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Are you a self-proclaimed leader? This doesn’t work (sorry to all the self proclaimed leaders out there). Sure, you can think your leader material, but if you’re the only one who thinks this way then you’re in for a big surprise.

So you’ve taken a few leadership classes, you attended conferences and heard experienced fire service members speak on the various topics surrounding leadership, and maybe even read some books written by experts. Are you now a leader? You may want to hold off typing “LEADER” on your resume’.  


Who, or what, determines that you’re a leader? You give attention to characteristics of leadership and try to carry yourself in that manner, but is that enough? No. It is the people that you directly or indirectly influence that determine the true nature of your leadership abilities.


Everything you do and the choices you make have an effect or influence on others.  As a leader, you have a great responsibility to the people around you. Your job description, title, rank, or experience doesn’t dictate whether or not you’re a leader. Everyone has the ability to influence people and affect change.

Leadership encompasses a set of skills and values that are learned, developed, and maintained through practice and practical application. This requires a commitment to change primarily focusing on your actions, attitude, and behavior. These are 3 simple but powerful words. The one that supports the other two is your attitude.  Your attitude is a significant driving force that determines your actions and behaviors. 


Why should I be led by you? What do you think the chances are that someone would actually ask you this question? Pretty low. BUT, wouldn’t you agree that you should know yourself well enough to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Shouldn’t you know why you’re giving attention to developing, maintaining, or improving your leadership skills? This is a question for you to think about and find an answer.

Paul Strong is a career captain with the Valley Regional Fire Authority in South King County Washington and lead instructor at

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