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.

I respect advancements in technology, but find myself to the right on the technology integration curve--meaning I'm late into the cycle when I adopt new technology. My cell phone is the flip phone variety without camera or Qwerty keyboard, and I missed the whole Beta Max and laser disc phase (thank goodness). However, I use my home computer to video chat with my nephew who is currently deployed in Iraq and love my new portable e-book.

So what does this have to do with fire and leadership? I believe there is great relevancy to the way we communicate. Technological devices and the social media applications that go with them are main stream and a means of communication not only for the new generation firefighter but also those much further to the left on the technology curve than I am. Like it or not, the way we communicate is different. We are connected!

A few weeks after a special edition of Burning Issues: Social Media was released, I had the opportunity to participate in a social media class with individuals from NIFC's Office of External Affairs. Social media is a vital part of communicating within the fire community--at least to the outside world. How we embrace technological innovations will be a challenge for managers and leaders in the days and years ahead as innovation skyrockets and applications come and go. Although useful and often necessary, technological advancements can also be a distraction, putting the safety of firefighters at risk. Whichever side of the debate your reside, one this is for sure--change is coming

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…

  • Boise State had won Nevada game.
  • Oregon State or Auburn had lost during the season.

However, the focus of this discussion is not about winning but about a matter of integrity. Kellen Moore, Boise State’s quarterback, was a finalist in the Heisman Trophy race. However, Auburn’s Cam Newton won the trophy in one of the most controversial races of all times due to a cloud of allegations surrounding Newton’s recruitment and his suspension over honor code violations. There is no doubt that Cam was an excellent football player, but did he epitomize the award?

Here is a portion of the Heisman Trust Mission Statement: "The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. The Heisman Trophy Trust ensures the continuation and integrity of this award…"

Cam Newton’s winning the Heisman Trophy spurred much discussion among leadership experts as to whether trust members violated the very essence of the award by bestowing the honor upon Newton. The Washington Post’s On Leadership blog asked leadership experts this question: “In dealing with top performers, how much should leaders overlook corner cutting, rule breaking and other integrity issues?”

If the trust members did indeed compromise the intent of the trophy, what have they said to previous and future winners? In contrast, the Hall of Fame board has stood firm that Pete Rose not be inducted due to ethical issues. Are there others in the Hall of Fame who shouldn't be--who may have "gotten by" undetected?

As a fire service leader, have you compromised the Wildland Fire Leadership Values and Principles when dealing with top performers who fail to exhibit what “right” looks like?

John Baldoni offers organizations a bit of advice in his short leadership video titled "Character Counts."

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.

Being a contributor to and administrator of the Leadership in Cinema program, my brain is trained to watch for leadership moments in film. However, this time I didn’t engage as I had done previously with other films—at least not immediately. I enjoyed the movie and wondered why I hadn’t made time to watch it earlier. I turned off the television and entered a peaceful night's slumber.

A few days later, Alexis Lewis, a doctoral student from Oregon State University, presented research findings to the subcommittee that resonated deeply with my philosophy of fire and the coursework I was pursing at Boise State University—human performance and social interaction. Alexis’ presentation called “Upward Voice” spoke to research conducted with wildland firefighters and their ability to use their upward voice. Within her presentation, Alexis identified two foundational leadership characteristics: quality experience and compassionate/caring.

Upon returning to work, I fell back into my weekly routine of researching blog topics and found a link off the Harvard Business Review blog to an article by Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence,” a book in our Professional Reading Program, and Richard Boyatzis titled “Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership.” Goleman and Boyatzis contend that “new studies of the brain show that leaders can improve group performance by understanding the biology of empathy.” Within the HBR blog was an interview with Goleman on the subject.

Returning to my Avitar viewing experience, I find the social intelligence concept a reflection of the way the Avitar characters wove themselves together to become one entity and the bond that they shared.

We address compassion and empathy throughout the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program. May your actions speak louder than words written in our values and principles. I challenge each of you to watch Goleman’s 10-minute video about social intelligence and its impact on leadership development.

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.

We post additional articles continuously, and encourage people to check back often. We welcome your responsible use of our publications, and only ask that people respect our intellectual property by citing the authors properly and giving credit where credit is due. Access to the Article Library is obligation free, the Guidance Group does not collect information about visitors to our website, and we will not SPAM you. Happy Holidays!

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.

