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Journal Entry 40 – Setting the Tone - Time to Tune-up

I was working away the other day and the “almost daily” TSL popped up on my screen. I took a quick read and it was about some internal strife at the PG County FD in Maryland. I know a bunch of those guys through the NFFF Memorial Weekend. They are a hardworking, respectful, smart group of guys, so I dug in a bit in disbelief. Billy posted a note regarding a shoving match at a fire between personnel but moreover, how Chief Marc Bashoor handled it and how swiftly he took action. I watched the short video of the Chief addressing his department (about 40 stations) through a remote video feed and how he gave specific instructions of what to stop, what to start, what to do, and what not to do. The Chief showed exemplary leadership in times of adversity. I sent Billy a quick note and said, “I like the way he set the tone for those who need the tone.” We exchanged other niceties, clicked our last emails to each other and then it sunk in. Being a leadership advocate myself I saw a strange connection to something else.

 I’ve been a musician for over 40 years. (Yes folks, the old chief is a drummer and is known for carrying a pretty good tune. His close friends will tell you he never met a microphone he didn’t like!) A litany of things came to mind as I thought about “the tone” and how that simple phrase relates to what we do especially in the leadership genre. When you set the tone, the rest of group should be following that lead.

On the bandstand, we listen for the “tonic” note which puts everyone par in that specific key and kicks off the song. It allows the vocalist to hit the right note at the start. At this point the band is tight, the singer is on key and we’re all together. So far so good. Some may say we’re playing on the same song sheet. Your song sheets are your SOP’s, SOG’s, Standing Orders and Codes of Conduct. If the band/company is together, they are working in harmony. You know what harmony is. You may not be able to sing it but you can hear it when two or three singers are singing together in harmony, one high, one low, one mid. (Famous harmony bands are The Eagles and The Doobie Brothers. Ever hear a barbershop quartet? Quick, someone tell the young guys what that is and who the two bands are.)

So here’s is my comparison chart on music and setting the tone.

Fire Department Leadership                                  Music                                                            

Follow the rules & regs, SOP’s                             Play in the same key on the same sheet

Team work on and off the fire ground                  Sing in harmony

Create a good working atmosphere                     It’s the rhythm that moves the tune

Go in together, come out together                                    Start together, end together

Remember and practice the basics                      When in doubt, go back to the tonic note

Support the team and all it does                           Stay on the beat with the rest

If you sing off key, play a wrong chord or emphasize the back beat when it’s not supposed to be emphasized, you’ll throw off the entire band and the song will sound like crap. If you do those things on or off the fire ground (freelance, get away from your SOP’s, violate workplace rules, etc.) it could result in injury or worse or a damaged reputation.


So, it’s the New Year and it’s time for a tune up. Tune up the band at the firehouse. (I rehearsed in many garages a long time ago. It’s funny how the firehouse also is

a garage of sorts. The world is round after all.) Sing in harmony, stay on the song sheet, and remember that leadership moves the world in a positive direction, so contribute.

A happy holiday season and a happy and safe New Year to all.

Ronnie K


PS-Thanks Chief Bashoor for your inspiration and for your continued display of outstanding leadership that sets the tone for those who need the tone. REK


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