The Leadership Tune Up -
During our travels there seems to be a common complaint heard by many brothers and sisters around the country, that
their department offers little or no professional development in the leadership field. Hopefully you weren't pinned and
sent off to figure this all out on your own. Preparing the next generation of leaders is everyone’s responsibility. You
see it is not just the fire chief's responsibility but the entire membership regardless of rank or title. It takes many hands
to build a village. That said, then why is this a common theme? Fire Chief's who feel that career advancement is the
sole responsibility of the individual (Old Power) most likely were told that as they were coming up through the ranks.
We are the product not only of our childhood and family upbringings but the environment that we currently work in as
well. So let’s look at a few things that we like to call (New Power) that you can implement for NO MONEY within
your fire department today.
Bulletproof Firefighters - Every fire department has individuals who will seek out the right classes, the right
certifications, degrees and mentors needed to fulfill career advancement. They are usually the go to members, who
carry the workload with pride but are usually the minority. They are constantly developing not only their mind but their
fire ground skills through opportunities like (FDIC) The Fire Department Instructor's Conference in Indianapolis,
Indiana. In reality though, development of future officers and leaders takes a commitment from the organization.
Extreme Leadership - Developing tomorrow's leaders today is the key to progressive organizational behavior. John
Maxwell states that when you have two teams of equal or the same talent... the team with the greatest leadership will
always win. The fire service is a group of men and women who are highly educated, and dedicated to deliver the best
service possible. And as John Maxwell puts it, are “very talented” individuals. So why is the organizational behavior of
many fire departments challenged to evolve with today's society? Failure to grow your membership intellectually
through leading, coaching and mentoring is failure to prepare the next generation of fire service leaders.
Building Future Leaders - The leader of a fire department must have a strong understanding of both the principles of
management as well as the power of his or her influence. While teaching leadership classes we use a lot of John
Maxwell's philosophy for leadership. His five levels of developing leadership within an organization is a great
foundation to build a fire service professional development program. Extreme Leadership - The Next Generation of
Leading, Coaching and Mentoring will review the 5 Levels for developing leadership in the fire service
A person must first fully understand his or her position, the responsibilities and legitimate power.
Legitimate Power = Rules, Regulations, Codes, Standards and RSA's. The next phase of leadership is
the ability to build lasting relationships within your membership. To be honest, you will simply get more
done by "who you know" compared to "what you know". The fire service is all about the "people
business" and we must collaborate together to get things done more effectively. When a leader has
achieved these first two steps, he or she will have increased productivity. As with Maslow's “Hierarchy of
Needs”, once we understand what is expected, we will become confident and provide better service.
Measuring Service - Here is where many leaders fail within an organization they do not
know how to safely gauge productivity in the fire service. "You simply can't lead what you
can’t measure". In my opinion the fire service needs to have a better understanding of
measurability and for that I am talking specifically about (KPI) or Key Performance
Indicators; which means the organization should strive for 95 percent excellence in any
given area of their service delivery model. If you seek more than 95%, the time
invested will far exceed the rewards gained and as an organization you stall. I feel
strongly that performance and productivity go hand-in-hand. To assure you see an increase in both you need to
implement a quality control program that is easily measureable. The only way, we as fire service leaders can provide
our customers (the taxpayers) with measurability is by establishing (JPR's) or Job Performance Requirements for all
skill sets a firefighter is expected to provide. When you tailor your departments in-house training program to match
these requirements, you will have measurability. Fire Chiefs who “guess” about operational readiness will learn of their
department’s deficiencies when an emergency arises. This reactive management style identifies deficiencies through
post incident review but the public expects a progressive leader who can assure when a life is on the line, that the
responders are truly battle ready. There is a simple reason why the Firefighter 1 curriculum has skill set JPR's, that's
because the skill set needs to be completed in a timely manner and efficient manner that is both of quality and has
definite measurability. This level of performance is very common and we see a lot of fire departments who respond fast
and provide excellent services. The public and even the bean counters see a well-run fire department “taking care of
business”. The problem with just maintaining this level of service is that over time your members may become bored,
and mentally unchallenged firefighters will become stagnant.
