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There’s a movie that I love called “A Bronx Tale” and in the movie there’s a question.. “is it better to be loved or feared?”

There’s an old study that there are only three types of Leadership; Democratic, Dictative and Autocratic. In my experience there are many more than just those three. I have been blessed to work with some of the best and worst leaders one can come across. Yes, I say that I am blessed to have been able to work with what I would consider a poor leader because their bad traits prepared me for what not to do when I was ready to become a leader. The one type of leader that I have noticed is most common in fire houses is the “Bully Leader” the one who rules with fear.

The “Bully leader” is the leader who uses their position or their title/rank to create fear amongst their people. They create an environment where they use such tactics as ostracizing what they consider undesirables, and then making quid pro quo promises to their enforcers (the one’s who carry out the toxic behavior) like promotions or bonuses. These leaders try to use intimidation to their favor by picking on employees, threatening them or by simply ignoring them as if that employee didn’t even exist (kind of like when you were in elementary school). This is a leader who has their own sense of insecurities and deep down knows that they are not properly prepared to effectively lead others. They create this form of puffing out their chest and raising their voice and establishing back room gossip about others in such a manner that the employees are so brain washed by this leader’s art of manipulation that they take part in the negative gossip and establish an environment where if you’re not with them then you’re out.

Now, one can argue that they will get their day etc, yet I’m not worried about the bad leaders getting their day. I am more concerned with the fact that we continue to promote and allow these toxic bullies climb the ranks and wreak havoc throughout our fire houses. We talk about problems in the fire houses, and problems with leaders; I can seriously log onto Facebook at any time and see someone complaining about a toxic leader in their fire house. We MUST stop allowing people to rule with fear. These people aren’t people we like to be around yet we spend so much time trying to get them to like us so we can go throughout our careers feeling like we fit in. Seriously?!? Why are we allowing this to happen to us, why are we allowing these selfish insecure bullies into our fire houses and worse yet, why are we allowing them to lead people?

We need to start bringing the people up who were inspired, who wanted to be inspired and who want to inspire others. Being successful in the fire service isn’t whose helmet’s dirtier, or who’s the saltiest. I am not a great Fireman, never was, I have met some of the best and admired their ability. My success has come from wanting to be inspired, from knowing the amazing feeling when you inspired someone else, to see that look on their face like as if “they got it.” I have had success because I love what I do, and I have recently learned to love others who do it too, not to be selfish and worry about how I could be better than them. There’s a regular joke I make, but it’s true… “Don’t become a person who celebrates their retirement party in a phone booth.” I know I have my flaws and still have a lot more to learn about myself, people and leadership and I know I have my enemies, but I still have those who love me. I have people who have encouraged me, supported me, and allowed me into their lives who are the genuine leaders this fire service needs. I can stand here today and will when I retire knowing that I stopped using those bully tactics and started to truly appreciate people and valued them for who they were and what they were about. Is it better to be loved or feared? I’ll take love every day, twice on Sunday.

In all that you do, God bless take care and stay safe!

Dave McGlynn

Passion in Leading

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