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WHITE FLAG LEADERSHIP

Leaders lead.

They make no excuses about their inheritance, the crews or the present climate and they do not lead with an attitude of fear and they surround themselves with great people.

Leaders don’t carry a white flag, they plan to win.

Many years ago, I printed off one of the writings of General George S. Patton. I studied the document again and again, analyzing the words, the intent and meaning of the message. Since General Patton was a uniformed commander and a leader in the military, he rarely hid his words and feelings in the shadows or under the skirt of political correctness. His writings have survived the test of time.

Throughout the Patton document, I replaced the word Army with Fire Department. The result was that Patton’s message came into focus and made perfect sense for the Fire Service. It could have been written about and delivered to the Fire Service, instead of to an Army.

I did the same with the report from the Charleston Sofa Super Store fire, substituting the name of my city for Charleston. The revised report was revealing. As we know, many of the issues in the Fire Service are the same if we simply change the names on a report and read it again slowly with an open mind.

The accomplishments and writings of leadership legends with names like Patton, Jackson, Nimitz, Halsey, Mattis, Puller, Honor’e, McAuliffe and McCrystal are studied in our institutes and universities of higher learning and will be for as long as leadership is a course of study. Fire Service leaders and those who wish to become leaders should study them also.

Like all of us, these leaders did not look alike, they wore different patches and uniforms and they came from different times, places, backgrounds and influences. Leadership is Leadership, whether in sports, politics, the military or in the fire service. All great leaders share similar leadership traits and paramount among them is that no winner or great leader ever stood on a pile of bovine scatology and called it high ground and none of them carried a white flag into battle.

Imagine today if the fire service could have these great leaders, from different generations, sit together on a panel and ask them questions about leadership and what a found treasure it would be to have each of them compose a one page document on the subject of their leadership. I would suggest that the issues faced today by the fire service would quickly be addressed and directed toward workable solutions by the end of the day, even though these leaders were not involved in Fire Service.  

Here are some of the tender questions that I suspect would be asked and I can only imagine the answers from Mad Dog Mattis, Raging Cajun Honor’e, Bull Halsey, Chesty Puller, Old Blood and Guts Patton and Thomas Stonewall Jackson:

Why do you think that always winning is so important? Do you feel that you were too hard on deserters, rats, spies and snitches and those who desecrate the flag, while in your ranks? Are you a leader or a change agent? How did you consistently turn people from the melting pot into winning fighting units? How do you use consultant reports and committees to frame your leadership? Do you lead based upon the political affiliation of your boss? Is morale and unit pride important in leadership and in battle? When you are in a foxhole would you prefer to be surrounded by college degrees or squirrel hunters? What do you think of demilitarized zones during war? Are you true to your mission, principles and values or are they simply expensive artwork adorning the walls of your office? Were performance assessments and after battle reviews important to your leadership success? When you selected your staff, did you choose like minds or free thinkers, who may not always agree with you? Is positive past performance an indicator of future performance? Does promoting the best prepared candidates of today assure or contribute to the organizational victories of tomorrow? Wouldn’t we all be better served if man hugging, sensitivity and compassion outweighed rigorous remedial training for failing units? When and why, after World War II, did we start hand cuffing our leaders and troops and what have been the results? Is your leadership truly transparent or can followers see through it, and is there a difference? Assuming that anyone can be a soldier, a sailor, an airman or a marine; don’t you think that it is cruel to put them through such difficult training out in the elements? Is it fair and sensitive to everyone to have “specialized” units such as Seals, Green Berets, Rangers and Delta Force and doesn’t “specialized” hurt the feelings of those who are not in these units? Why do you place so much importance on the battleships, the infantry, the air craft carriers, the marines and the soldiers? Why does it frost your under carriage so much when untrained people in the supply chain stray out of their lane and is it fair that all they get to do is try to keep up with and support your charging army during their glorious attack?

The answers to these questions would be revealing and eye opening. I suspect you would hear words such as merit, heart, pride, toughness and teamwork. I also suspect that white flag leaders and the timid should not attend.

Somewhere in your department, your battalion, your company is a future young Seal, a Ranger, Delta Force or a Green Beret who wants to fit into the fire service foxhole. They want to follow a great leader and for support to feed them as they make the push forward. They need to be coached and trained to develop the instincts that will allow them to step out and to perform well under fire. Will these young people flower or will they wither in the first frost and shutter in fear when they smell smoke and come under fire?

Fire Service Officers of today, could you work in the command of Patton, Jackson, McAuliffe or Mattis, with your present outlook and attitude, and would their campaigns be as successful because of you, or in spite of you?  Is a career leadership you turn, made slowly and in private, too embarrassing for you to make? Can you lead a specialized unit because you have become a special leader?

How you prepare is how you will fight.

Be a leader with no white flag.

Lead from the high ground.

How selective is our fire service selective service system?

Where is the Fire Service war college?

If you can’t lead, just lay down, the leaders will step over you on the road to victory.

Thanks for reading, caring, sharing and leading.

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

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