Today I want to talk about the importance of being “Versatile” as a Chief/Company Officer. As I have said previously at several training sessions, it is important for officers to be in this job for the community and not yourself. Training and education are very important in this business as positive reinforcement is key for the community to ensure they feel they are getting a good rate of return for your services.
Versatility is defined as an individual that has competency in many areas, and the ability to apply themselves in different manners. As fire service leaders, we have a responsibility in many areas. Over the years, we have been given many more tasks in the fire service than just fighting fires and going to motor vehicle accidents. Since 911, we have taken on a greater role in EMS, hazardous materials, technical rescue, and now active shooter incidents.
We as leaders must be knowledgeable in our craft, which means we have worked incidents from all types, in all positions. Why must we be versatile? Well…as a leader, you must understand the needs of your department and what your personnel are asking for. It is very discouraging when you approach your leaders about a new tool or equipment, and you’re asked why you need that. Nothing irritates me more than a Chief who has no idea what you are talking about or asking for. What about that day you’re driving your buggy down Main Street and communications puts a box out and you are first arriving?? How are you going to react?
We as fire service leaders must be competent incident managers. This quality trait is only learned through extensive experience throughout years and real incidents. You may be asking “why is this important”? Well…when you are the Chief, you are the policy maker. You must know and understand the need for creating Incident Management policies and ensuring your whole department and officers operate in the same manner. There is nothing more irritating than confusion on the fire ground. As company officers, it is our job to see that those policies and guidelines are carried out on the fire ground to create the success!
We as fire service leaders must be politicians, planners, and project coordinators. You hold the key to success for your organization. This can only be done by passionate and pro-active leaders. You must hold positive relationships with the people you work for and the people who work for you. You must plan for the future, creating plans, and selling yourself for the future of the department. In order to sell yourself, it is important to have done your homework. By doing your homework and research, you will portray yourself as confident and knowledgeable. Do not be that guy wearing the white shirt who cannot answer questions as to why, especially when everyone is watching.
I hope that you can see where I am going with this article…Be pro-active and do not hide behind your desk. Make sure your apparatus is getting tested on a yearly basis, do not change uniforms every year; just to say you did something, keep the pride and morale up in your department, and lead from the front…the only way!