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While speaking recently at the IAFC/VCOS conference in Florida, I told the story of a time when a fire officer and I didn’t see eye to eye. I said that we did not gee haw. After the session, a Texan approached me and told me that he had not heard gee haw in many years and he asked what the term meant to me. I explained that when two people disagree constantly and don’t get along well – they don’t gee haw.

Of course gee and haw were originally two commands that were used to direct draft horses and plow mules as to which way to turn. Gee meant to turn right and haw to turn left. I have a picture in my office of my Dad when he was a boy plowing with his large draft horses Kit and Molly and I remember his working our garden with his beloved old mule named Red. I remember Dad guiding the plow with both hands and how he could have Red turn with a gentle touch of the reins. I don’t recall whether gee haw was a part of their communications but as a team they surely made straight rows, a productive garden and they always seemed to gee haw well.

How well as a Fire Service do we gee haw? How straight are our rows and what kind of garden do we produce? Is your Fire Department, your fire company, your platoon or shift, producing fruit from a well planned garden, laid out with some logical plan, cultivated with true transparency, communications and ownership that creates a desire within everyone who will benefit from the garden to come together with pride to maintain it?

Are people who said they could lead squashing dialogue and then wondering why they end up canning rotten tomatoes? Are so called leaders purposely thinking left while calling out gee in order to so disgust and confuse the workers that they will give up on the garden? Does a poorly managed annual garden, or a fire department, fail because of a leaders lack of a genuine appreciation of the garden or because of their lack of gardening ability? Is not betraying the trust of the people who tend the garden a formula for failure?

Fire Departments and farm gardens are for subsistence and survival. Leaders who neglect subsistence and who are solely concerned about their own personal positional survival should move out of the garden of leadership and the people business and go sell fertilizer.

Are failed and failing fire service leaders so arrogant and self consumed that they can’t walk down the path to speak with successful farmers with straight rows and constant yields? Why does the neighbor’s garden always look better and produce more while only passing crows come to see yours?

Does your leadership inspire the young ones who will pull the plow when we have gone to pasture?

Blinders help prevent distracted work horses and they may be adapted to out of focus leaders.

Do you guide with the leadership reins or use them to whip and break down the horses?

Why are there paths in a pasture? Are you on the path or just roaming around?

Sink your plow in a straight row and watch it shine.

Thank you for reading and sharing.

Get out there and feed the work horses.

Have a great day – it’s a GREAT day for it.

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