Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A New Generation of Communicating

I heard a story on my way to work this morning about technological innovations to hit the market in the next few months. Video chat will soon be the standard way of communicating; however, holographic imagery is just around the corner. Batteries that recharge from air was discussed.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Excellence before Integrity

Integrity is a measure of where a person stands in times of challenge and controversy. ~ Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 59
If you are a fan of college football, you know it is bowl time. Being from Boise, Idaho, we are well aware that Bronco Nation rode the BCS rollercoaster in a race for the national championship or at least the Rose Bowl. Coming off a 26-3 win over Utah in the Las Vegas Maaco Bowl, fans wonder what could have been if only…

Thursday, December 16, 2010


So, there I was sitting in my hotel room the night before the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee meeting began watching “Avitar” with my husband. Due to a busy schedule and failure to flock to the theater with the masses, this was my first viewing. We even missed the beginning of this showing, but quickly found ourselves immersed in the fantasy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Message from The Guidance Group

We (the Guidance Group) wanted to let wildland fire leaders know that we’ve recently posted a new crop of articles in our Article Library at the Guidance Group website. This is a free and open reference resource, for our clients and friends. The Library contains nearly 50 articles ranging across a broad range of topics. Newly posted articles cover workplace satisfaction and motivation, distributed leadership, inspiration, Dr. Constance Mariano and wisdom. The Article Library includes expanded articles originally appearing in Mike DeGrosky’s "Thoughts on Leadership" column in Wildfire magazine as well as articles that we've presented at conferences or published elsewhere, that we think would be of interest to a wider audience.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

WFLDP Website Technical Difficulties

We are currently experiencing technical difficulties with the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program website ( As a result you may be unable to reach the website.

We apologize for the difficulties you are having and hope to have the website back up very soon.

Thank you for your patience.

Friday, December 10, 2010

As the year comes to a close, I, on behalf of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee, would like to wish all readers a safe and happy holiday season.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Learn to Crawl Before You Walk"

by T.C. Cummings

Stallions like to run. Indeed, they were born to run. But they didn’t start their lives running. They had to grow gradually. Even as they fell—and they do fall—the pain and recovery was relative to their ability and growth at the time. A natural rule applies.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Déjà Vu

With all the talk of tightening budgets and program cuts, I’m taken back to a time not so long ago when I began my career as a seasonal employee. The year was 1984 (okay so it is a few years back) and the fiscal climate was much the same as it is now.

Leadership is Action for 2011

The NWCG Leadership Subcommittee, in conjunction with the National Advanced Fire and Resource Institute (NAFRI), is pleased to again offer senior‐level leaders in the wildland fire service a series of opportunities for continuing leadership development through the L‐580 Leadership is Action program.

Three opportunities are available:
  • Battle of Gettysburg Staff Ride
  • Wharton Leadership Conference
  • Northwest Leadership Seminar
For complete information including nomination procedures, refer to the course announcement at

Monday, November 29, 2010

"If You Don't, Who Will?"

“Everyone can exercise leadership by being an individual contributor at any level of an organization. What does that mean? Ultimately it comes down to looking for opportunities to make the world a better place. That sounds grand, but when people apply that idea to their work situations, it means having a vision of how your unit, or you as an individual, can be more effective and creative, go beyond day-to-day requirements, and energize others around that vision.” ~ Helen Handfield-Jones

Monday, November 22, 2010

On June 17, 2010, I posted an entry titled “Stories from the Fireline.” As I sifted through the Knowledge at Wharton's Leadership and Change archive, I found an article with Peter Guber a fitting follow-up to my previous blog entry. An audio download accompanies the article titled "Peter Guber on Sharing Stories, not Just Information, to Communicate Effectively."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Effective Leadership after a Disappointing Loss

On November 6, 2010, The Washington Post, ran an article titled "Advice for Obama on His Next Move" in which six leadership experts were asked what they thought Obama should do to be effective the next two years. I suggest you read the entire article, but here are some direct and paraphrased quotes I found applicable to wildland fire leadership:

Monday, November 15, 2010

2010 Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award

Each year the NWCG Leadership Committee provides an opportunity for exceptional leaders to be recognized through the Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Teamwork - Virtue or Choice?

I came across a video clip of various snippets of Patrick Lencioni speaking about his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. I found this quote worthy of discussion: "Teamwork is not a virtue. Teamwork is a choice we have to make; however, it's a choice that has a cost." Patrick refers to teams that come together in crisis and are often disappointed with their results.

Monday, November 1, 2010

"A Culture of Sharing"

I was captivated this week by a video I found on The Washington Post's On Leadership website. The interview titled "Leadership in the Age of Social Media" supports the efforts behind this blog.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Power from Empowerment

by Denis Waitley

A good way to think of leadership is the process of freeing your team members to do the best work they possibly can. I have followed NBA basketball coach Phil Jackson’s career.

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Facing the Enemies Within"

Wildland fire operations have inherent risks that cannot be eliminated, even in the best of circumstances. Incident management and response is a competition between human beings and the forces of nature; leaders struggle to manage the effects caused by wildfire and other natural and man-made events. The environment can rapidly and unexpectedly change from normal to emergency conditions to complete chaos.
(Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 10)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Leadership Lessons from the Chilean Mine Entrapment

“In crisis, it’s tough to keep people focused on the team rather than themselves.”
People around the world have been riveted to the Chilean mine entrapment of 33 workers for 69 days some 2,000 feet below the earth’s surface. On October 13, 2010, all 33 men were rescued. The final rescue was that of the crew’s leader, Luis Urzua.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Workforce Development

One thing I notice when I am browsing many leadership sites, especially the ones aimed at Business people. They talk about moving up the ladder as a reward the faster you climb the ladder the greater the reward will be, more money, nicer office, earlier retirement. This got me thinking, do we, the wildland fire community foster an environment where competent, capable people have the opportunity to advance their career at their pace or do we hold them to an artificial standard? Do not confuse my question as a label for our community or that this is the way I see it. I do not advocate giving someone a qualification, they need to earn it but I wonder if we demand more than what is required?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Teamwork in Decline at Federal Agencies"

Fire leaders build cohesive teams--not simply groups of individuals putting forth individual efforts--to accomplish missions in high-risk environments.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Leadership is

I just read the article by Dr. Robert McTeer on leadership. You can find it in the Leadership Toolbox, under Integrity in the About Leadership link.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Clinging to Procedures

Have you come upon someone who followed policies and procedures, whether mandatory or not, so strongly that they failed to listen?

I came across a blog by Kate Nasser called People Skills: Procedures Block Listening which I found insightful and wanted to share. Kate asserts that "When people cling to procedures, the procedures can block listening."

Consider our own procedures: the Standard Firefighter Orders and the 18 Watch Out Situations. Some contend they are guidelines; others contend they are steadfast rules. The debate alone can cause a confusion and block listening. However, strict adherence to any policy or procedure could result in an unwanted consequence. Having open communication and analyzing concerns and requests with an attitude of respect can have profound results.

