Thursday, October 30, 2014

Food for Thought - Follow to Lead

Let me pass, I have to follow them, I am their leader. –Alexandre Ledru-Rollin

Let me pass, I have to follow them, I am their leader. – Alexandre Ledru-Rollin

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I'm the Person in Charge!

When challenged to give herself a job description, Admiral Michelle Howard boldly states, "I'm the person in charge!"

Admiral Michelle Howard has many firsts: first female graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy selected for flag rank, first woman and first African-American woman to becme a four-star admiral, and first woman to hold the post of Vice Chief of Naval Operations.

Astute students of leadership know Admiral Howard as the commanding officer of the task force dedicated to saving Captain Phillips from Somali pirates. In the video, she shares her story of resilience as leader during this crisis situation.

A Captain's Duty

Admiral Howard's Thoughts on Leadership

  • Define the mission correctly.
  • Leadership can be lonely at the top.
  • Leaders have a great obligation to be a role model (inside and outside the organization).

Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge - Digging Deeper

Monday, October 27, 2014

Food for Thought - Credibility

Accuracy builds credibility. – Jim Rohn 

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Remembering the Esperanza Fire

Always Remember - Esperanza Fire
(Photo credit: Laguna IHC)
Today marks the 8-year anniversary of the Esperanza fire. Mark Loutzenhiser, Jess McLean, Jason McKay, Daniel Hoover-Najera, and Pablo Cerda lost their lives in the line of duty. Take a moment to honor their memory by learning. 
Situational awareness poster

Other references:

Friday, October 24, 2014



by Jay C Stalnacker

Growing up living on the other side of the tracks, I often ventured across for a slap of reality as just a few miles away there sat an entire city of epic poverty, unemployment and crime. I believed the world was no bigger than a few square miles of rusted steel mills and ugly “company houses” surrounded by middle class subdivisions. It was a place where the mafia and crooked unions destroyed an entire community and left wounds that would never heal. It was so bad that for a few years Youngstown, Ohio was known as the “murder capitol of America.” The unrelenting crime and unscrupulous leadership of our community eventually left generations of immigrants with nothing more than empty rusting steel mills and cracked brick row houses.

By the time I was old enough to understand what a “Youngstown tuneup” was, most of the crime families had been arrested or moved operation to another city, leaving only a wake of destruction. Looking back, as young boys there were really only a few types of heroes we had to admire: professional boxers, football players and crime bosses. Goombah’s like “mo man” Harris and “Charlie the Crab” and legends like Franco Harris and Ray Boom Boom Mancini filled both our dreams and nightmares. Little did I know that both provided an unattainable or misplaced example of leadership, but it was all we had.

As I grew older I began to understand who the true heroes were. They were the common men and women who suffered through the intimidation, bribery and destruction of their community and then moved to the suburban neighborhoods to raise their children hoping that we would have a better future than they knew each of us would most likely face.

It’s a sad, overwhelming enlightenment watching an entire community self-implode. As wild-eyed teenagers we would climb to the roofs of the rusted buildings and walk the empty train tracks always wondering what happened and how it happened so quickly. I witnessed my grandfather fall from a proud paycheck earning crane operator in the steel mill to a humbled security guard at a community college making minimum wage. The union leaders had destroyed his future by embezzling his pension and sending jobs overseas with greedy demands. These leaders put their own needs and desires above many countless others and the end result would be generations of unemployment and poverty that still exist today.

I truly believe that in the beginning the “families” had the right idea but unfortunately the wrong intentions. They wanted to protect the immigrant workers from the steel tycoons and for a while everyone was prosperous. But eventually their greed, selfishness and ignorance turned a good idea into something terrible.

Like these goombahs who almost destroyed a culture of people, how often do we see leaders take the selfish approach as they look for any opportunity to gain more power and control at all cost. They fail to recognize their short-term gain will only result in long-term failure. It’s so very easy have a good intention turn into a disaster because the leader is really focused on his goals and not those of the larger purpose.

Often in public safety we see egos, attitudes and insecurities destroy an organization or compromise the success of a mission. It’s no different in the private corporate world or even on the sidelines of a children’s soccer game. Great leaders somehow see through the immediate gain and recognition then inspire us to follow them past the attainable and towards the unforeseeable future. As Jim finished his sermon today he talked about Jesus the warrior returning home to gather his army to celebrate victory. But he also reminded us that until that day we will be endlessly tempted with money, sex and other worldly distractions that someday just will not mean anything.

