Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Leadership Minute

Here is a short video from a well-known company regarding leaders. Enjoy!

**This is not a product endorsement.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Put Down that Mobile Device

As our country and world cries out for quality leadership, I seem drawn to the topic of command presence. Followers are crying out for leaders they trust and respect. Are you one of them?

A few years ago, I attended a prestigious leadership conference for corporate executives and leaders. The venue was small, and the attendees were some of the best and brightest this country had to offer. Not surprisingly, however, many of the attendees spent most of the day heads-down focused on their mobile devices and less on the speakers. The first speaker addressed the issue, but admitted there was little that he could do to control the behavior. Very few of the attendees put down their mobile devices and listened.

As I sat in that room that day, I realized that even the best of best leaders need to work on their command presence--most importantly their literal presence when interacting with others. If these leaders could behave in such a fashion to some the most well-known leadership experts in the world, I wondered if they would do the same during meetings with their subordinates. Additionally, would they allow their subordinates to do the same, creating a culture of inattention and disrespect?

My impetus for this entry came from Nilofer Merchant's HBR Blog Network article titled "It's the Leadership, Stupid." Nilofer discusses "how small actions lead to big outcomes." At a time like this, we don't need leaders who "check out."

Read for yourself what Nilofer has to offer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Followers Step Forward

A leader cannot lead if there is no one to follow. As leaders around the world struggle to maintain power and influence, followers are in a great position to make a difference.

Hear what Jean Lipman-Blumen has to say about the importance of followers in "The Art of Followership: How Great Followers Create Great Leaders and Organizations."

Monday, August 22, 2011

Reflection - The After Action Review

When was the last time that you referred to the After Action Review tool on the Wildland Leadership Development Program website?

"An After Action Review (AAR) is a professional discussion of an event, focused on performance standards, that enables firefighters to discover for themselves what happened, why it happned, and how to sustain strengths and improve on weaknesses."

The AAR tool in the Leadership Toolbox provides access to "Tips for Conducting AARs," a chainsaw AAR, and other AAR References. An additional reference that you may gleen some information from is a recent article by Billy Schmidt titled "How & Why to Conduct an Incident Debriefing."

When it is time for you to conduct an AAR, refer to the Incident Response Pocket Guide, p. xii.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Leadership Thoughts for the Day

Every once in a while people like to gather leadership quotes. Here is a video I found on YouTube that showcases some great leadership quotes. I've included them below the clip for those who don't have access to the video.

  • If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader. (John Quincy Adams)
  • Example is leadership. (Albert Schweitzer)
  • One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. (Andre Gide)
  • Leadership is action not position. (Donald H. McGannon)
  • Don't wait for your ship to come in, swim out to meet it. (Unknown)
  • Most things are difficult before they are easy. (adapted from Thomas Fuller)
  • Authority is a poor substitute for leadership. (John Luther)
  • Honor people and they will honor you. Fail to honor people and they will fail to honor you. (Lao Tzu)
  • The more you say, the less they [people] remember. (adapted from Francois FeNelon)
  • Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. (General George Patton)
  • Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow. (Plato)
  • Many people [a man] would rather you heard their [his] story than granted their [his]request. (Phillip Stanhope)
  • Real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determination. (Unknown)
  • Leaders don't force people to follow, they invite them on a journey. (Charles S. Lauer)
  • If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever. (St. Thomas Aquinas)
  • A leader is someone who believes in you and gets you to believe in yourself. (Steven J. Stowell)
  • Leaders make the impossible possible. (Unknown)
  • Leaders consider the past, evaluate the present, and create the future. (Unknown)
  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. (Aristotle)

Monday, August 15, 2011

When No One is Watching

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. - Helen Keller

When I'm not working, I do a tremendous amount of volunteer work. There have been times when I took on a little too much and neglected self. Recently when I felt a bit overwhelmed, a friend told me, "we love you for who you are, not what you do." She was referring to my intangible attibutes: character.

Character, according to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, is defined as "one of the attributes of features that make up and distinguish an individual." Leadership experts differ on what makes up leadership character but most refer to one's values and principles.

As found in Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, "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."

If you are like me, your values and principles change as you experience life. Are you the same person when you are alone as when others are watching? Do others see the "real" you.

So what does right look like as a wildland fire leader? Leading in the Wildland Fire Service and our Values and Principles provide insight for our leaders. Like a fingerprint, character is unique to each individual. What you deem right may not be exactly what another deems right. However, this publication provides the basis from which all fire leaders can develop. If you are a wildland fire leader and don't have a copy of this publication, download it today.