Policies and procedures have their place but should not block our ability to listen.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Self Development

There is a saying that suggests “If you and your boss share the same opinion, one of you is redundant.” Another popular adage, “what the boss wants the boss gets.” As leaders we frequently find ourselves trying to operate in the space between these two axioms. We strive to be successful, complete the tasks we are assigned and win praise from superiors without being a “yes” person. Without a good grasp of personal or professional values to grant guidance this can be a difficult position at best.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Here is a recent posed to leadership contributors from The Washington Post's "On Leadership" website:
One of the key findings the 2010 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government survey is that worker satisfaction is more profoundly affected by perceptions of top management than by their immediate supervisor. What lessons can top leaders in the public and private sector glean from this?
I found the following responses worthy of sharing:

Southwest Airline's exemplifies leaders at the top taking care of their people with astounding results. I created a Southwest Airlines case study as part of the "Blind Side" Leadership in Cinema lesson plan that leaders and managers may find helpful.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Climbing the Leadership Ladder

Having been with the Leadership Subcommittee for nearly 10 years, I have had the opportunity to watch young firefighters move through the various levels of leadership--from humble follower to confident leaders of organizations. Those same individuals who once sat behind the agency representatives at Leadership Subcommittee meetings are now assuming positions as agency leaders and stewards of the Wildland Leadership Development Program (WFLDP).

I recall many a conversation with some of our more effective leaders. These same individuals who have lead the leadership charge and created the tools we have today assert their efforts are all in a good day's work. They do what they do for the betterment of the organization rather than for personal gratification. In fact, many never believed that they would hold the positions they now occupy.

My intent with this entry is to encourage all firefighters to invest in themselves with respect to leadership development. Do everything within your power to understand the leadership framework that exists within the WFLDP. You may only have aspirations of being a follower; but as I have stated in other posts, I believe we are all leaders--even if a leader of one. In addition, there may come a time when you need to step into a leadership position to save your life and that of another.

For those in leadership positions, take care of those under your charge. Determine what motivates your team and build an environment that supports the values and principles that we hold so dearly--duty, respect, and integrity. Provide a satisfying experience and safe environment for the follower to practice the art of being a leader. Small wins can build confidence and motivate far beyond scare tactics that come with a "hot seat."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Team that Could Save Your Life

"Fire leaders build cohesive teams--not simply groups of individuals putting forth individual efforts--to accomplish missions in high-risk environments." ~ Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, 2007, p. 52)

Some of you who have taken Fireline Leadership ( L-380) or participated in our Professional Reading Program may have read Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster where "six climbers from two expeditions died on the upper reaches of Everest when a storm caught them in the open. The decision making, situational awareness, communications, and risk management of the expedition leaders and other climbers were all links in the chain of disaster that overtook them." (WFLDP website)

I recently came upon a similar story and some great short clips from the Washington Post's On Leadership video website that leaders can use to brief crews and team members about the importance of cohesiveness, ethical dilemmas, and understanding your capabilities.

In "On Leadership: How 'the Savage Mountain' forged a leader," Professor Jim Clawson, University of Virginia, applies the lessons learned from Chris Warner's leadership while participating in one of the most successful climbs on K2.

"On Leadership: Building the team that could save your life" showcases Chris Warner speaking in his own words about his experience and leadership during the event.

Fire leaders can apply the lessons learned to building teams in the wildland fire environment.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Leadership Beyond the Office

A few months back I developed a crazy notion to further my professional development by heading back into the classroom--not at the role of instructor but as student. I took the challenge to be a student of fire seriously and enrolled in Boise State University's Instructional Performance Technology graduate program. I am now four weeks into my first course (Foundations of Instructional and Performance Technology (IPT536) and have learned so much about myself and the Wildland Leadership Development Program in general.

I applaud all those who have contributed to the program. As I dig deeper into the foundations of what went into creating the curriculum and associated experiental learning tools, I more fully understand why students continue to provide positive feedback after attending courses.

Those who recognize the name Edward Lee Thorndike, educational psychologist, understand why the leadership curriculum produces results. Thorndike formulated three foundational principles of learning and teaching that are woven into the wildland fire leadership curriculum. The following descriptions were taken from "Foundations of Instructional and Performance Technology" by Seung Youn Chyung.*

1. The law of effect. "An individual repeats responses that are followed by a satisfying effect, and tends not to repeat responses that are followed by an annoying state of affairs."

2. The law of readiness. "One should be ready to act in a certain way in order to take it as a satisfying effect; otherwise, having to act in that way would be considered an annoying effect."

3. The law of exercise. "To sustain the reaction ot a satisfying effect, it needs to be repeated."

Thorndike and others, like Ralph Tyler, strongly believed in a concept of "transferability of training." If you have taken a wildland fire leadership course, you quickly learn that most of the knowledge found in those courses are applicable to your job but can easily be transferred to situations outside the work environment. The transfer of knowledge to areas outside the classroom and work environment and into the personal life enhance the learning experience by creating relevance and fostering a more satisying effect.

Thorndike and those after him knew what they were talking about!

* Chung, Seun Youn. Foundations of Instructional and Performance Technology. HRD Press, Inc. 2008.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Share Your Leadership Success Stories!

I would like to take a moment to thank all those who read, comment, and participate on the blog. Your support and encouragement are greatly appreciated. As facilitator of the blog, I made a personal commitment to try to provide at least two blogs per week--hoping that others of you in the field would provide blog topics for me to post. Rarely do I get a volunteer post. In most cases, I have to "encourage" authors to submit one or write one of my own or referring readers to another blog or article.

Other blogs and articles work, but our blog should be where we can come together as a wildland fire service to showcase our success stories such as those posted recently about North Zone Fire Management personnel from the Black Hills National Forest. We know you have stories to share, and we want to showcase them.

I challenge all wildland fire leaders across the globe reading this to contact me ( about your success stories, how you are implementing the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program, innovative ways to take the program forward, etc.

This is your program and your blog!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

North Zone Fire Leads by Example!

North Zone Fire Management of the Black Hills NF has completed 3 of 10 lesson plans for Leadership in Cinema as it pertains to the HBO movie series "Band of Brothers." Each module on the Zone accepted this leadership challenge back in May and have made great progress. Their goal is to have all 10 lesson plans completed and posted by November 2010.

Engine 381 Assistant Engine Captain Jamie Barnes requested the opportunity to facilitate the "Band of Brothers - Part 7: The Breaking Point." He delivered this lesson plan twice this past spring; once to fire personnel and a second time to District personnel from various resource functions. All involved came away with a great experience and positive feedback. Patrol 8 (Brandon Selk, Andrew Hostad, and Justin Colvin) followed up by developing and delivering "Band of Brothers - Part 5: Crossroads," and then the entire crew from Engine 381 (Tim Haas, Jamie Barnes, Cody Hines, David Riley and Dustin Kindred) developed and delivered "Band of Brothers - Part 10: Points."

North Zone fire personnel have definitely stepped up to the challenge and continue to pursue excellence in leadership and self-devlopment. Stay posted for the remaining mini series parts to be posted. If you have never watched this series, it is definitely a must see and very impressionable on leaders when you facilitate it with a lesson plan.

Randy Skelton, Division Chief
North Zone Fire Management
Black Hills National Forest

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Leadership in Cinema Program Expands

Thanks to the efforts of North Zone Fire Management, Black Hills National Forest, the Leadership in Cinema (LinC) program is growing by leaps and bounds. As a leadership challenge, they have committed to creating lesson plans for all 10 episodes of Band of Brothers. Hopes are to have all lessons completed in October 2010.

In addition to the Band of Brothers series, a new lesson plan for Dead Poets Society has been uploaded.

If you or your unit/crew has developed questions for other videos or television programs, we'd like to incorporate them into the program. Even if you don't follow the template, we'd like to showcase your efforts.

Feel free to contact Pam McDonald, LinC program coordinator, for more information.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Wooden's Pyramid of Success

Coach John Wooden, mentioned in previous posts, was one of the greatest role models and leaders of all times. What he did to inspire those under his direction is truly amazing.

On,* I found his "Pyramid of Success." Along with the pyramid, Wooden identifies "12 Lessons in Leadership" that I thought students of fire and fire leaders could use along their roads to success.

