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We all know that one person, don’t we? The one who was promoted to a leadership role when they have no leadership qualities whatsoever. They have said all the right things to the right people, done the bare minimum to get ahead, and now find themselves in a position of management over firefighters that know all to well who this person really is. My grandfather used to say “a snake cannot change its stripes, no matter how bad it may want you to think so.” You know this person’s true stripes and what type of character they reveal when the brass is not looking - or when the stress level is turned up.

This new officer may again say all the right things, but have they truly changed their stripes? Are they ready to put away their selfish and domineering agenda to become a true leader? It has been my experience that bad firefighters become bad leaders - until they themselves come to the realization that they must change. Unlike snakes, we can change our stripes, but it comes with a lot of hard work, constant education, and patience - patience because your subordinates will not trust you at first. You must lead by example and refrain from your old ways of ego-driven schemes and bully tactics. 

How do you start? The first step is realizing you need to change for the betterment of the department and for your people - it’s not about you! Secondly, is to begin educating yourself on how to become the leader your people deserve. Read, attend seminars and leadership workshops, and practice what you’re preaching. Remember - credibility takes a long time to build but can be destroyed in an instant by selfish deeds and prideful motives. Third, share what you’re doing and pass along the information. You’re people will see you are trying to change and that you are willing to help them do the same. You do this for them, not you!

You may have performed a nifty trick to get promoted, but there’s no pixie dust shortcut to becoming a great leader. That snake will never magically turn into a fuzzy bunny without much work and dedication! You CAN change your stripes!


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Comment by Paul Combs on July 28, 2016 at 3:24pm

Thanks, Capt! Just doing my thing to make a difference. Hope to see you soon - miss you!

Comment by Michael M. Dugan on July 28, 2016 at 3:16pm

Once again Paul you hit it out of the Park!!! Well done my friend!

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