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Have you ever seen a high ranking officer that tends to build their "inner-circle" with officers who are like-minded and often times "yes-men". You know what I mean, the guys who would follow their officer to the most ridiculous lengths just so it keeps them in the good graces of command? The guys who sacrifice their personal convictions just to please their boss because it may get them a brownie point at promotion time? Every organization has them, and as long as the civil service ordinances will allow it (or not exist in many organizations) there are always going to be officers that take advantage of this system.

Most often (not always) you will find these in small community volunteer and combination services and usually where the chief is either elected or allowed to promote whoever he sees "fit" to command companies and organizational areas.  In these organizations the officer corps is often rotating as the chief is elected or removed from power, and his appointment of officers may have little or nothing to do with their professional qualifications. Whether it be familial ties, close friends, or just guys that are trying to brown-nose their way into a multi-bugle position this trend happens over and over all across the country, and its not always in volunteer organizations. What drives these officers (most especially chiefs considering their responsibility for entire organizations) to do this? From my experience that I've witnessed either first-hand or in my studies, is a lack of self confidence, experience and a need to feel justified in their beliefs.   

No one enjoys being wrong, that is a fact of life that we can all agree to, but the arrogance and ignorance of many lead them to believe that just because they have power, they are always right and those who disagree are wrong, period. This mindset can have catastrophic consequences to an organization, especially if there are many quality members in places that suit them well, that have differing viewpoints of their supervisor.  A simple disagreement over procedure or policy can result in good quality members being removed, demoted or leaving an organization. I'm not sure about anyone else, but I work in an area that is dominated by combination departments, every career and volunteer member is necessary to the survival of the system and there aren't enough GOOD firemen to go around.

In 1883 the Pendleton Civil Service act was passed by congress that helped change the FDNY from a "spoils" system (found in many fire departments today) over to a merit-based system where the best qualified, experienced or tested individuals are placed in higher ranking positions. This has extended over to many organizations, and has helped to slow or limit corruption in our industry. Yet there are organizations that pride themselves on electing officers or placing a chief and allowing him to select his corps. While there are many level headed officers out there that have served these organizations for many terms, there are many out there who take advantage of it. 

We have all heard the old adage "variety is the spice of life," a phrase that has its home in our industry. There are an infinite number ways to perform any operation on the fire ground, as there are just as many ways to lead a fire department. As an officer, surround yourself with people who think differently and welcome new ideas, because there is always an easier and more effective way to do ANYTHING in this business. Every firefighter is a problem solving individual and new ways to do things are being invented every day. Promote the RIGHT people, the guys who will perform the best and are most qualified, listen to what everyone has to say and the morale of the organization will flourish. 

Remember, an organization that is high in morale will have more buy-in, more buy-in means more dedication to training, to serving, to protecting and a better organization to service your community. Do not let your arrogance be your downfall, because the lives of the community you serve depend on it and they deserve nothing but the best, all of them.   

"Many have asked what exactly IS my area of expertise and my answer is often "my own opinions and nothing else"."

-John J. Robinson author of "Born in Blood" and "A Pilgrim's Path"

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