His 12 lessons in leadership include:
  1. Good values attract good people.
  2. Love is the most powerful four-letter word.
  3. Call yourself a teacher.
  4. Emotion is your enemy.
  5. It takes 10 hands to make a basket.
  6. Little things make big things happen.
  7. Make each day your masterpiece.
  8. The carrot is mightier than a stick.
  9. Make greatness attainable by all.
  10. Seek significant change.
  11. Don't look at the scoreboard.
  12. Adversity is your asset.
(*This link may be prohibited on government computers, so I found a different link...)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Learning Leads to Earning"

Students of fire may find the following article beneficial. I've yet to hear a leadership guru denounce the benefits of learning and reading. Whether you participate in agency-sponsored training or follow a self-development path, the rewards--not just money--bestowed upon you will come back many times over.

Learning Leads to Earning
by Jack Canfield

What kind of reading material is on your coffee table? Or do you not have enough time to read with all the television that you watch? OK, so what kind of programs are you watching on television? The sad truth is that most people spend more time being mindlessly entertained than they do developing their skills and learning their craft.

So what are you doing right now to further your education in what you’re passionate about? Are you waiting for the right opportunity to come knocking before you will develop the skills you will need for it? Get ready now! The more information you have, the more advantage you have over the people who don’t. Reading for just one hour a day will greatly increase your level of success!

There are so many things to read to develop your mind, from finance to psychology, from economics to business writing, from health to computers. For one hour a day you could be studying the wide array of subjects that can help you live successfully.

Successful people did not wait for someone to call on them to be an expert before they gathered all the knowledge they could about their specialty. They were ready when the opportunities presented themselves. Spend your time reading and learning, too. Read biographies and autobiographies to study the ways of other successful people. Read often, review what you’ve read, and apply at least one thing from what you’ve learned.

Attend conferences, trade shows, training seminars and success rallies. Remember to be teachable! You can’t learn a thing if you think you already know it all. Just allow yourself to let go of needing to be right and looking smart. Listen to those who have achieved success. Open yourself up to letting others help you create new ways of thinking. After all, you can try something out and if it doesn’t work for you, you can discard it.

Find out what you need to know and learn in order to be ready for your opportunity. Start now! Make a list of things you could be doing to prepare yourself. Do you need to take a class in your spare time? Do you need to ask your boss what it will take to get to the next level? Do you need to research the market to find out how to break into it? Will you need to gather a library of good reference materials? Tackle your list!

And when you are successful, don’t stop your learning habits. Keep up with your industry. Keep making improvements. Keep studying the masters. Be powerful by being as knowledgeable as you can be, by learning news ways to do things, and by being more effective and efficient in your life.

The more you know about your passion, the more money you will make doing it. The more you learn in advance, the better your chances of landing the opportunity when it comes to you, and the better your chances of creating the opportunity for yourself!

Reproduced with permission from the Ron White Newsletter. To subscribe to Ron White's Newsletter, go to Copyright 2010 All rights reserved worldwide.

All contents Copyright 2010 except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide. **Duplication or reprints only with express permission or approved Credits (see above). All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Friday, August 13, 2010

"Federal Supervisors: Are They Ready, Willing and Able to Manage the Workplace?"

I recently came upon "Federal Supervisors: Are They Ready, Willing and Able to Manage the Workplace?" by Steve Oppermann at Steve addresses recurring themes found in discussion forums about "the perception that supervisors are unwilling, unable, or both, to deal with problem employees and workplace issues of various kinds."

Within the article, Steve refers to findings of a 2003 report by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) titled "First-Line Supervisors in the Federal Service: Their Selection, Development, and Management." I found the principal findings that Steve mentions from the NAPA report directly support the mission of the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program. You should read the report and article yourself, but I'll include a few here.
  • "First-line supervisors are the federal government's largest corporate leadership asset in sheer numbers and direct impact. Yet they must be more adequately prepared and supported to perform at the level that current and future needs require. Supervisors function at the point where public policy becomes action, and they directly represent management's voice to non-supervisory federal employees. As such, their behavior and job performance are a major determinant of organizational performance, workplace morale, and job satisfaction. They also influence employees' decisions to remain in or leave an organization."
  • "Supervisory jobs are becoming increasingly difficult to perform as the number of supervisors and managers declines. Expanding spans of control, exploding technological change, complex ‘people issues,' and evolving workplace models challenge both novice and seasoned supervisors alike."
  • "With some exceptions, federal agencies do a poor job of managing this corporate asset, beginning with the selection process. Some agencies have excellent leadership development programs for identifying supervisory candidates, but most do not offer extensive preparation. Also, most supervisory jobs require technical competence, but technical abilities far outweigh leadership competencies as a selection factor. Too often, leadership potential is not even considered in this equation."
  • "Federal agencies need to do a better job of developing and training supervisors. While some have successful training programs, it is uncommon for first-line supervisory training to be part of an agency's comprehensive leader development program."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Command Presence

The WFLDP, in Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, has this to say about command presence:

More than anything else, the leader's command presence sets the tone for the command climate. Command presence is how we present ourselves to others, the myriad of personal attributes and behaviors that communicates to others that we are worthy of their trust and respect.

Character is the foundation of command presence. All people reveal their character in every interaction, and character shapes and permeates a leader's command presence.

Another component of command presence--demeanor--speaks volumes to others. Poise and self-assurance play a large part in shaping the image projected. Effective leaders project an image that is calm, organized, and focused on success.

Fire leaders take charge when in charge; we lead from the front and act decisively. In times of crisis, a leader's command presence can be the critical factor in determining whether a team succumbs to pressures and dangers or stays focused to seize an opportunity to overcome and succeed. We inspire confidence among team members by demonstrating a strong and effective command presence.

Take a moment to watch a very short podcast regarding "leadership presence" by leadership expert John Baldoni.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Chertoff on Risk Management

A few years ago, then Homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff spoke at a Wharton Leadership Lecture regarding the government’s role in managing risk. In “Chertoff on the Government’s Role in Managing Risk—Both Natural and Man-made” Wharton authors quote Chertoff as acknowledging that “we have not always handled risk properly”

Such events as the 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and the recent financial crisis all came with warnings of one nature or another. Even so, leaders at multiple levels in various agencies failed to “prevent or reduce our vulnerability to them.”

We have our own stories in wildland fire. We preach about lessons learned and risk management, but do we “walk the talk”? Do we become complacent with risk management because we’ve never been caught in a compromising situation on the fireline? Chertoff spoke of homeowners who seek assistance to rebuild in flood-prone areas. The wildland fire service deals with the same situations when homeowners build and rebuild in fire-prone areas.

The article also touches upon regulating risk management. With or without regulation, students of fire must make a conscious effort to properly mitigate risk and lead by example.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Momentary Micromanagement

One of your duties as a fire leader is to “Observe and assess actions in progress without micro-managing.” But when is micromanaging justified?

In “Sometimes Micromanaging Is Good—And Necessary” found at, Christine M. Riordan, dean and professor of management at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver, describes six occasions when micromanaging is temporarily justified.

  • A strategy is changing.

  • The enterprise is taking on a new endeavor.

  • There’s a new leader, employee or unit.

  • An employee or leader fails to execute, or a project continues to linger.

  • A customer registers a serious complaint.

  • Results are disappointing.

Effective fire leaders know when to take a more active role to assist their subordinates—when a little micromanaging is necessary. Most importantly, they know when enough is enough and a return to a more hands-off approach is warranted.

Friday, July 30, 2010

“Young gov leaders: Love them or lose them”

Our Wildland Fire Leadership Values and Principles are laden with statements related to taking care of our people:

  • Develop your subordinates for the future.

