but it’s highly unlikely they can sustain their credibility and ability to maintain control in the long run. It comes down to this: Things will go great, as long as things are going great!
Bullies (Bosses): Manage firefighters with a domineering management style. They focus on the negative and all too often take positive things for granted. These officers are impossible to please, cause high employee turnover and productivity potential is never reached. They hide their lack of knowledge and social skills behind aggression and intimidation. As with most bullies, insecurity plays a huge role in this type of firefighter management, as they tend to make decisions based on their personal needs and ambitions rather than the good of the company. Regardless of their reasons, these people are impossible to work with and do much more harm than good.
No one wants to work under the watchful eye of a tyrant, and never underestimate the effects of poor morale within your department. Any military commander worth their salt will tell you that poor morale is like a poison, and once it starts to spread it can kill a healthy, well trained group of soldiers – firefighting is no different.
If you find yourself in this situation, stand up for what’s right – be the Leader.
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