It is estimated that, within the last ten years 1,500,000,000 articles and books have been written on Leadership. That is not a typo.
So, if someone tells you, "I have read every book that there is on Leadership", you might want to do a fact check. I mean; the time commitment alone to accomplish that should raise a red flag.
Think of all of the authors who believe in their heart that they have the definitive book on leadership skills. How would they know? How would WE know?
When the comment is made, "this is the best book on Leadership that I have ever read"; what exactly is the measure of such a statement when you could hypothesize that they have a small number upon which to base their claim?
I submit that I have read approximately 100 books and over 1000 articles on Leadership. I thought that to be quite a few, but when I saw the estimate of how many books and articles have been written in just the last ten years; I can now see how utterly pathetic my efforts to be a better leader have been.
Because Leadership is all about buying the book and reading it; right?
Or if you're like me and you don't have that kind of free time, you buy audiobooks!
Regardless of the medium, it promises to transport you on a transformative path to becoming a new leader or to become a better leader. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.
So, knowing the sheer numbers of what is out there to read on Leadership, how do we know that what we are reading is even a good book on Leadership? Should writing a book on Leadership be an essential component of said Leader's skill sets?
How many good leaders have written good books on Leadership? (Autobiographies)
How many leaders have been SO good that books were written about them? (Biographies)
If we cannot distinguish between what is a good book on Leadership and what isn't, then are we faced with a similar dilemma when we discuss leaders?
I don't care for books or articles that over-rely upon buzzwords, catch phrases, famous quotes and the dreaded acronyms. I prefer original and unique perspectives on an issue that is going to impact the future of the fire service.
Firefighters are being led by leaders in the classrooms, simulators, burn buildings and acquired structures. Study after study has been conducted. It has been scrubbed and homogenized with a safety factor of 10 to insure that everyone goes home from training.
It begs the question; have we come to rely so much upon a structured training approach and artificial intelligence that we are not exercising our brains enough?
Are fire departments getting surprised at the fire ground because they either weren’t taught it in training or the outcome as taught during training did not occur that same way as at a real world incident? Where was the critical thinking during that critical moment?
Critical thinking? Yeah; there's an app for that.
You want to be a leader? That's a great question. I dedicate an entire chapter to that in my book that is available for sale through my website. Here’s my card. Call the number for details on pricing and class size.
I apologize. That last paragraph was dripping with sarcasm.
To be fair, I have read some great books on Leadership in the fire service. I have also attended many excellent classes, seminars, conferences and summits on Leadership. So that you won't think that I am pandering to my successful authors/friends, I won't name names. They know who they are. But I have some serious advice for them in my following thoughts.
Today's leaders who want to share their experiences in order to grow the next generation of leaders need to shake up the medium. Conventional means are no longer the accepted means.
Here is how I want my information in today’s world.
First of all, I no longer have the luxury of getting home, grabbing a book and sitting uninterrupted for the next few hours to read and comprehend what I’m reading. For a number of reasons, I do not have the time or the patience anymore.
Where I used to read my newspapers in the evening, I can now get my news throughout the day from the Internet. I can “google” for information and I can go to YouTube for videos.
I like my learning to be “on-line”. I don’t need a classroom full of talking heads for its social aspects. I have many friends. It does not have to be a component of my learning experience. I want the information, I want to be tested on it and I want to apply it…as soon as I can.
I also want it to be portable/mobile. Downloadable podcasts to my phone or iPod are very convenient and fills time that would otherwise be wasted watching the sea of humanity trying to save 10% on Black Friday.
So, to keep up with the velocity of an ever-changing world, you have to match that velocity with your adaptive skills.
If you are like me, you want college-level courses from an on-line source that is accredited through a reputable college or university. I don’t want it from a “paper mill”. Any honors afforded for my studies should not be denigrated as one that is simply “purchased”. There are “paper mills” that are out there, but let’s be honest… a framed parchment does not a leader make!
Outside of the virtual classroom, I want to download and take the information with me. Be it a phone, tablet or laptop, I want to take advantage of “down-time”. I find that podcasts and webinars fit well into my daily schedule. Networking websites such as LinkedIn are populated by people just like me. You can network with those in your profession and join its discussion groups. I have been using LinkedIn from its very beginning. It’s been very beneficial.
Facebook and Twitter has been instrumental in helping to get the word out on many of the recent developments in the fire service from product information to reports of incidents in what is essentially real time. We are able to see it play out right before our very eyes.
You may be thinking that there are many “posers” and “trolls” out there on the Internet and you would be correct. Anyone with a computer and Internet connection can be whatever they want to be. They can, with a stroke of the keyboard, be a leader. And if you don’t have the maturity, the “gut” or a working BS meter, you could easily buy into what they are selling; a whole lot of nothing.
I think of it like this: sometimes, the best pitcher isn’t the best pitching coach. He has poor communication skills in trying to teach someone else pitching skills, because he had some coaching and some helpful drills along the way, but throwing to a particular location in the strike zone with accuracy is where his teaching skills will end. At that point, he can’t tell you or show you anymore. You have to do it; to translate all that you have absorbed with your brain into the action of your throwing arm.
I was a baseball catcher during my youth. I had a tall, lanky pitcher who idolized Juan Marichal, a Hall of Famer who pitched for the San Francisco Giants. Now, Marichal, when he would wind up to throw the ball, would kick his left leg very high into the air; his right hand with the ball almost touching the pitching mound. His pitches were explosive and accurate. And my tall, lanky pitcher? Well; he would do everything just like Juan Marichal and then throw the ball over the backstop!
That brings me right back to the beginning.
You can want to be a leader.
You can set your goal to become a leader.
You can hang out with proven leaders.
You can read their books on leadership and what you may have in the end is that you are a leader of readers!
I read books on leadership not to BECOME a leader, but to bring perception and validation to my leadership skills.
As an example, I will use Rick Lasky.
Rick was already a proven leader in the Illinois Fire Service. He was an officer on his fire department, an instructor for the Illinois Fire Service Institute and was also instrumental in starting the Saving Our Own program.
Then, he went on to Lewisville, Texas and became their chief. While there; he wrote the wildly popular Pride and Ownership; A Love For the Job. It would also create a speaking tour and appearances at many of the fire service conferences.
Like thousands of others, I bought the book and read it. There were both “I thought so” and “ah-hah” moments. Not only was Rick a leader, but he could articulate and communicate it.
So, your takeaway from this blog is that you can’t buy leadership! You can only buy the book.
And one last thing…
Don’t be fooled by blogs that are trying to pass off their opinions as somehow connected to leadership qualities when they are simply poorly disguised efforts to drive traffic to their blog sites. Articles lobbing criticism towards anything that moves will populate their page.
At least you know what you’re getting, if a blogger uses half-naked bodies to attract readers. You can’t expect a lot of serious discussion and even less about leadership, motivation and training.
But someone using their blog to promote their opinions about what THEY think are leadership qualities could be information that will fail you at the most critical time.
Let’s get together at FDIC and talk about it. I’ll be over by the books.
The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or any of their subsidiaries. All articles by the author are protected by copyright under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella and cannot be reproduced in any form without explicit permission from the article’s author.