What was the reason you chose a career in the fire service? The answer should be at the ready, it is our guiding light...it’s obvious. We choose this career because we want our lives to mean something. Quite frankly we work more than we partake in any other activity in life. I want the sum of my activities to have value, to not be made of my petty self-interests and goals. My goals should be intertwined with humanity’s needs. I wish not to leave the earth as some good guy who will soon be forgotten. Rather leave as an individual who served the people and did so with integrity, honor and passion. Our children benefit most from this stance in life and will hopefully repeat the cycle many years into the future. This notion is elegantly professed in the following quote:
“This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
George Bernard Shaw
Coming off of my first trip to FDIC the lesson of Morality was my greatest keep sake from the experience. Why don't we talk about values at the station more? They are the first step in our career path, why should they not be the continual brick crossed in the road? My experience has held that the strongest personality at the kitchen table holds the greatest audience. Many times that personality has also been in conflict with the values meant to guide us. Do we believe the Cavalier attitude is viewed as a necessity to carry out difficult tasks on unforgiving scenes? The issue I take with this attitude is that generally those who promote it proudly display their bravado to our young. Which would not be such an issue if they also displayed some humility to set time aside to nurture those members as well. The nurturing of our firefighters may require we instill bravado within them, but only after they learn the skills necessary for the job along with the values we covet...daily. We can easily forget our purpose...THE MISSION...while honoring ourselves. Let us not focus on the alarm sounding or flu like symptoms, EMS run which we have mastered so easily... these are traps for our minds robbing our readiness. Rather let us remember the runs which challenged every sense, notion, and skill we had to offer. Incidents of this nature will knock on our door step when we are least prepared for it. Which is why we must stand vigilant in an ever ready state.
My education has centered on leadership recently. The conquering of one’s inner voice will lead to maximizing your true potential. Walter Bennis writes: "Listening to the inner voice – trusting the inner voice – is one of the most important lessons of leadership…First and foremost, find out what it is you’re about, and be that. Be what you are, and don’t lose it … It’s very hard to be who we are, because it doesn’t seem to be what anyone wants. – Mr. Bennis (Warren’s father) (35).”
This dynamic requires much courage due to the fact we all want to be respected and liked. Should respect come from a notion of apathy (placating comfort) in any sect we encounter, the morality of the fire service demands us as leaders to stand in opposition. Friendly coworker relations may be lost but the mission will be strengthened; where do your allegiances lie? Which ideal did you profess in your oath to the citizens you serve? What values do you protect most reverently? Speak about the ethics of our service to those you lead. The triumph of this inner being and outward expression of it will reinvent our purpose and the manner to which we inspire others. Criticism, sarcasm, politics and general negativity has seemed to grasp areas of our service. The potential for dysfunction exists when these characteristics cycle through our daily operations. Which is why I took much note when the leaders at FDIC demanded Morality come first. I can no longer turn an apathetic shoulder to those opposed with the discipline, accountability and vigilance the mission requires. The values truly are larger than me and as a fallible man I will stumble along the way. I have proven this to myself consistently, yet this fact should not deter the pursuit to morality in our public service. The foundation of the American Fire Service was laid on this rock.
Bennis, W. (2009).On Becoming a Leader. Perseus Publishing; Revised edition