Monday, January 31, 2011

A Call to Innovate

Manager: “She wants to attend another leadership course? Isn’t she ‘done’ yet?”

This scenario may be all too common to some of you. If your supervisor hasn’t said it to you, maybe you have said it to yourself.

Linda Hill and Kent Lineback, in their Harvard Business Review blog “Are You the Boss You Need to Be?” refer to a state of “Plateau of Good Enough” where “managers grow and develop to a certain point, and then they stop” or they “mistake comfort for real competence.” What type of leader are you? Are you competent? Have you learned all there is to know about leadership?

The Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program supports the contention that leaders are lifelong students of fire—that we are never “done.” I believe that leaders can be made and that leadership development is ultimately a personal endeavor. Many of us are limited to the extent we attend formalized leadership training which is often viewed as expensive and seen by many managers as an ineffective use or waste of funds. Training our leaders may be expensive, but putting a price tag on not training is an insurmountable task.

In my January 24, 2011, blog entry titled “The Essence of Leadership” Doug Downs commented about “how tight budgets often mean restricted training or leadership development.” He believes this will require each of us to “find new and innovative ways to further develop our leadership qualities as well as those we lead, especially those we lead.”

Innovation was also a key topic in President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union speech. He challenged us to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” Fire leaders have a duty to develop their subordinates for the future. What can we do as the wildland fire service to innovate to become more efficient and effective? Share your ideas here.


Doug Downs said...

Maybe we need to start taking better advantage of some of the resources currently available to us. Those of us who have attended some of the higher quality leadership courses know that much of the learning and leadership development that we took away was gained not through lecture but by discussion with our fellow students and instructors. This blog site provides a wonderful forum for discussion with fellow fire leaders across the country without having to travel. I challenge us all to take advantage of it and encourage those we lead to do so as well. Perhaps by getting involved in a discussion or posting a comment to an article here we can gain some of that leadership knowledge we usually associate with a more formal learning environment. I plan to challenge all of my fire staff to post at least one comment a month to the wildland fire leadership site. That is my one idea to get us started. Hopefully some others will share their ideas of how to develop our leaders outside of the formal training environment.

Pam McDonald said...

Doug - Your leadership challenge is exactly why we went down the blog path. Social media allows a means by which we can connect as a fire service without large cash outlays. Individuals can come together from various walks of life for the common good of all. I appreciate your support and commend you for leading by example.

Pam McDonald said...

Here is a little something that might help those participating in the innovation challenge. . .

Peter Merholz, "Innovate like a Kindergartner", HBR 2011

Mike Haisten said...

I believe that Doug has hit the nail on the head in saying that we need to utilize those resources that are already available. Leadership development happens all day every day. Every task, project, fire or dull moment provides an opportunity for development. The true test is how those opportunities are seized.