In January, I brought you the leadership series "Leading in the VUCA Environment" by Col. Eric Kail, course director of military leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Col. Kail has a new six-part series on the Washington Post's blog titled "Leadership Character." Take a moment to read what Col. Kail has to say about leadership character. Here are links to the first half of his series. As others become available, I will provide the links.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Always Remember

This Saturday marks the 5th anniversary of the 2006 Krassel Helicopter incident. On August 13, 2006 at approximately 1730, helicopter N355EV, a Eurocopter AS 350 B3 under contract to the Forest Service by Evergreen Helicopters, Inc., crashed on the Payette National Forest 18 miles west of Yellowpine, ID. The Pilot, Quinn Stone, 42 and three Forest Service employees (Michael Lewis, 37-Assistant Helitack Manager; Lillian Patten, 32-Wildland Firefighter; and Monica Zajanc, 27-Wildland Firefighter) on board were fatally injured.
For those who have not seen this site: Always Remember provides a permanent location to collect, organize, maintain, preserve, and share current and historical incidents in which wildland firefighters lost their lives, to remember our fallen firefighters, their contributions, and the lessons learned from their lives or in their passing.
This site is another great "tool" to add to your leadership toolbox; this site is a great compliment to the Wildland Fire Staff Ride Library as well as the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center.
The challenge during, and after tragic not letting their lessons get lost in history. WE must be vigilant in keeping their lessons alive for those who follow in their (our) foot steps. We are human, we are fallible, and we will continue to make mistakes at critical moments in time in a very dynamic environment. Some will be fatal, some serious, and some will simply be "near misses"'s up to us to learn from those mistakes and teach these valuable lessons. WE must do better at being there for the next generation of firefighters. Not just being there, but passing on the wisdoms we've come to know.
The core to everything we do as Fire Service professionals is to never forget the firefighter on the not let the "administrivia" of today's fire management world drive you away from staying engaged at every level of your fire organization.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Do You See What I See?

Look closely at the picture above. Do you see what I do?

My husband and I recently took a vacation with friends to Bryce Canyon National Park in Southern Utah. On our first day in the park, we opted for the shuttle tour led by a jovial man named Spike.

Spike was well versed about the history of the canyon, including how weather events help shape the Clarion formations into beautiful fins, windows, spires and slot canyons. Along the way Spike would point to a hoodoo and ask if we could guess what animal or person could be found in the rock formation. Each of us had our own idea of what was found within the formation. Spike would then tell us the name the park rangers had given the formations. On more than one occasion, Spike really had to work to get tourists to "see" the object found within the rock. A few formations were a real stretch of the imagination. Do you see the hunter (Elmer Fudd) in the picture above?

One person's perception may not be another's reality. Just as with the hoodoo formations, one person may see something that another cannot. Leaders who believe that their own perception is the one and only risk creating a warped sense of reality. They may never "hear" what their subordinates are telling them.

The impetus of this entry came from an article on Leading Blog titled "Who's the King?" The author provides a parable about a lion and his quest to determine who is the king of the jungle. Read for yourself how some of us "reshape feedback until it supports what we want it to mean."

What do you see in this picture?

How about a poodle?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Briefing and Intent Revised

A few weeks ago, members of the Briefing and Intent Revision Task Group uploaded new information to the Briefing and Intent webpages.

The "History" page provides a look into briefing through lessons learned from the military. Also included is the evolution of the briefing checklist that is found in the Incident Response Pocket Guide.

Included in the update to the "Types of Briefings" page are the four steps of a briefing as well as a document explaining the different types of briefings: information, mission, decision, and staff.

Under "Briefing References," readers will find numerous articles and documents to assist them in furthering their skills. Listed below are a few references:

Friday, August 5, 2011

Remembering Mann Gulch and Iron 44

Today we reflect upon those 13 firefighters who lost their lives on the Mann Gulch fire in Montana in 1949 and 7 firefighters in California in 2008.

Mann Gulch:
Stanley Reba; Silas Thompson; Joseph Sylvia; James Harrison; Robert Bennett; Newton Thompson; Leonard Piper; Eldon Diettert; Marvin Sherman; David Navon; Phillip McVey; Henry Thol, Jr.; and William Hellman

Iron 44:
Shawn Blazer, Scott Charleson, Matthew Hammer,
Edrik Gomez, Steven Renno, Bryan Rich, and David Steele

Photo credit: Grayback Forestry

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Shared Purpose

Four-star General Stanley McChrystal shares what he learned about leadership over his decades in the military. How can you build a sense of shared purpose among people of many ages and skill sets? By listening and learning -- and addressing the possibility of failure.

