Monday, November 28, 2011

Stanford's Guiding Principles

Mark Stanford is the Chief, Fire Operations for the Texas Forest Service as well as State representative on the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee.

Stanford’s Guiding Principles

Listed below are some principles that I use to guide me. Some are basic or intuitive while others were learned from mistakes, lapses in judgment or the school of hard knocks. Still others were picked up from people wiser than me and from a few mentors I was fortunate to have.

My core overriding principle is to know what you believe in. This is your foundation. This is your default in times of high stress or when serious decisions must be made quickly. Because of my role in the agency there have been many times when events occurred rapidly with possible severe consequences. I found myself having to react without the luxury of time and stasis to fully evaluate the situation to a comfortable end state. I think of this as a crucible where leaders are tested. I can’t imagine being in a situation like this without having and understanding my core values and beliefs.

Have situational awareness of who you are. Know your strengths and weaknesses and implement based on this knowledge. Own yourself.

Always, always try to do the right thing. Not only is it the correct way to live your life but people sense that this is your motivation. It will become part of your reputation.

Be more concerned about doing the right thing than about not being wrong. Own your mistakes. Most times others will know when you make them and attempts to hide or deny will only make you look foolish, petty and immature.

Tell the truth. Be honest in all your dealings both internal and external to your agency. I will omit information if required by confidentiality or if information will be disruptive to individuals or groups but never lie.

Indecision is a course of action; it is the decision to do nothing. You will be faced with situations that require a decision be made quickly. Make one. If it turns out not to be the best decision or just flat out wrong, observe, analyze, correct and move forward.

Allow your staff to make honest mistakes but insist that they learn from the experiences.

Know what is non-negotiable and what can be negotiated. Know why this is true.

Listen. Listen to your boss, listen to your personnel, listen to your cooperators, listen to your customers; listen, listen listen.

Try not to lose your temper. When you do, make sure it is for the right reason.

Work your boss’ problems. Seems like a simple concept but not really that common a trait. Become your boss’ go-to-person.

Help others be successful. Not only is this a good thing to do, you will also develop allies. This includes your subordinates, peers, and individuals that are in support and administrative jobs.

People are your most valuable asset. You must do your best to understand your personnel; their needs and expectations, both personal and professionally. Communicate this in words and actions.

A challenge is to balance your personnel’s needs with agency missions and requirements. If you take the money, ride for the brand.

Try to be equitable with your personnel in praise, recognition, reward and discipline. This may be difficult to consistently accomplish due to personal bias and limited resources. Do your best and be open to feedback.

Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans. Change is constant; embrace it. Become an advocate for change that results in positive effects. However, avoid change for change’s sake. It unsettles people.

Service. Give more than you take.

Be a lifetime leadership student. The road goes on forever.


Mark shared his leadership values and principles. What are yours? Do you agree or disagree? Share your thoughts here!


Jeremy said...

Mark's principles are right on. Well written, a standard "guide" for strong leadership character. Thanks.

Randy Skelton said...

Thank-you for sharing Mark! I'll share something I learned from Col. Eric Carlson (ret. Marine) that I try to use to keep myself "aligned".

"Physical Endurance, Intellectual Agility, Spiritual Self-Worth, and Moral Courage." For me, I have choosen to use these as my "foundation", my core, overriding principles. Not to say I'm perfect in each of these, but I use these to remind myself or to hold myself accountable to...a moral compass if you will.

footprints11 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lex' Blog said...

Yes! Thanks Mark, those were insightful and thought provoking. Also, Randy - I appreciate the simplicity in your "foundation" it is very solid.