It’s hard to look into the unknown future and then back at your current struggles maintaining hope and faith. My experiences as incident commander or operations chief on emergency incidents constantly remind me of this. Many times you have to look ahead and past the obvious which is very difficult when chaos, death and destruction stare you in the eyes. During the flooding, I had to make difficult decisions that would stop rescue operations because of the danger to the rescuers. Losing rescuers would only create more chaos and trying to find the fine balance of saving innocent lives versus losing rescuers' lives was a constant struggle. Many in our profession walk in thinking they want to be a hero, but when the choice of sacrificing their life for another’s is presented it's not so simple. Often they get tunnel vision and lose understanding of the bigger picture ultimately causing more harm than good. More often they freeze in place unable to make the choice before it’s too late. These decisions haunt you as a leader; and only through understanding that there is a larger goal, can you come out the other end in one piece.

It’s much like raising children and disciplining them for something they don’t understand fully but yet you know it’s best. There is no easy answer and no simple explanation. We as leaders must have character and wisdom, and our followers must have courage and humbleness. I think a lot about how better to close this gap with Aspen, Kim, my staff, friends and family. How do I both lead with wisdom and follow with courage? I find what works best is to ask the right questions at the right time. How did we get here? What are we trying to do? What do we want it to look like when we are done? Great leaders constantly ask these three questions to continually evaluate their end state and verify their objectives. Next time you have a tough conversation with your child, a subordinate or spouse try to slow down and ask yourself these questions. I’m sure you can look back as you read this and think of an instance you should have paused and answered these questions before you moved forward. Thinking about these questions first, your conversations will flow seamlessly and confidently as a leader who has vision for something greater.

Spend some time slowing down, remember to ask yourself what it should and can look like when you're done, and I’m sure the result will be greater than your wildest dreams.

Jay C Stalnacker

Jay Stalnacker is a regular blog contributor. Jay Stalnacker is the Fire Management Officer for the Boulder County Sheriff's Office. You can read more from Jay on his blog "The North Star Foundation." All expressions are those of the author.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Food for Thought - Preparedness

Fortune favors the prepared mind. – Louis Pasteur

Fortune favors the prepared mind. – Louis Pasteur

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Powerful Speakers and Conscious Listeners Unite

Speaking Video Highlights
  • Avoid the seven deadly sins of speaking: gossip, judging, negativity, complaining excuses, exaggeration, and dogmatism.
  • Keep in mind the acronym HAIL when speaking:
    • H - Honesty
    • A - Authenticity
    • I - Integrity
    • L - Love
  • The tools below can increase the power of your speaking
    • Register (range of sound)
    • Timbre (character or quality or intensity)
    • Prosody (stress and intonation)
    • Pace (speed)
    • Pitch (tone)
    • Volume (capacity or magnitude)
"Every human being needs to listen consciously in order to live fully..." ~ Julian Treasure

Consciously Listening Video Highlights
  • We spend 60% of our communication time and only retain approximately 25%.
  • "We are losing our listening."
  • Five tools to listen better:
    • Silence - experience a few minutes a day in silence (or at least quiet)
    • Mixer - pick out sounds in a noisy environment
    • Savoring - savor the sounds
    • Listening positions - adapt your listening position to what is appropriate
    • RASA
      • Receive
      • Appreciate
      • Summarize
      • Ask

Monday, October 20, 2014

Food for Thought - Authentic Communication

The heart of communication rests in being authentic. – Lolly Daskal

The heart of communication rests in being authentic. – Lolly Daskal

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Leading from Behind

Sheep and sheepdog
(Not seen: the sheepherder. Photo credit: Jupiter Images)
Leading from Behind
by Bob Schoultz

Leading from behind? Isn’t that an oxymoron, like organized chaos, or a genuine fake? “Leading from behind” normally connotes a leader reacting to and being led by events rather than getting out in front of problems, setting objectives, and inspiring his/her organization to achieve great things.

I will make the case however, that the best leaders of the best organizations know that they are often more effective leading from behind, and “letting the dogs run.” They can, and do, lead from the front, when that is what the circumstances and the team demand, but they often prefer to plant themselves back in the crowd – watching others lead, and employing more subtle approaches to influencing events, rather than trying to always be in total control.

