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Parking Space Leadership

On your way home from the fire station, you're asked to go out to the training center and help set up a training exercise because the lead instructor is running late. You arrive and park near the door. After helping get everything ready, you're back in the parking lot and see a Chief Officer staring you down while having a conversation with a fellow firefighter. The Chief does not speak to you as he enters the building and proceeds to chew staff members' asses about who parked in his "unmarked" parking space!

The above paragraph is not part of a promotional board question. It happened a little more than 24 hours after 3 Baltimore Firefighters lost their lives in the line of duty! This Chief does not understand what the fire service or leadership is about. He put the importance of a parking spot and himself over the organization.

Leadership is so much more than bugles and gold clusters. It's more than diplomas hanging on the wall, and it is sure as hell more than having the closest parking spot! Leadership is a daily event, and in most cases, true leadership is demonstrated through our actions.

In the above case, the leader demonstrated his sole concern was with himself, not the member. Why not park in the next spot? Why not engage with the member with a simple good morning? Why not open a conversation about the tragedy in Baltimore?

These things should come naturally to a true leader, and it should be sincere, spoken from a perspective of understanding the fire service and the importance of leadership.

One of the most underrated aspects of leadership is staying engaged with the members because they are the men and women who are the real face of the organization, the people who go the extra mile to help the organization, the people who are risking their lives, and who are up all night. They are the ones we count on!

The oldest and most accurate statement about leadership is "we lead by example." The example set in this situation was obviously poor and left a real impression on this firefighter who was just trying to help his organization and fellow firefighter. He lost respect for this Chief and even the organization to a degree, simply by the actions of a high-ranking Chief Officer. It’s important to remember that in most departments Assistant and Deputy Chiefs are promoted by the Fire Chief, in other words these officers are representing not only themselves, but the Fire Chief.

I have very straightforward rules for leadership which, I expected my Company Officers to follow with their members.

  1. The Members and the Mission come first! Alarm readiness is our priority throughout the shift.

  2. Training takes precedent over incidental items or issues that can wait.

  3. Busy work is Bullshit.

  4. Outwork everyone else.

  5. Allow members breaks, downtime, and naps.

  6. Set and enforce high standards.

  7. Be accountable for everything. Especially the mistakes.

  8. The people we serve count on us. Find and fix the problem.

  9. The Members and the Mission come first!

Keep Training.

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