That rule, this philosophy, is crucial to the development of elite commandos or anyone with the strong desire to develop personally. People of this caliber—in applying themselves to personal betterment—need to constantly be reminded of the importance of respecting this rule of “walk before you run.” As a Navy SEAL, I know that after swimming for three miles while wearing dive fins in the cold ocean, a swimmer’s body is not prepared to hit the beach running. The mind can envision this action and may forget the rule, but the rule still applies.

To get to that place where the body and mind align, the body must transition. Muscles must reactivate, and rhythms must adjust. Only by respecting the rule can the envisioned outcome be achieved. If not, the would-be runner falls to the ground, disillusioned with his or her own belief.
Due to the high caliber of clients with whom I’ve had the honor of working in the civilian sector, I’ve been privy to see men and women possessing the same “stallion” characteristics in their business dealings as commandos possess in their operational battles.

In both cases, these “stallions” need to be reined in from hurting themselves when they seek to run before they can walk. It may be difficult for them to see this when they are in the moment, but it’s clear as a bell to an external observer who is an excellent listener.

We can only grow to the extent that we envision ourselves. Unless our inner representation grows as fast as our external growth, we will actually hold ourselves back from lasting success.
Do you know anyone who has dramatically lost weight with great joy only to revert to his or her old habits and weight?

Do you know people who have earned the money they really deserve only to squander it away and regress to their former income?

Who do you know that finally met the person of his or her dreams only to dump that loved one because of a list of silly reasons?

Leaping from crawling to running sets us up for a painful fall. We don’t achieve true personal growth, and because we find ourselves back at square one we may become disgruntled and distrustful of the process, often blaming anyone and anything but ourselves.

If you want to change, you must do the work. Go back to basics. In football, professionals earning millions of dollars annually practice the most basic drills throughout the season. Professional artists go back through the strokes and lighting. If you make millions of dollars consistently, most likely it’s because you go back to the basics of budgeting, saving and investing consistently.

Whenever you are seeking to grow—and you have a clear vision of what you wish to do—make sure that who you are being is big enough to consistently be doing what it is you wish to do. Make sure of this so you can consistently achieve your desired results.

If you are the “stallion,” then use your power and set yourself up to win with a coach or trainer whom you trust to observe and protect you from your own impetuous eagerness. And let them help train your muscles and harness your power so you can first walk and then run with a purpose.

If you are a leader responsible for “stallions,” then you must protect them from themselves as they seek to skyrocket up the corporate ladder. As a mentor, this is very much your charge. The personal damage—an increase of fear and frustrations—can be the result of falling on one’s face too often. This damage can be overcome, but recovery from it can take the wind out of your “stallion’s” sails. So as a leader, help them master the fundamentals so their climb up the ladder of growth and personal betterment is a lasting success.

Having the power of choice, we humans don’t automatically follow all of the rules as the stallions do in nature. We will never see a healthy plant provide fruit out of the natural order. For lasting success we need to consciously be aware that we must “learn to crawl before we walk, and walk before we run.”

TC Cummings is a professional speaker and a former Navy SEAL. Through 8 years in the U.S. Navy as an Operator and Corpsman on elite commando SEAL Teams, he traveled the world learning communication and teamwork on the cutting edge.

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.

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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.

It was a time when climbing up the chain was a distant, if not impossible, undertaking. Budgets were tight and management focused on workforce development with the talk of a more “professional” firefighting force. We again face tightening budgets and program cuts and wonder how we will face the seasons ahead.

At the time, transferring from the local unit was about the only way to acquire a permanent position or even advance in the organization. Needless to say, turnover was low and changes in management and leadership were rare.

Flash forward: Transferring is still a good method of moving up the ladder; however, slumping housing markets and a struggling economy make it difficult for employees to transfer to other locations. Many will suffer large losses in trying to sell their home—making the lure of an upgrade or permanent position less appealing. The bottom line doesn’t support a move.

Managers encouraged employees to get a bachelor’s degree—it didn’t matter what type. They believed that any degree would do. The ability to analyze and synthesize information and make decisions were key skills.

Flash forward: Movements within our culture to create a “professional” firefighting force established that the degrees of choice were in biological sciences, agriculture, or natural resource management sciences.

History repeats itself and members of the wildland fire community need to become masters of their destiny and do what they must to build themselves in today’s unstable climate.

Joe Fontiera and Dan Leidl in “Curing Mid-Level Syndrome” provide some advice about growth in such a climate. Topics include:

  1. Seek out someone to mentor
  2. Inventory your values and behaviors
  3. What's your philosophy?
  4. Escape your comfort zone
  5. Grow outside

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

If you follow this blog, you know that I believe every person at every level of the organization can be a leader, that leaders are made, not born, and that each one us is responsible for our personal leadership development. Knowledge at Wharton’s and The McKinsey Quarterly’s report called “Why Everyone in an Enterprise Can—and Should—Be a Leader” on the University of Pennsylvania’s Knowledge at Wharton’s Leadership and Change website supports my position as well as provides other great information about leadership at all levels. (I suggest you read the entire report.)