  • Consider individual skill levels and development needs when assigning tasks.

  • Know your subordinates and look out for their well being.

  • Take care of your subordinate’s needs.

  • Build the team.

  • Recognize individual and team accomplishments and reward them appropriately.

I recently read a blog posting on The Federal Coach by Tom Fox titled “Young gov leaders: Love them or lose them.” The information contained within the article paralleled information that I had heard while attending the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) last November. We need to address our ability to take care of and maintain our next generation firefighters and leaders.

Fox provides “five ideas for retaining your younger employees while grooming them to lead” including:

  1. Focus on the firsts—first day, first week, first month.

  2. Keep them inspired.

  3. Tap their brains.

  4. Show them the path to leadership.

  5. Pair them up.

Are you the type of leader investing in your young talent? Will your leadership legacy be such that you provided for your people and inspired them to carry the wildland fire program to new frontiers or will those under your direction opt to leave the fire service for "greener pastures"?

Mark Hanna wrote a piece for Wharton's Leadership Digest titled "Managing Talent in a Turbulent Economy: A Deloitte Study." In the "Spotlight on Leadership" section, he states, "First, and most importantly, there seems to be a large disconnect between those who 'talk the talk' about leadership development and those who actually 'walk the walk.'"

He goes on to say, "Many admit that they lack the proper tools to develop their leaders. Only half (52 percent) use objective, merit-based standards to identify potential leaders, and a slightly smaller percentage (47 percent) are using developmental career paths to move leaders into positions of more responsibility."

Do you lack the tools to perform your duty of developing your subordinates for the future? The Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program has the tools and resources necessary for all levels of leadership.

Staff Rides - Seeing is Believing

In my last post, I brought up the term staff ride. Are you aware of the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program's Staff Ride Library?

"The intent of this resource is to provide a library of information on significant wildland fire events in order to assist individuals who want to conduct staff rides to those sites...and to provide a reference source for individuals who want to develop new staff rides for incidents of local interest."

Staff rides are an integral part of being a "student of fire." Physically walking the very ground where an event occurred is a powerful learning experience. Individuals are able to get a sense of the what those who came before them may have experienced--better so than by just reading or hearing about the event.

Those who have given their time to create the WFLDP's Staff Ride Library are to be commended for their efforts. The library captures our history, allowing others to learn the lessons of those who have come before us.

Fireline Challenge: Leave a legacy. Develop and submit a local staff ride for inclusion in the Local Staff Ride Archive.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fire Talk

There has been a lot of talk recently on various social networking forums regarding the spelling of "hotshot"--one word or two, etc. According to NWCG's Glossary of Wildland Fire Terminology, like it or not, the spelling is "hotshot."

I remember the same arguments about "air tanker" versus "airtanker." Or even the contentious debate about "engine" replacing "tanker" and all the fallout that was associated with that change. Does engine refer to the truck or the engine in the truck? I know I still think "tanker" when I see a Type 4 engine.

Over the last few years, there has been a struggle in the leadership circles that I walk revolving around the term "virtual staff ride." The Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program contends that "A staff ride is a case study that is conducted on the ground where the event happened." Therefore, adding the term "virtual" to staff rides contradicts the very nature of a staff ride. Next time you are tempted to use the term "virtual staff ride," opt for the more generic term "case study."

Being humans, we cling to the that we know and have been taught. Whatever our differences, I believe that we stand behind our debates as a means of creating a more professional firefighting force. Some find the debates trivial, but I find them a seed of leadership.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Leaders We Would Like to Meet

Throughout my years in leadership development, I have had the opportunity to hear many a notable leader speak. This past year I had the privilege of hearing former New York mayor, Rudolph (Rudy) Giuliani, speak to a crowd of about 10,000 people about leadership. Giuliani firmly believes that leaders are readers and writers. Our Professional Reading Program stresses a similar message, "Read to a student of fire."

Ironically, a former member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee had given me a copy of Giuliani's autobiography titled "Leadership" for the leadership library that has taken hold in my office. I hadn't found the time to read it, but pulled it out after my recent blog post featuring the former mayor. I found today's topic in a quote from Giuliani's preface to "Leadership."

"All leaders are influenced by those they admire. Reading about them and studying their development inevitably allows an aspiring leader to grow his own leadership traits. If he's lucky, he'll be able to learn from leaders in his own life--ask them questions, observe them in private, determine which of that leader's methods work well and would complement his own burgeoning style."

This quote speaks so true of our Leaders We Would Like to Meet feature in the Leadership Toolbox. This tool provides a collection of "interviews recognizing those that have spent their career providing exemplary leadership to firefighters and capturing their lessons for future leaders."

Fire leaders have a duty to develop their subordinates for the future. Think about those exemplary leaders who were a part of your success. Do they meet the guidelines for a Leaders We Would Like to Meet spotlight? If they do, take a moment to sit down with them and capture their lessons for future leaders.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Authority to Lead Versus the Decision to Lead

Those familiar with Leading in the Wildland Fire Service are well aware of the first tenet of our leadership framework: The authority to lead versus the decision to lead. Where the authority to lead is established by law, the ability cannot be legislated. (Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, page 5)

Fire leaders choose to lead to “bring order to chaos, improve our people’s lives, and strengthen our organizations.” Listen to Captain "Sully" Sullenberger talk on The Washington Post's On Leadership website about the choice to lead.

Throughout history, there have been many leaders who faced difficult challenges and provided a sense of stability through effective leadership. Two such leaders include President Abraham Lincoln—a leader caught between both sides of civil unrest and Mayor Rudy Giuliani--a leader faced with leading during the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Videos presented on the Washington Post’s On Leadership site, showcase both Lincoln's and Giuliani's leadership during these turbulent times.

Fire leaders know what it is like to be caught between various sides of a conflict yet accept the choice to lead. These videos provide examples of tools these leaders used effectively during very chaotic times.

Monday, July 19, 2010

"Get Your Smokey On"

After more than 65 years of vigilance, a new Smokey Bear campaign called "Get Your Smokey On" has hit airwaves and social networking sites. In a recent press release, the Advertising Council announced they had joined the USDA Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters (NASF) "to launch a new series of public service advertisements (PSAs) and an educational DVD for elementary school students designed to provide critical information to Americans about wildfire prevention."

If you are interested in the new campaign where you can download a variety of prevention resources, be sure to check out the following Team Smokey Bear sites:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Who's Got Your Back?

"Ready, set, go!" Whether you are a quarterback or a wildland fire leader, effectively leading your team can be the difference between a safe assignment or a career-ending event.

I recently completed a lesson plan about The Blind Side for the Leadership in Cinema (LinC) program. The Blind Side is based upon the real-life story of Michael Oher. One of Memphis' wealthiest families, the Tuohy family, comes to the aid of a member of one of the poorest neighborhoods in the nation: Hurt Village. Michael was a child who seemed invisible to the outside world. The Touhy's gave Michael the opportunity to break free from a life that showed little chance of success to one where anything was possible--including the life of a professional athlete.

The movie gives wildland fire leaders a visual representation of our Wildland Fire Leadership Values and Principles in action--especially those of respect and integrity.

Respect: "To gain respect from our people, we first respect them. Leaders demonstrate respect for our people in many ways: by getting to know them, by looking out for their well-being, by keeping them informed, by putting forth the effort to build strong teams, and by employing them in accordance with their capabilities." (Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, page 45)

Integrity ~ Knowing Ourselves and Seeking Improvement: "The starting point for leadership development is self-awareness. In many ways, our greatest challenge is to know ourselves. Self-awareness is an inward application of situation awareness. Fire leaders have an inner drive to analyze and know ourselves. We probe our blind spots and come away resolved to improve ourselves. We honestly appraise our own strengths and weaknesses." (Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, page 59)

Just as the Tuohy's gave Micheal opportunities that he might not have had, wildland fire leaders owe the same respect to their followers. In return, followers owe their leaders the same respect to protect their leader's blind sides.

