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SMA Dailey's Top 10 to Sergeant Majors applied for the Fire Service

Last week I came across a post on Facebook titled “Dailey’s Top 10 to SGMs, in his own words”. Dailey is Daniel A. Dailey, Sergeant Major of the Army.  For those that do not know, the SGM of the Army is the top enlisted position in the United States Army.  He is a combat infantry veteran, an Army Ranger, and has received numerous awards including the Bronze Star numerous times.  I really enjoyed reading through these and thought they applied very well to company officers in the fire service.  I decided to give them a little bit of a twist to apply to the fire service.


  1. PT is important.Be a leader in this area. Your guys don’t care if you are the best one in shape, they just want/need to be lead. “PT might not be the most important thing you do that day, but it is the most important thing you do every day in the United States Army. The bottom line is, wars are won between 0630 and 0900”.  In other words, physical fitness is important to accomplishing the mission.
  2. “Think about what you are going to say before you say it. I’ve never regretted taking the distinct opportunity to keep my mouth shut.” You are a company officer. If you are going to speak, most often times people will listen to you. Just don’t be speaking to hear the sound of your own voice. Know when to speak and when to listen and take suggestions.
  3. “If you find yourself having to remind everyone all of the time that you’re the Sergeant Major and you’re in charge, you probably aren’t in charge.” In other words, just because you are the company officer, doesn’t mean you are the leader of your company. Be aa leader, not through bugles but through taking care of your men.
  4. “You have to work very hard at being more informed and less emotional…Nobody likes a dumb loudmouth.” With every situation you face, take the time to gather all of the facts. Don’t lead out of emotion, you are less likely to make mistakes.
  5. “If you can’t have fun every day, then you need to go home.” You are the one that everyone else on your company looks to. Your attitude will help shape the attitude of all the guys on your crew. Be a positive influence.
  6. “Don’t be the feared leader. It doesn’t work. If soldiers run the other way when you show up, that’s absolutely not cool.” Firefighters, does any particular officer come to mind? Officers reading this…does this sound familiar?? Whether a company officer or a staff officer, pay attention to your surroundings and take notice and a self-assessment if needed.
  7. “Don’t do anything – and I mean anything – negative over email. You have to call them.Go see them in person.  Email’s just a tool. It’s not a substitute for leadership. It’s also permanent….Once you hit ‘send’, it’s official, and you can never bring it back.”  Being a leader means being personable.  Whether issuing corrective action, counseling, or praising someone, don’t do it over email.  Find the person and talk one on one. Remember, counsel in private, praise in public. The one exception I find is issuing praise through email but remember to do it in person first.
  8. “It’s ok to be nervous. All of us are.” If you have everything figured out, you’re wrong.  Being nervous makes you try harder. It’s a sign that you care about what impact your decision has.  Have a friend and mentor you can talk to and confide in. Don’t make the same mistakes someone else has already made.
  9. “If your own justification for being an expert in everything you do is your 28 years of military experience, then it’s time to fill out your 4187 and end your military experience. Not everything gets better with age.  You have to work at it every day.”  We hear this one all the time in the fire service.  Years on the job does not equate to years of experience.  Do you have 20 years on the job or do you repeat your first year 20 times? You must constantly be studying and learning. Filter through all the new information and separate the good from the BS.  Help your guys do the same.  And remember just because you’ve done it a certain way for 20 plus years doesn’t mean there’s not a better way to do it and that you cannot learn that way from someone your junior.
  10. “Never forget that you’re just a soldier. That’s all you are. No better than any other, but just one of them.” Remember, you may be the boss, but you are still a firefighter. Don’t get caught up in the supervisor’s role of station life and apply that leadership to the fire ground. Be a working boss.  Your place on the fire ground is with your men. In line with your men on the pipe or keeping everyone oriented during a search. You are to be a combat leader, on the front line, not in the rear or front yard.

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