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As leaders, we must understand how to give power away and to reign it in, within boundaries.  Leaders who mentor those under them must relate this to the way that a race horse is trained.  We hire employees and recruit volunteers who are essentially thoroughbreds.  Strong, energetic, and have an enthusiasm for “running.” If were to buy a race horse, then you certainly wouldn’t be afraid to let it run.  Yet, as leaders we sometimes don’t recognize the fact that our thoroughbreds need to run.

            If a horse was never broken and allowed to remain wild it would be dangerous.  Similarly an untrained firefighter is very dangerous.  The same way a horse is broken, we train new firefighters to follow a chain of command, remain calm under stress, and perform skills instinctually. Training must be structured and effective to achieve the   desired results.

            Once mentoring of the firefighter or young officer begins they should be paired with someone who compliments their traits and understands their goals and can help guide them there.  If you recall in the movie about the famous racehorse Seabiscut, the jockey was chosen because he was of a similar breed as the horse.  A good mentor who understands the role of guidance and encouragement to meet the desired goals in crucial in the development process.

            While the racehorse is being trained it cannot always just run in circles and make left turns.  It needs to be run in the open, to let it explore and find joy in running.  The same is true in our business. The fire thoroughbred needs to be allowed to grow and explore.  To practice problem solving and learning from mistakes. If they outcome of actions is always the same, then the ability to adapt and draw from an adequate memory bank is severely diminished.  Training should be allowed to result in negative outcomes, provided the actions are critiqued and corrected to allow a positive outcome. The more times the need for a plan “B” or “C” in training, the better prepared they will be for adapting strategies and objectives on incidents. Apart from training, the same thought process should apply.  Teach those thoroughbreds interpersonal dynamics, how to coach, counsel, and discipline. The ability to differentiate between these and choose the best options will save many headaches in the future.

            Trainers of horses spend time grooming and making sure the basic needs of their horses are met.  We can’t physically groom our thoroughbreds, but we can set a good example for them.  We can interact on a one to one level and learn them.  A simple candid conversation over coffee at the kitchen table will provide valuable insight as to how well the needs of your thoroughbred are being met.  If the basic needs aren’t being met, the thoroughbred will most not likely perform at their best level.

            In the 1950’s during Bear Bryant’s era at Texas A &M he recruited a high school standout running back from Sugarland, Texas by the name of Ken Hall.  Ken was among the best running backs to ever play at the high school level.  Some of his rushing records have stood from the 1950’s until this decade.  He would surely continue his success and set records at the collegiate level and most likely the NFL as well.  When Hall got to Texas A & M, Bryant moved him to fullback and he was also required to play defense under current NCAA rules.  These two tasks were foreign to Hall and he struggled a performing the tasks assigned.  Bryant, who was known for tough love, was unable to coach Hall to the success that he once seemed destined for.  In later years, Bryant would admit that the good leader knows when to kick someone in the butt and when to hug them and had he just hugged Ken Hall instead of kicking him, the outcome may have been totally different.  In fact, Jean David Crowe who played for Texas A & M and won the Heisman Trophy, said had Hall met his full potential, the world would have never heard of Jean David Crowe.   Learning when your thoroughbred needs discipline versus encouragement is essential to obtain their best performance.

            We cannot be afraid to let our thoroughbreds run.  We cannot be afraid of their talents, rather we should help them to best utilize them.  As is often said, leaders aren’t afraid to give away power.  This holds true here.  Your thoroughbreds are the future of your organization, for it to excel and grow they must be allowed to run, but taught to run in the correct manner.



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