If you are unsure of who Lt. General Hal Moore is I would encourage you to research one of the most decorated war time heroes in modern history. In fact, General Norman Schwarzkopf, who was a student of Lt. General Hal Moore at West Point, calls him one of his “heroes.” General Moore was born in Bardstown, Kentucky; a small town of 11,700 people, per the 2010 census records. How does a small-town gentleman rise to be one of the most decorated military figures in history? I believe he lived by a set of principles which he discussed during a recorded conference video at the 2008 American Veterans Conference. There were four components that stuck out to me which influenced my thought processes and the principles of Barn Boss Leadership. These four components are: There is Always One More Thing, Lead from the Front, Trust you Gut, and Facing Adversity.
There is Always One More Thing
Every successful individual or battlefield campaign requires certain appropriate actions to mitigate the situation. The difference between good versus great, passing the test versus mastering the task, and collecting a pay check versus leaving a legacy is to determine what is the next step – the One More Thing. I have found that in my life every action created another opportunity and that opportunity created additional opportunities. When you think you have it all together continue to press forward and find that one more thing which may affect you, your company and your department. In my previous department, a group of firefighters from all ranks came together and developed a two-day Safety and Survival Course which incorporated all the emergency drills known today. These guys were all operations people who successfully campaigned for it to be in every recruit school and taught it for free to surrounding departments. What these Station 20 folks developed not only bettered them, it is leaving a legacy 15 years later – class still goes on. From a firefighter’s standpoint, maybe it is great you threw the ladder perfectly while the suns shinning, with a light breeze in 75-degree weather. However, have you thrown it enough to be competent in a thunderstorm at 2 am with a viable victim and flames impinging. In the Barn Boss world, we call this Mastery beyond Perfection.
Lead from the Front
Leading from the front does not mean you become so entranced in the situation that you miss the big picture. If you are an officer, you have duties and expectations which require you to be in certain positions to protect those around you who are performing task(s). However, leading from the front does mean that you are the first one in gear for training, you lead by example and you demonstrate your passion for the job. If you are a leader, especially an officer rank, leading from the front means that you are required to sit down at the kitchen table, have a cup of coffee, and discuss whatever with the ground troops. Build the relationship between you and your crew. It is your duty to know what is going on where the action is located, aka The Kitchen Table. This will better prepare your entire crew for when the battle ensues.
Trust you Gut
This does not mean we arise to the occasion. No one, in any situation arises to the occasion when a bad day hits us. We rely on our previous training, knowledge and skills acquired to mitigate the situation. I didn’t know there was a h*** in the floor two feet in front of me due to zero visibility a few months back while performing a primary search at a residential fire. I used my knowledge and skills of sounding the floor, paying attention to details and acknowledging items were not adding up to my mental simulation to keep my crew safe. Matt Jamieson, co-worker from many years ago, ran a call for a 29-year-old with severe chest pain. We walked in the front door and Matt called it on the spot without a 4 Lead, 12 Lead or any other medical device. It was a load and go for this Myocardial Infraction (MI) patient. At 29, with no history and without an EKG – could you call this? I began studying Recognition Primed Decision Making (RPDM) years later and called Matt one day to discuss how did he know. Unfortunately, he didn’t remember the specific call, however, as we talked through my recollection of events we narrowed it down to key signs he learned through years of training, knowledge learned and experience gained. Matt had developed slide trays which allowed him to trust his gut.
Leaders of all levels will face adversity at some point in your life. It may be personal or professional, and you are not guaranteed to always get it right. However, you must learn to adapt to the situation and learn from your mistakes. As General Moore states, “You must believe that you will prevail in the end.” When I attended the Georgia Smoke Diver Program, my motto was one task at a time. If I could complete this one task in front of me, I succeeded and then advanced to the next task. The adversity of being physically and mentally drained on top of a few training wounds was daunting, however, it was the one task at a time mentality and a top-notch partner (Will Daniels) that made me GSD Graduate #741. At the station level, keep your cool when stuff goes side-ways. Sit your group down talk about your company’s vision and what we are here to accomplish. There is no one who can argue with our vision being that we accomplish our duties and we all go home.
Regardless of your rank, title, position or years of seniority you can be a leader. This is what Barn Bosses do – they are the ordinary individuals performing extraordinary actions. They set the bar for what good looks like and they are the first to get after it. They never settle for the status quo as Mastery is the Minimum Standard. They trust their gut, not because they don’t know what else to do, however, it is because they have prepared for that moment. And, for adversity – life is not easy and it never will be, but, never give up. As the saying goes…… “I will prevail……..”
Train Hard and Be Safe!
Barn Boss Leadership, August 2016 publication – A unique blend of fire, science, psychology and fire service history provided by an author who has worked in the largest of metropolitan to the smallest of volunteer departments. True leaders develop their power long before they receive a promotion. This text is designed to provide a guide and self-awareness gut check for individuals of all ranks. However, the emphasis of this text is for the informal leader in the organization, who is the catalyst for action. This text is for the individual who considers mastery the minimum standard.
Brian Ward, Author of Fire Engineering - Training Officer’s Toolbox and Managing Editor/Author for the Training Officer’s Desk Reference by Jones and Bartlett. Brian facilitates programs around the country on emergency response, training and leadership topics in the public and private sector. Founder of FireServiceSLT.com and BarnBossLeadership.com.
Moore, Hal. (2011). Vietnam War Hero Offers Leadership Lessons. American Profile. Retrieved from http://americanprofile.com/articles/leadership-lessons-list-from-vietnam-veteran/