In a culture of decreasing budgets, slashed programs, and a wave of retirements within the federal workforce, no better time exists than now to develop your leadership skills. Leadership capabilities are valuable and transferable. If you are finding that your organization lacks the funds to invest in you, invest in yourself.

What can the organization do in a time of financial constraint? To adapt content from the report, organizations can help managers and employees become leaders in a variety of ways.”

“Organizations can also mentor people and help them discover, in their own way, how they can improve. Perhaps the most important thing organizations can do is encourage people to get out of their “comfort zones” and take on new tasks and challenges.”

My husband and I saw a sign recently that we have used in various discussions to spur others to action: “If you don’t do it, who will?” You hold the key to your leadership destiny.

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."

Here are a few highlights that I would like to share with you from Peter’s interview:

  • Storytelling is the way our society works.
  • Every great leader is a storyteller.
  • Storytelling is a tool.
  • Narrative ignites—or it’s a kindling instrument.
  • The idea is to move people’s hearts and emotions before you move their feet or tongue.
  • You can’t depend upon changing everybody’s heart and mind and wallet at the same moment with a single story. You hope that it has this viral quality that when you relinquish control lets it be told and retold, and other people reach other people in different experiential ways.

Guber’s MAGIC of Storytelling

  • Motivate: Make sure you are motivated because they will see if you’re not authentic.
  • Audience: Think of it not as me, but we. Think of it as that connection.
  • Goal: All storytelling narrative is goal oriented.
  • Interactive: All storytelling is interactive.
  • Content: Have good content. It’s got to move your heart and then make you think.

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:
  • Focus on "What were we trying to accomplish, and why?" (Charles D. Allen is a retired Army colonel and a professor of cultural science at the U.S. Army War College)
  • Strategic level planning should be tied to our values and principles. (Allen)
  • Think beyond the present; focus on the next generation. (Max Nardini, Coros Fellow engaged in a graduate-level leadership training program)
  • "The best response is candor." (Carol Kinsey Goman, executive coach, author and speaker)
  • "Good leaders seek new answers--and for those answers they might not like, they figure out both why they don't like them and why they're being said." (Susan Peters, vice president of executive development and the chief learning officer at GE)
  • "There is no better avenue for swift strenghtening of one's leadership than to uncompromisingly review the immediate past." (Michael Useem, professor of management and the director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Useem benchmarked our organization in his response.)

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.

The award was established to remember the contributions to the wildland fire service by Paul Gleason and his many achievements that established the foundation of being a student of fire and set the stage for the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program to provide students of leadership tools, training and guidance in development of leadership skills.

Information about the award and how to nominate a person or group can be found at the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program at

Nominations are open until December 31, 2010.

When making a nomination, provide a detailed description of why the nominee deserves the award. Short statements may or may not do justice to a nominee's worthiness of the 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.

Have you been a member of a dysfunctional team? Our Incident Command System is designed to handle such situations. How does your team function in a crisis situation? Does your team function well as part of the larger organization?

In one of the clips Patrick asks the crowd which team--the team at the top of the organization or the team that the individual leads (a department or crew)--is more important. Most answer that it is the team the individual leads; however, Patrick claims the leadership team of the organization is most important. We do a great job with local level leadership, but how well do we do when we come together as a larger team?

The leaders of wildland fire organizations set the example for those below them. They have the opportunity to make a difference in the future of wildland fire service. Investment in the Wildland Fire Leadership Program, albeit expensive, prepares the organization for the future and helps all come together more efficiently and effectively in times of crisis and in our day-to-day operations.

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.

Charlene Li, Altimeter Group, spoke about a change in communication that has occured over the last couple of years--a change that is unlikely to reverse course. Introduction and use of social media was that change. Fire leaders and managers must address how the next generation firefighter commuicates with what Charlene calls an it's-okay-to-share attitude with an infinite capacity to share. This mere sentiment is sure to invoke fear in our leaders causing them to reply, "TMI" (too much information).

In the early discussions of this blog, leaders expressed concern over comments that may be submitted by our readers. The result of that discussion was a comment-moderated blog with tight guidelines for sharing. I believe, although I don't know for sure, those fears have subsided as the blog gained credibility, prestige, and has allowed us to come together with our global wildland fire partners such as Australia and New Zealand.