If a team is new and still defining itself, or if it is facing an urgent task, or if it is confused or struggling with internal conflict, there is clearly a need for strong lead-from-the-front leadership to develop positive forward momentum. But once the team is on track and performing well, leading from behind can increase momentum and develop long term and sustainable success.

When a team is “humming,” and everyone knows their job, when everyone is committed to a common vision and holds each other accountable to the mission, THAT’s when the best leaders exercise lead-from-behind leadership; they step out of the way and let things run. That doesn’t mean they disengage. They remain extremely engaged – by watching carefully, staying in touch with what is happening, providing support and insight as necessary, and making command decisions when command decisions are called for. They understand that it is easier to assess whether the team is moving out on the right azimuth when they can view the entire field.

When the team is working well, a lead-from-behind leader is able to look out beyond the next couple of ridgelines, consider how best to prepare the team for what might be coming, and how best to take it to the next level, when it is ready. And when it is ready, the leader knows it will probably be time to get out front again, to help the team create a new direction, a new vision, new commitment, and establish a new momentum, before once again, stepping to the side.

Letting a well-oiled team run, frees up the leader to serve the team beyond the boundaries of the team, to build credibility with other teams and higher headquarters, and to spend more time and energy looking at the broader context of the team’s mission. Management is left to the well-functioning internal mechanisms of the team.

Great leaders train and prepare future leaders. Lead-from-behind leadership allows the leader to look up and out, while giving junior leaders opportunities to lead, learn and grow. One of the best ways to build other leaders is to let them lead, and when designated leaders step out of the way, others can spread their wings, use their judgment, make decisions, and make mistakes. The lead-from-behind leader remains engaged by being available to coach, to make sure mistakes don’t take things too far off track, and to provide constructive feedback after the fact. Only by letting others lead can the leader effectively judge who has the most potential, and who is most ready to assume increased responsibility within the organization.

When I was younger, I made the mistake that many young leaders make: I believed my role was to always be out front. And like many young leaders, I enjoyed the spotlight, the authority, and the ego satisfaction of being in charge and “making stuff happen.” For most of us, this is probably a necessary phase in our development as leaders, but I’ve seen far too many leaders never get beyond this phase. When the leader is always out in front, others who might be very capable and ready, are not leading, and opportunities for them to grow and develop are missed. The team becomes completely dependent on the leader’s energy, drive, and ambition. That is not good for the long term development of the team and its people.

Later in my career, I struggled to back off my tendency to always jump out front, and I tried to step back more, and let the organization evolve. I realized that if my team expected me to always take charge as problems arose, they would simply sit back and wait to see what I decided. That was not what I wanted. I had to learn that it was not about me – it was about them. I was THEIR leader; they were not MY troops. There is a big difference.

Through trial and error, reading, and watching other leaders succeed and fail, I discovered that in great organizations, great leaders are often leading from behind. To outsiders, it is not always clear how great leader’s influence with subtlety, insight, and example. In his seminal work Good to Great, Jim Collins describes these leaders as “Level 5 Leaders.” Harvard’s Joe Badaraccco praises such selfless leaders as “non-heroic” leaders. One key NSW leader speaks of leading with “humility, integrity, and transparency.”

Great leaders like to step out of the spotlight and put the spotlight on others in their organization. In doing so, they become more a part of the organization’s collective “We.” They use the collective “We” and “Our” in most discourse, and avoid excessive use of “I” and “my.” When the leader is constantly saying “We,” and acting in a “We” way, those on the team begin to believe in ‘We” and commit to the larger “We,” rather than simply, to the leader.
“With the best of leaders, when the work is done, the project completed, the people all say, ‘We did it ourselves.’” (Tao Te Ching)
Great leaders know how to balance leading from the front and leading from behind. While they certainly know when and how to get out front and push, they also know when it is best to step to the side, let things evolve on their own, let other leaders emerge, influence subtly, and lead quietly, from behind.

Bob Schoultz (retired Navy Seal commander, Adjunct Professor for Masters of Science in Global Leadership program at the University of San Diego, and certified NOLS instructor for L-380) is a regular WFLDP blog contributor. Check out this and other articles on Bob's blog, "Bob Schoultz's Corner."

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Food for Thought - No Limits

We have to go for what we think we're fully capable of, not limit ourselves by what we've been in the past. ~ Vivek Paul

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