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.