I'm excited to see where we, government agencies, head as barriers to social media use are minimized and the communication needs of the next generation firefighter are met.

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.

Like Phil Jackson who moved from the record setting Chicago Bulls to the Los Angeles Lakers. Jackson says his principal task is creating an environment in which his players can flourish. In communicating with his championship teams, Jackson convinced them that they had the talent to win championships, and that the main goal of the coach was going to be freeing them to use that talent.

Today’s business team members say they want, more than anything else, the autonomy to do their jobs without the boss’s interference. In the new century, it’s already clear that the CEOs of our best-run companies believe that the more power leaders have, the less they should use.

The job of the team leader is to set a mission, decide upon a strategic direction, achieve the necessary cooperation, delegate authority—and then let people innovate. To do that we all could take a hint from late football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. Before his retirement as one of the leading coaches in college football history at Alabama, Bryant observed:

I’m just a plowhand from Arkansas, but I’ve learned how to put and hold a team together. I’ve learned how to lift some individuals up and how to calm others down, until finally they’ve got one heartbeat together, as a team. To do that, there are just three things I’d ever have to say: If anything went wrong, I did it. If it went semi-good, then we did it. If anything went real good, then you did it! That’s really all it takes to get other people to win for you.

The key to authentic leadership is to listen to your followers, and then open the door for them to lead themselves. The secret is empowerment. The main incentive is genuine caring and recognition.

  • The five most important words a leader can speak are: "I am proud of you."
  • The four most important are: "What is your opinion?"
  • The three most important are: "If you please."
  • The two most important are: "Thank you."
  • And the most important single word of all is: "You!"
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.

Contact Information:
200 Swisher Road
Lake Dallas, TX 75065
International and/or Dallas/Ft Worth - 940-497-9264
Fax 940-497-9799 or visit the website at Memory in a Month
This Newsletter address is not set up to receive emails. Your message is very important to us, so please use one of the methods below to contact us. The best way to contact us is to email us at Or you can visit us here. You can also reach us by calling our customer service line toll free at 877-929-0439. Thank you very much for being a valued Newsletter reader.

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)

The above statement reflects what every wildland firefighter knows about the inherent risks of the job. However, perspective and acknowledgement of our fears may free us of "the chains that bind."

While training a battalion from Ft. Hood to help with wildland fire suppression efforts, I learned a huge lesson about perspective. The soldiers that I spoke with found great fear in the unknown world of wildland fire. I told them that our number one priority is the safety of life and that their mission was one they need not fear. Their fear puzzled me as they were soldiers during war time and the feared not the enemies they had trained to defeat in Afghanistan and Iraq. They fully knew that enemy, but the image of wildland fire portrayed by the media stirred something deep within them.

We know our risks. We train to mitigate risk; and yet, we all have fears. Jim Rohn has this to say about the subject.

Facing the Enemies Within
by Jim Rohn

We are not born with courage, but neither are we born with fear. Maybe some fears are brought on by your own experiences, by what someone has told you, by what you've read in the papers. Some fears are valid, like walking alone in a bad part of town at two o'clock in the morning. But once you learn to avoid that situation, you won't need to live in fear of it.

Fears, even the most basic ones, can totally destroy our ambitions. Fear can destroy fortunes. Fear can destroy relationships. Fear, if left unchecked, can destroy our lives. Fear is one of the many enemies lurking inside us.

Let me tell you about five of the other enemies we face from within. The first enemy that you've got to destroy before it destroys you is indifference. What a tragic disease this is. "Ho-hum, let it slide. I'll just drift along." Here's one problem with drifting: you can't drift your way to the top of the mountain.

The second enemy we face is indecision. Indecision is the thief of opportunity and enterprise. It will steal your chances for a better future. Take a sword to this enemy.

The third enemy inside is doubt. Sure, there's room for healthy skepticism. You can't believe everything. But you also can't let doubt take over. Many people doubt the past, doubt the future, doubt each other, doubt the government, doubt the possibilities and doubt the opportunities. Worst of all, they doubt themselves. I'm telling you, doubt will destroy your life and your chances of success. It will empty both your bank account and your heart. Doubt is an enemy. Go after it. Get rid of it.

The fourth enemy within is worry. We've all got to worry some. Just don't let it conquer you. Instead, let it alarm you. Worry can be useful. If you step off the curb in New York City and a taxi is coming, you've got to worry. But you can't let worry loose like a mad dog that drives you into a small corner. Here's what you've got to do with your worries: drive them into a small corner. Whatever is out to get you, you've got to get it. Whatever is pushing on you, you've got to push back.