The lesson plan provides a wide variety of resources aimed at helping individuals expose their blind spots. Specific emphasis is also placed on the importance of leaders valuing their subordinates. A Southwest Airlines case study is included as premier example of leaders taking care of their people.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Maintaining Honesty and Integrity"

by Jim Rohn

For a leader, honesty and integrity are absolutely essential to survival. A lot of businesspeople don't realize how closely they're being watched by their subordinates. Remember when you were a kid in grammar school, how you used to sit there staring at your teacher all day? By the end of the school year, you could do a perfect imitation of all your teacher's mannerisms. You were aware of the slightest nuances in your teacher's voice—all the little clues that distinguished levels of meaning that told you the difference between bluff and "now I mean business."

And you were able to do that after eight or nine months of observation. Suppose you had five or 10 years. Do you think there would have been anything about your teacher you didn't know?

Now fast-forward and use that analogy as a manager. Do you think there's anything your people don't know about you right this minute? If you haven't been totally aboveboard and honest with them, do you really think you've gotten away with it? Not too likely. But if you've been led to believe that you've gotten away with it, there might be a good probability that people are afraid of you, and that's a problem in its own right.

But there is another side of this coin. In any organization, people want to believe in their leaders. If you give them reason to trust you, they're not going to go looking for reasons to think otherwise, and they'll be just as perceptive about your positive qualities as they are about the negative ones.

A situation that happened some years ago at a company in the Midwest illustrates this perfectly. The wife of a new employee experienced complications in the delivery of a baby. There was a medical bill of more than $10,000, and the health insurance company didn't want to cover it. The employee hadn't been on the payroll long enough, the pregnancy was a preexisting condition, etc., etc.

In any case, the employee was desperate. He approached the company CEO and asked him to talk to the insurance people. The CEO agreed, and the next thing the employee knew, the bill was gone and the charges were rescinded.

When he told some colleagues about the way the CEO had so readily used his influence with the insurance company, they just shook their heads and smiled. The CEO had paid the bill out of his own pocket, and everybody knew it, no matter how quietly it had been done.

Now an act of dishonesty can't be hidden either, and it will instantly undermine the authority of a leader. But an act of integrity and kindness like the example above is just as obvious to all concerned. When you're in a leadership position, you have the choice of how you will be seen, but you will be seen one way or the other, make no mistake about it.

One of the most challenging areas of leadership is your family. Leadership of a family demands even higher standards of honesty and integrity, and the stakes are higher too. You can replace disgruntled employees and start over. You can even get a new job for yourself, if it comes to that. But your family can't be shuffled like a deck of cards. If you haven't noticed, kids are great moral philosophers, especially as they get into adolescence. They're determined to discover and expose any kind of hypocrisy, phoniness, or lack of integrity on the part of authority figures, and if we're parents, that means us. It's frightening how unforgiving kids can be about this, but it really isn't a conscious decision on their part; it's just a necessary phase of growing up.

They're testing everything, especially their parents.

As a person of integrity yourself, you'll find it easy to teach integrity to your kids, and they in turn will find it easy to accept you as a teacher. This is a great opportunity and also a supreme responsibility, because kids simply must be taught to tell the truth: to mean what they say and to say what they mean.

Praise is one of the world's most effective teaching and leadership tools. Criticism and blame, even if deserved, are counterproductive unless all other approaches have failed.

Now for the other side of the equation, we all know people who have gotten ahead as a result of dishonest or unethical behavior. When you're a kid, you might naively think that never happens, but when you get older, you realize that it does. Then you think you've really wised up. But that's not the real end of it. When you get older, you see the long-term consequences of dishonest gain, and you realize that in the end it doesn't pay.

"Hope of dishonest gain is the beginning of loss." I don't think that old saying refers to loss of money. I think it actually means loss of self-respect. You can have all the material things in the world, but if you've lost respect for yourself, what do you really have? The only way to ever attain success and enjoy it is to achieve it honestly with pride in what you've done.

This isn't just a sermon, it's very practical advice. Not only can you take it to heart, you can take it to the bank.

Article by Jim Rohn, America's Foremost Business Philosopher, reprinted with permission from Jim Rohn International C2010. As a world-renowned author and success expert, Jim Rohn touched millions of lives during his 46-year career as a motivational speaker and messenger of positive life change. For more information on Jim and his popular personal achievement resources or to subscribe to the weekly Jim Rohn Newsletter, visit

Monday, July 12, 2010

Leading in Recovering (and Even Rebounding) Economy

Wharton Leadership Conference 2010
University of Pennsylvania

On June 15, a few senior wildland fire leaders were fortunate to attend the 14th annual Wharton Leadership Conference as part of the leadership curriculum, L-580, Leaders of Organizations. Participants of this conference were tasked with thinking about the philosophy of leadership and how we must continue to develop our Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program within the organization.

Not knowing what to expect but having received my leader’s intent, I sat patiently and listened to some of the most amazing people speak about organizational leadership, emotional intelligence, global change, managing talent, and the art of possibility. These speakers included the CEO of UPS, the co-chairman of the Silicon Valley Deliotte, the president and CEO of the Women’s World Bank, the CEO of BNY Mellon Financial Corporation, a columnist for The Washington Post, the vice president of General Electric and the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. If anyone is interested in learning more about these fascinating leaders, one can reference the leadership conference on Wharton’s website.

I walked away with my brain filled with thoughts of organizational leadership, change management, global initiatives, research and development and wondering about how we could embed these ideas into our leadership curriculum, training and staff rides. I know we are working diligently to keep up with understanding how we will continue to evolve our leadership within the many challenges of the organization. However, several emerging trends will continue to be explored by many organizations, and the Forest Service FAM and other wildland fire agencies should continue to participant in such leadership workshops as we can learn from other organizations and thus continue to evolve and advance with our leadership curriculum.

Shawna Legarza
Fire Management Officer
US Forest Service, San Juan NF – Columbine District

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bringing the Battle of Gettysburg to You (Part 2 - Lt. Colonel Joshua Chamberlain at Gettysburg)

If you found my recent post regarding Ed Ruggero's video about General John Buford at Gettysburg, you'll enjoy this one as well.

Part 2 of my blog involves The Washington Post's "On Leadership at Gettysburg" video series. This video titled "Fix Bayonets!" addresses the creative leadership of Lt. Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain at Little Round Top.

A transcript is also available on the site where past L-580 Gettysburg participants can participate in an online discussion regarding Chamberlain's leadership. Ruggero poses the following questions around leadership:
  • Have you ever found yourself in the situation that Joshua Chamberlain did, in some high stakes high pressure environment where you had no idea what the right answer was and you had to invent one on the spot and it better be a good one?

  • Can we teach ourselves to be creative?

  • How can we foster that kind of creativity, not only in ourselves but the folks who work for us as well?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

From Hurricane Katrina to BP

In light of the ongoing BP oil disaster and experiences the wildland fire community has had with national disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, this January 2010 video with FEMA's Craig Fugate which is located on The Washington Post's "On Leadership" website should generate some interesting discussion in our leadership circles.

Here are a few quotes and topics that may "spark" your interest.
  • "I think that you go big."

  • "Respond like it's bad; gear down."

  • Use of thunderbolt drills: "You've got to allow them to fail. If we're not exercising to the point of failure, how do we know when it breaks?"