General Stanley McChrystal is the former commander of U.S. and International forces in Afghanistan. A four-star general, he is credited for creating a revolution in warfare that fuses intelligence and operations.

Why You Should Listen to Him (taken from a TED video)

“With a remarkable record of achievement, General Stanley McChrystal has been praised for creating a revolution in warfare that fused intelligence and operations. A four-star general, he is the former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan and the former leader of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which oversees the military’s most sensitive forces. McChrystal’s leadership of JSOC is credited with the December 2003 capture of Saddam Hussein and the June 2006 location and killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. McChrystal, a former Green Beret, is known for his candor.

After McChrystal graduated from West Point, he was commissioned as an infantry officer, and spent much of his career commanding special operations and airborne infantry units. During the Persian Gulf War, McChrystal served in a Joint Special Operations Task Force and later commanded the 75th Ranger Regiment. He completed year-long fellowships at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1997 and in 2000 at the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2002, he was appointed chief of staff of military operations in Afghanistan. Two years later, McChrystal was selected to deliver nationally televised Pentagon briefings about military operations in Iraq. From 2003 to 2008, McChrystal commanded JSOC and was responsible for leading the nation’s deployed military counter-terrorism efforts around the globe. He assumed command of all International Forces in Afghanistan in June 2009. President Obama’s order for an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan was based on McChrystal’s assessment of the war there. McChrystal retired from the military in August 2010.”

"One of America’s greatest warriors."
----Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

Wildland Fire Perspective
As we reflect on all the losses we've experienced in the month of July…think about what the General has to say about "Shared Purpose". How is our environment similar to those who are serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere abroad? The wildland fire environment changes rapidly, our troops and fire ground leaders must have the ability and empowerment to act with speed and focus, positioning, and simplicity. Our environment evolves faster than people have time to reflect or react…

Leading a dispersed force in the wildland fire environment occurs daily for us…what techniques or technology do you use to communicate and empower your people? How do you build their confidence, trust and faith in you as a leader when you do not have the ability to be face to face during daily operations? How do you empower your people to take advantage of "merging opportunities"?...or as Col. Eric Carlson states, "Fleeting windows of opportunity".

How do we/ you lead a group of firefighters with the current generational differences…or "gap"? Our firefighters have changed…they are smarter, stronger, quicker and need more information…

One question that Gen. McChrystal asks during his speech is similar to the one the "Commander" (Jim Cook) asks during Redding IHC's annual staff ride of the 1994 South Canyon fire: “Where were you in 1994? How many people were fighting fire in 1994?” This year…the answers were similar to what Gen. McChrystal found out….."sir, I was in the 6th grade!" So, where were your firefighters in 1994? Where were they in 2001? It is the 10 year anniversary of the 30-mile fire…how many of your firefighters even know about the 30-mile Fire, or the South Canyon fire?

Similar to our Armed Forces of America (God Bless and thank-you for your service), we are operating a force of firefighters that must have a sense of shared purpose and shared consciousness...they have a different skill set (digital media) that we must capitalize on and which we can learn from this generation.

Through all this, we must also be mindful of the cumulative pressure on ourselves as leaders as well as our fire ground leaders. WE must watch out and take care of each other. We are in the business of Growing leaders and we must give back as our predecessors did for us…get engaged at the entry level, get engaged at the junior leader level, get engaged at the senior leader level…never lose sight of the most important asset the wildland fire service has….our firefighters.

Monday, August 1, 2011


"...the real chicken is the one who doesn't blink." - Ron

I've been drawn lately to the writings of Ron Ashkenas, managing partner of Schaffer Consulting and HBR Blog Network contributor. Last week, Ashkenas wrote a piece titled "Why Leaders Play Chicken." He contends that a lot of adults are playing a public version of this children's game and that the "outcome is rarely optimal."

The recent political climate and stress on the economy have caused a lot of unrest in the wildland fire service. Lines have been drawn, timelines have been established, and cuts have and will continue to occur. This is a time to collaborate and compromise like never before to meet our missions.

We must lead by example. Playing a game of chicken will undoubtedly have unintended consequences--most likely to the teams for which we are responsible.

Read for yourself "Why Leaders Play Chicken."