The fifth interior enemy is over-caution. It is the timid approach to life. Timidity is not a virtue; it's an illness. If you let it go, it'll conquer you. Timid people don't get promoted. They don't advance and grow and become powerful in the marketplace. You've got to avoid over-caution.
Do battle with the enemy. Do battle with your fears. Build your courage to fight what's holding you back, what's keeping you from your goals and dreams. Be courageous in your life and in your pursuit of the things you want and the person you want to become.

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, 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.

In the coming years we will see a number of books and movies about the ordeal. We will undoubtedly hear differing opinions on the effectiveness of Luis Urzua’s leadership; therefore, I take this opportunity to focus on the positive side of the story.

Kathy Kristof of CBS’s wrote a great piece fire leaders should read called “Chilean Miners: Leadership Lessons from Luis Urzua.” She organized his effective leadership into the following categories and provides meaningful advice for all leaders:

  • Reputation
  • Teamwork
  • Focus
  • Discipline
  • Shared Credit
  • Higher Purpose

She highlights Simon Sinek's, author of Start With Why, video How Great Leaders Inspire Action.

As a fire leader, consider how you would have handled the situation. Are there lessons learned that you can apply to your leadership?

Other articles related to the Chilean miners:

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?
Workforce development continues to loom large on the horizon for the Federal side of Wildland Firefighters. The agencies and organizations continue to seek out more effective ways to develop responders and fill the need for critical Incident response qualifications.
There are many real world examples of High Reliability Organizations (military, Aircraft pilots, physicians), where members of the organization are trained to function in critical roles in relatively short time frames.
As leaders we need to keep looking for new ways to develop our subordinates for the future, we need to build the team to be able to function in our absence and set the example by embracing new ideas that work to make positive change in our organizations.

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.
(Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 52)

We "talk the talk" but do we "walk the talk"? Tom Fox, Partnership for Public Service, recently wrote about recent a declining trend of teamwork in federal agencies. In "Teamwork in Decline at Federal Agencies" he refers to a survey conducted by Partnership for Public Service which found that "teamwork is not always apparent in the federal work space."

Building cohesive teams is woven throughout the fabric of the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program (WFLDP). Even so, we must make a concerted effort to build and sustain those relationships. As Fox says, "It is not always easy to get everyone on the same page, and to put aside their own egos, self-interest and agendas for the good of the group and the larger mission."

The following references may help fire leaders build and maintain cohesive teams.

L-380 Crew Cohesion Assessment

Leading in the Wildland Fire Service - Building the Team, pp. 52-55

  • Trust
  • Healthy Conflict
  • Commitment
  • Peer Accountability
  • Team Results
  • Resilience

Wildland Fire Leadership Values and Principles - Respect: Build the team.

  • Conduct frequent debriefings with the team to identify lessons learned.
  • Recognize individual and team accomplishments and reward them appropriately.
  • Apply disciplinary measures equally.

WFLDP Leadership Toolbox and Followership to Leadership Course

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. It seems to me that many of the topics discussed regarding leadership aren’t physical things, they are soft skills, ways to interpret or understand, thought processes. Dr. McTeer’s article helps identify what makes a person a leader. The article is written to be humorous, like the saying goes nothing is funnier than the truth. From Winston Churchill to Arnold Schwarzenegger the examples are effective at making points and providing examples that are easily identified. Leadership is one of those art and science things. The science is easy, there are many experts, professionals and organizations producing information about being a leader. The challenge is the art. How do we use all of this information and how do we apply it. I think this article gives some good advice on being a leader. Much interpretation and inference is left open pertaining to the “soft skills” of leadership but real world examples are provided to study. If you get nothing else from the article, at least you will have the rock star status of Alan Greenspan to contemplate.

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.
The foundational tenet of the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program (WFLDP) is the Values and Principles. The values provide direction, the principles define the values as the WFLDP intended them to be interpreted. Each of the WFLDP Values will have a slightly different meaning or interpretation to each person that reads them. The Principles help us maintain consistency with the WFLDP. Without knowing our values the definition will be incomplete. As Leaders we also need to understand the values of the organization we work for and we need to understand our values as we align ourselves with the organizations. A lecture delivered to an incoming class at West Point has some interesting perspectives on how leaders can gain valuable perspective on their values. The author provides a thorough argument for concentrating on understanding your values and how when challenged with formidable dilemmas this exercise in self-development will be the preparation that leads to an effective and successful conclusion.

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?