  • Government-centric response to disasters

Check out the video for yourself at

After you have watched the video, consider yourself as a wildland fire leader in the interviewee seat. How would you respond to Steve Pearlstein's questions? They are adapted below:

  • What did the wildland fire service learn from Hurricane Katrina?

  • What do you think about the effectiveness of emergency preparedness drills?

  • How do you feel about pushing your team to the point of failure?

  • What lessons learned from our involvement in all-risk incidents can be translated to a business/non-emergency oriented organization in terms of something really bad going on?

  • What are your feelings about what Fugate calls a government-centric response to disasters?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

"1910 Fire: A Century Later - Could It Happen Again?"

On May 20-22, 2010, the Inland Empire Society of American Foresters (SAF) conducted their annual meeting in Wallace, Idaho. If you've studied fire history, you know that 1910 was a catastrophic fire year. The Big Burn complex consumed approximately 3,000,000 across three northwest states. Ed Pulaski was among the survivors of that seige.

A century later, Jerry Williams, U.S. Forest Service, Retired, poses the question of whether this event could happen again. View his paper at

The 2010 Annual Fireline Safety Refresher - Century of Fire presented a module called "The Fires of 1910." To obtain the DVD and supporting materials visit the WFSTAR website at

Check out these sites related to the 1910 fire:

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bringing the Battle of Gettysburg to You (Part 1 - John Buford at Gettysburg)

Recently, senior wildland fire leaders participated in the L-580, Leadership is Action - Gettysburg Staff Ride. L-580, Leadership in Action is a continuing education opportunity. The intent is to foster exchange of knowledge and experience in the art of leading during high-risk and complex incidents. For more information about L-580 visit
The Washington Post's "On Leadership blog has some great videos presented by Ed Ruggero who runs the Gettysburg Leadership Experience, "where executives travel to the battlefied of Gettysburg, and we use history to talk about leadership in modern organizations." A glimpse at these videos may provide insight to our L-580, Leadership is Action - Gettysburg Staff Ride.

The first video I suggest you view is titled "On Leadership at Gettysburg: 'Find those Confederate forces'." Ruggero's video addresses General John Buford's leadership at Gettysburg.

A transcript of the video is also available on the site where past L-580 Gettysburg participants can partake in an online discussion regarding Buford's leadership. Ruggero poses the following questions around leadership:
  • What do you do to encourage your junior leaders to act and make decisions when they find themselves without specific guidance? How do they know they're supposed to take charge?
  • Tell us about when you learned that, as a leader, you were getting paid to come up with solutions on your own instead of always asking for guidance.
  • Sometimes junior leaders make decisions that backfire. What do you do to help people recover from failure and learn from their mistakes?
  • There is plenty of evidence to suggest that failure makes for a great teaching moment. Tell us about a failure you experienced or witnessed and how it became an important lesson.
Stay tuned for Part 2!

Leading in the Wildland Fire Service

Are you aware of the WFLDP's publication titled Leading in the Wildland Fire Service? Every person in the wildland fire service should have a copy of this publication. I've included the "Preface" below. The book can be downloaded from the WFLDP website as well as ordered through the Publication Management System (NFES 2889).


Leadership is the art of influencing people in order to achieve a result. The most essential element for success in the wildland fire service is good leadership.

This book expresses the fundamental leadership concepts of the wildland fire service. It outlines the framework, values, and principles that guide wildland fire leaders in providing leadership across a broad range of missions. The concepts of this book are universal to every person in the wildland fire service--from first year employee to senior manager.

This book serves interagency wildland fire service interests by:
  • Defining leadership in the wildland fire service.
  • Articulating a universal set of values and principles to guide the actions of leaders in the wildland fire service.
  • Providing a concise reference for the wildland fire leadership development curriculum for use by both instructors and students.

Leaders often face difficult problems to which there are no simple, clear cut, by-the-book solutions. In these situations, leaders must use their knowledge, skill, experience, education, values, and judgment to make decisions and to take or direct action--in short, to provide leadership.

This book does not state policy. It cannot provide black-and-white answers to the unlimited volume and variety of situations a leader will face. Instead this book simply outlines the broad concepts of leadership in the wildland fire service--fundamental concepts by thich expectations of leaders may be established and performance of leaders may be judged. It is intended to make better leaders of us all.

For these reasons, this book is structured around our leadership values and principles as a means of communicating what right looks like and illustrating effective leadership in action.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Students of Fire - Lifelong Learners

I came across another nugget: The Learning Skills Curriculm. This collaborative effort of the Tennessee Department of Human Services, Families First Services; Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Office of Adult Education; and The University of Tennessee, Center for Literacy Studies is a great tool that can be used "to help stimulate the development of key study skills and serve to motivate the learner to believe in his/her learning abilities. The curriculum is modularized and can be modified to meet varying program needs and situations." (Center for Literacy Studies).

Authors Jim Ford, Jane Knight, and Emily McDonald-Littleton of the Knox County Schools, Adult Education Program created a very user-friendly study skills course "developed to inspire clear, purposeful direction and ensure that learners have the skills and tools necessary for education success." The curriculum is builit around the following concepts:
  • Learning styles
  • Personality
  • Teamwork
  • Problem Solving
  • Goal Setting
  • Test Taking Strategies

Much of the information included in this curriculum applies to students of fire and a review of information found in the WFLDP curriculum, but give members of the wildland fire service additional learning tools.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Leadership Nuggets from the Rabbit Trail

It's amazing where rabbit trails can take you while conducting online research. My most recent finds occurred while searching for information to support a new Leadership in Cinema lesson plan for The Blind Side. You might find the following information helpful.

Rabbit trail #1 features Michael Lee Stallard's blog entry "The Blind Side" where he talks about leaders creating a healthy social environment and mentions his book Fired Up or Burned Out, which I'm finding an interesting read and have only finished the introduction. (Read how I got a copy in my third rabbit trail.)

Rabbit trail #2 wound up in a broken link where I opted to go to Stallard's home page only to find another trail to Michael Hyatt's leadership blog entry "John Wooden and the Power of Virtue in Leadership." (We had recently posted a link to a TED clip called "John Wooden on True Success" on About Leadership in WFLDP toolbox, so this seemed a logical path.)

Rabbit trail #3 landed me on Michael Hyatt's blog entry "John Wooden and the Power of Virtue in Leadership." Hyatt is CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. He provides a very fitting tribute to the late Coach John Wooden whose virtuous leadership style touched many lives. Hyatt generously provides access to a free digital download featuring Michael Lee Stallard's Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team's Passion, Creativity and Productivity. (You'll have to follow the trail to get this nugget for yourself.)

Just like Alice in Alice in Wonderland, I followed the rabbit down trails and wound up back home more grateful and knowledgable than before. I trust that you will too. Happy trails!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Stories from the Fireline

"Sharing experiences through stories is emerging in various professions as a powerful way to exchange and consolidate knowledge. Research suggests that sharing experiences though narrative builds trust, cultivates norms, transfers tacit knowledge, facilitates unlearning, and generates emotional connections. ~ Deborah Sole and Daniel Gray Wilson, LILA Harvard University

Every individual involved in the wildland fire service has a story to tell and a common mechanism for sharing our lessons learned and past experiences. Knowing what story to tell and when to tell it is a powerful communication skill. Stories from the Fireline is a self-development tool intended to assist wildland fire leaders enhance their storytelling skills.