A Pinch of Salt - Now to overcome this typical failure point where traditional fire service leadership has stumbled; the
pinch of salt to the organization. Just as the Bible talks about adding a pinch of salt
to dramatically change the taste of a given food (Luke 14 p.34-35) The fire
department must absolutely establish an in-house professional development
program to move the organization to the next level. Often fire chiefs feel that if a
person wants to seek an advancement or promotion, it is up to the individual to
seek professional development on their own. That is where leadership fails the
membership you see going back to the two teams of equal talent theory... it is the
team with the greatest leadership that will rein superior and shine during adversity.
When you invest in your membership, it will pay back tenfold. That can be as simple as offering a leadership module
during your next fire officers meeting. How about developing a line supervisor and/or chief fire officer mentoring
program before people are actually promoted? What about hosting college classes inside the fire station (like a
satellite program) from a nearby community college or just simply endorse online distance learning college degree
programs. You see visionary leaders will refer to this important step in the five levels of leadership as Succession
Planning. Without professional development, often times we all end up thinking the same and if we are all thinking the
same... then who is planning for the future? As a steward of the taxpayer’s fire department, AKA the Fire Chief, it is his
or her responsibility to put systems in place like the right education, training, policies, procedures, or standard operating
guidelines so the membership can succeed. By supporting the membership to obtain professional development, the
leader of that organization will have successfully executed the first four levels of John Maxwell's model. Once the
current leadership has provided the opportunities for the next generation of fire service leaders, he or she will have
ultimately gained the respect of their department, and make the final step of the Extreme Leadership model.
The Humility Nugget - lessons passed to us through some very educated and
highly respected mentors is the greatest tool a leader can obtain is the use of
candor. Humility is a skill great leaders employ to maintain positive relationships
while still being assertive. Firefighters simply do not like an arrogant leader who
leads from the front. In the short run, the arrogant leader may feel he or she is
very powerful (legitimate bugle power) but eventually this type of bad behavior
will ultimately damage those relationships and the ability for him or her to
influence others in the plausible future. Simply put they will not follow the spoken
word of the arrogant leader unless there is a possibility of disciplinary action from
breaking a policy, procedure or SOG. In the end... respectable leadership is all
about developing healthy relationships within an organization for which the players are able to do their jobs
effectively, so no matter what kind of problem is thrusted upon them, the public feels as though we the fire service
ultimately took care of their problems.
You have to READ to LEAD - Ever wonder some of the best firefighters fail miserably after a promotion? We are all
products of the environment we were raised in (functional or dysfunctional) Extreme Leadership is going to show you
how to read to succeed. Through the use of interpersonal dynamics, learn how to really understand what makes your
company, your team, or your department tick. Many good firefighters struggle with their responsibilities of a new
promotion. You see the further up the organizational chart you go, the less amount of actual firefighting is done.
Leadership is more about the we and less about the me! Extreme Leadership is going to show you how to gain the
leadership edge so you can engage ALL generations; and ALL personalities for greater confidence, trust and
productivity. Learn how to implement our “Personality Based Effective Communications” model for the fireground and
within the firehouse. Have the ability to provide positive behavioral modification during times of training, coaching and
even during disciplinary action(s). The Art of Dealing with Negativity. It is all about knowing your audience!
This is just a small taste of our program. If you would like to learn more about one of the best leadership programs
with a unique customized introspect flavor, we would be humbled and honored to see you at our (4) hour FDIC 2017
workshop titled Extreme Leadership on Tuesday April 25th, 2017 from 0800-1200 hours.
We guarantee that you will leave this program with the right tools in your leadership toolbox for success!
service, currently the Assistant Chief of Training and Firefighter
Development for the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport Fire Dept. and
a Lieutenant for the City of Keene, New Hampshire Fire Dept. He is also a
senior staff instructor for the New Hampshire Fire Academy. Billy is a
member and past presenter for ISFSI and the owner of FETC Services
which provides advanced firefighter and leadership programs throughout
the United States. Billy has presented for the past (6) years at FDIC and has been published in Fire
Engineering and Fire Rescue Magazines. You can listen to his work on “Tap the Box” on Fire Engineering
Blog Talk Radio.