“How-To” Suggestion:

  1. Download and read LILA Harvard University's Deborah Sole's and Daniel Gray Wilson’s "Storytelling in Organizations: The Power and Traps of Using Stories to Share Knowledge in Organizations" which can be found online at

  2. Obtain and read the book Leadership Lessons from West Point from the Leader to Leader Institute. Authors of this publication set the example of using storytelling to bring very real leadership experiences to life.
  3. Research storytelling as a leadership development tool. A few printed and Internet resources are listed below as possible guides for your knowledge quest. (Supervisors: Consider adding storytelling references to your local leadership library.)
  4. Implement storytelling when communicating; use the information you have gained from your research.
  5. Document experiences where storytelling was used to handle a leadership challenge (bring about change, encourage teamwork, share knowledge, transmit the Wildland Fire Leadership Values and Principles, etc.). Indicate whether the experience was effective or ineffective; if ineffective, document what could have been differently for future reference.

  6. Create a personal storytelling library for future use. Revisit your storytelling library to keep the information updated and relevant.

  7. Continually practice and improve your skill.
  8. Pay it forward. Share this leadership development tool with members of your crew; become a storytelling mentor.

Printed Resources:

Denning, Steve. The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative. Jossey-Bass. April 2005.

  • Addresses “how to use storytelling to deal with the most difficult challenges faced by leadership today” including:
    - Motivate others to action
    - Build trust in you
    - Build trust in your company (branding)
    - Transmit your values
    - Get others working together
    - Share knowledge
    - Tame the grapevine
    - Create and share your vision,
    - Solve the paradox of innovation
    - Use narrative to transform your organization

Denning, Steve. Squirrel Inc.—A Fable of Leadership through Storytelling. Elsevier. June 2004.

  • Addresses “the use of storytelling to address leadership challenges”
    - How to bring about change
    - How to communicate who you are
    - How to transmit values
    - How to foster collaboration
    - How to stop rumors
    - How to share knowledge

Leader to Leader Institute (Major Doug Crandall, editor). Leadership Lessons from West Point. Jossey-Bass. 2007.

  • This publication is the ultimate reference for using storytelling for leadership development.

    “In our classrooms, as in this book, we bring forth concepts and theory, relate stories from our own leadership endeavors, and help cadets make sense of their own experiences as they look toward the future. Throughout this book, we open a window into this world of leadership development that is the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at West Point and share some of our candid reflections, compelling stories, best practices, and frontline ideas.” (Major Doug Crandall, xxvi)

Simmons, Annette. The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion through Storytelling. Perseus Books Group. June 2002.

  • Addresses “six types of stories that will serve you well in your efforts to influence others”
    - Who I Am Stories
    - Why I Am Here Stories
    - My Vision Story
    - Teaching Stories
    - Values in Action Stories
    - "I Know what you are Thinking" Stories

Internet Resources:

Brooks, Kevin. Story - Storytelling - Business – Research.

Denning, Stephen.


Group Process Consulting. (Simmons, Annette)

Ivy Sea Online. Stories & Storytelling.

Lipman, Doug. Story Dynamics: Igniting Transformation Through Storytelling,

McLellan, Hilary. Leadership and Stories.

Sanborn, Mark. How Leaders Communicate.
Part 1:
Part 2:

Stories from the Fireline can be a powerful self‑development tool. Effective use of the tool requires thought, organization, and practice.

“People may read the statement of organizational values every day and may carry their values cards in the wallet at all times. But what they remember are the stories and examples of how those values were put into action.” – Major Chip Daniels, Leadership Lessons from West Point

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Is There a Difference Between Management and Leadership?

Which position do you take in the debate regarding the difference between managment and leadership, or is there a difference?

James Colvard wrote a short article that was showcased at Government called "Managers vs. Leaders." He says, "We often talk of management and leadership as if they are the same thing. They are not." He goes on to say, "The two are related, but their central functions are different, and leaders perform management functions. But managers don't perform the unique functions of leaders." He presents his key differences and more in his article which can be found at

This and other perspectives about leadership can also be found in the WFLDP Toolbox at Check them out for yourself.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Leadership Competencies

Throughout your career, you may have heard the terms "competency," "behavior," and "task" discussed. The following information was taken from the NWCG website at
  • Competency—a broad description that groups core behaviors necessary to perform a specific function
  • Behavior—a general description of an observable activity that is a logical and necessary action in the performance of a behavior; how the behavior is demonstrated or performed in a particular context
  • Task—a specific description of a unit of work activity that is a logical and necessary action in the performance of a behavior; how the behavior is demonstrated or performed in a particular context

As you further your leadership development and mentor others, there may be times when identifying competencies may be helpful (completing your individual development plan, etc.). Members of the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) identified and compiled core competencies and behaviors for each ICS position identified in the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and in the National Interagency Incident Management System Wildland Fire Qualification System Guide (PMS 310-1).

For specific leadership competencies related to ICS positions, visit and select the proper category and position.

As not all positions contain leadership competencies, experts from Central Michigan University authored "A Leadership Competency Model: Describing the Capacity to Lead." Not only do the authors present core competencies but also provide examples of excellent and poor leadership behaviors. The report and "Steps to Becoming a Better Leader" can be found at

Monday, June 14, 2010

Looking Back 15 Years

If you haven't had a chance to read the lastest edition of Leading and Learning, you missed a historical review of the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program's last 15 years.
To all those who have sacrificed much to see that the program grew, we thank you. To all future leaders, we challenge you to take the program to higher levels.
(If you have trouble viewing the picture above, go to )

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dr. Useem's "Step Up or Step Aside"

The Washington Post's "On Leadership" website recently posed the question "Facebook's leadership: Time for an update?"

Panel contributor and WFLDP partner, Dr. Michael Useem, Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, weighed-in on the subject in a way that will appeal to any wildland fire leader who has attended the L-580 Leadership is Action - Gettysburg Staff Ride. Dr. Useem cited General George Meade's command of the Army of the Potomac as an example of "compelling evidence that some can successfully move up to a far more demanding and complex leadership calling."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

14th Annual Wharton Leadership Conference

Twelve leaders from the wildland fire service are headed to Philadelphia to participate in the 14th Annual Wharton Leadership Conference. On July 16 wildland fire leaders will come together with corporate executives and future leaders at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. An L-580 Leadership is Action event, the conference is a premier leadership development opportunity.
"The annual Wharton Leadership Conference is one of the gatherings most popular with, and most beneficial for, corporate leaders, according to a recent report by public relations firm Weber Shandwick entitled Five-Star Executive Conferences. An article by writer Matthew Kirdahy on the report notes that the Wharton Leadership Conference is second only to the Fortune Innovation/iMeme conference in the number of C-level speaker participants. And in a 2008 study by Burson-Marsteller, the conference was named as one of the "Most Valued Podiums" for CEOs and senior executives."
Speakers for the 2010 conference include:
  • Scott Davis, chairman and CEO of UPS
  • John Hagel III, internationally known thought leader who has been at the forefront of the technological revolution as a management consultant, author, speaker, and entrepreneur
  • Mary Ellen Iskenderian, president and CEO of Women's World Banking
  • Robert (Bob) Kelly, chairman and CEO of BNY Mellon
  • Steven Pearlstein, columnist for The Washington Post and host of the online forum and video series On Leadership
  • Susan Peters, vice president, executive development, and chief learning officer for General Electric
  • Jeff Schwartz, global leader for Deloitte Consulting's Organization and Change service line
  • Jim Wallis, bestselling author, public theologian, and frequent speaker on faith and public life
  • Benjamin Zander, Boston Philharmonic Orchestra conductor since 1979
Additional information about the conference can be found at

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

New & Improved Self-Development Tool

The WFLDP is proud to announce the revision of the self-development tool located in the Leadership Toolbox.

The following changes were made:
  • Creation of the Individual Development Plan (IDP) Guide (content adopted from a document created by and made available courtesy of the Uniformed Services University).

  • Addition of the follower or aspiring leader leadership level.

  • Enhancements to the development goals for each leadership level.

  • Creation of separate self-development plan worksheets for each leadership level.

This tool can be used by anyone for their personal self development or to augment (not replace) agency IDPs. The intent is to provide wildland fire service employees the opportunity to quickly download self-development plan resources that are easy to understand and implement.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Helping Others Develop Their Potential

by Kevin Eikenberry

Most of us find ourselves in a position to help others achieve more of their potential than we realize. Sure, as leaders, supervisors, and parents we can see ourselves in that position; but the fact is that all of us are uniquely qualified to help at least one other person in our lives reach their potential. I believe it is part of our purpose in life to serve others in this way – to encourage and support people we care about in becoming their best selves.

Many books (some of which sit on my bookcases) have been written about coaching and helping people develop their skills. This article won’t be a definitive list, but it will share my perspective on the essential ingredients in helping others reach their potential.

Help Them See

The first step in developing the potential in others is for the “others” to recognize that they have potential and to know for themselves what it is! We’ve already talked about his but you can’t forget it – it is a critical step. Our goal should be to help them get where they want to go – even if their vision is slightly different from ours.

Potential is about passion. If people don’t have passion for the future they see, they are much less likely to get there (and likely it isn’t the right future!)

Be Them Focused

Many years ago I had a manager who saw great things in my future. He was very supportive of helping me reach his vision. While I will always be grateful to him for seeing potential in me, I continue to shake my head at his approach. He never wanted to know what I saw for myself and my future, instead, he assumed I would want to become what he saw for me. Even when I tried to explain to him that our visions didn’t match, he focused on providing me opportunities and support that were right for his vision, not mine.

Remember that you are helping people reach their potential, helping them discover their agenda and goals. This is not a platform for you to exert your influence based on your belief in them or your vision for them.

Yes, if you are a supervisor or manager you may have organizational goals you hope this person can achieve. Be upfront about those goals, and look for the matches with the person’s passions and unique abilities. Perhaps there is a perfect fit, or maybe the best thing you can do for everyone is help the person move into a new or different role inside or outside of the organization.

To truly serve others in this way we must keep this process completely about them, and not our best judgment, our agenda or our vision for them.

Ask Questions

As a developer of potential our role is to draw the answers from others. Too often we want to share our wisdom and advice. We will be more effective when we spend less time talking and more time asking and listening. Ask people questions about their passions, their ideas regarding their greatest areas of potential, and about the other areas in this article.

Ask questions without bias and questions that encourage the other person to think. Then be patient and keep your mouth shut after you ask. Your only job then is to listen.

Help Them Set Goals

All of us know the value of goal setting, but many of us don’t do it very well or very consistently on our own. We can guide and encourage people to set them. We can help them define and clarify these goals through the questions we ask. Help people describe their current situation then set goals that will stretch them from their current reality towards their potential.

Use your questioning skills throughout this process and encourage people to write their goals down.

Help Them Identify Options and Opportunities

As a part of the goal setting process, people should begin to identify some options to help them reach the goal. Here is where you can begin to provide more direct advice. Perhaps you have experience that you can share to help them identify approaches they can use. Perhaps if you are in the role of a supervisor, you can offer specific training or learning experiences to help them.

At least as important though, is that you are now in a unique position to help them in the future because you know their goals and their vision. As time goes by you will be become aware of situations, courses, lectures, books, people and all manner of other things that will help that person advance towards their goals. Make sure you share those ideas and opportunities with them.

Provide Support

If we want to help people reach their potential, we know they need support. They need encouragement, advice and even feedback.

You expected me to mention feedback, and it is very important. Sometimes though, people have more feedback than they want or need. What they are often lacking is encouragement. Be a person who is supportive, interested and encouraging and you will provide great value to others.

Be a Model

Want to help others reach their potential? The most important thing you can do is be on that same path for yourself. Model the behaviors you are encouraging in them. Have your own development goals. Be a willing and eager learner. Be open and flexible to new opportunities yourself.

You will have much greater influence and much more success in developing others if you are serious about developing yourself first.

Taken individually each of the suggestions above can be a powerful aid to you in helping others reach their potential. Taken together they will astound both you and those you are helping. The best way to apply these ideas is to get started. Identify at least one of these suggestions that you will implement today.

Getting started is often the toughest step. Seeing the success that comes with action will encourage you to continue. Doing it (rather than just shaking your head and agreeing with these ideas) will be both gratifying and life changing - to those you are helping and to you too!

Follow these steps and you are on your way to unleashing the massive potential in others.

I wish you great success.

© 2004, All Rights Reserved, Kevin Eikenberry and The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Kevin is Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group (, a learning consulting company that helps Clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services. To receive your free special report on Unleashing Your Potential go to call us at (317) 387-1424 or 888.LEARNER.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Respect - Build the Team

Wildland fire leaders who know the Wildland Fire Leadership Values and Principles are well aware of the importance of the "build the team" principle. Mosley, Megginson, and Pietri provide a consise explanation of the characteristics of an effective team.

After reading the excerpt below from Supervisory Management: The Art of Empowering and Developing People, download and complete the "Crew Cohesion Assessment Tool" developed by Mission-Centered Solutions and available in the Leadership Toolbox.

"Characteristics of an Effective Team"
by Donald C. Mosley, Leon C. Megginson, and Paul H. Pietri

"Experience has demonstrated that successful teams are empowered to establish some or all of a team’s goals, to make decisions about how to achieve these goals, to undertake the tasks required to meet them and to be mutually accountable for their results. There are several characteristics of an effective team. These include:

Clear Purpose ~ The vision, mission, goal or task of the team has been defined and is now accepted by everyone. This is an action plan.

Informality ~ The climate tends to be informal, comfortable and relaxed. There are no obvious tensions or signs of boredom.

Participation ~ There is much discussion and everyone is encouraged to participate.

Listening ~ The members use effective listening techniques such as questioning, paraphrasing and summarizing to get out ideas.

Civilized Disagreement ~ If there is disagreement, the team must be comfortable with this and show no signs of avoiding, smoothing over or suppressing conflict.

Consensus Decisions ~ For important decisions, the goal is substantial but not necessarily unanimous agreement through open discussion of everyone’s ideas, avoidance of formal voting or easy compromises.

Open Communication ~ Team members feel free to express their feelings on the tasks as well as on the group’s operation. There are few hidden agendas. Communication takes place outside of meetings.

Clear Roles and Work Assignments ~ There are clear expectations about the roles played by each team member. When action is taken, clear assignments are made, accepted and carried out. Work is fairly distributed among team members.

Shared Leadership ~ While the team has a formal leader, leadership functions shift from time to time depending on the circumstances, the needs of the group and the skills of the members. The formal leader models the appropriate behavior and helps establish positive norms.

External Relations ~ The team spends time developing key outside relationships and mobilizing resources, then building credibility with important players in other parts of the organization.

Style Diversity ~ The team has a broad spectrum of team-player types, including members who emphasize attention to task, goal setting, focus on process and questions about how the team is functioning.

Self-Assessment ~ Periodically, the team stops to examine how well it is functioning and what may be interfering with its effectiveness."
Supervisory Management: The Art of Empowering and Developing People, Mosley, Donald C., Megginson, Leon C., and Pietri, Paul H., South-Western College Publishing, 2001, pp. 289-291.

Beginning Stages--Forming a Team, Overmyer, Ronald L., Leadership Link, Winter 2002, p. 6