Monday, February 20, 2012

Readers are Leaders - A Look at the San Juan IHC

(Today's post is compliments of San Juan IHC Superintendent Jay Godson. He shares how they utilize the Professional Reading Program to promote leadership.)


Each year during the initial crew refresher, the San Juan Hotshots read and discuss a book generally centered on leadership skills and abilities.

Book Selection

The process of selecting a book is not difficult but requires some thought. The book should appeal to a wide audience and be a relatively short, easy read.


Each member on the crew receives and is encouraged to read the book at least a month before the start of the season. During spring training, leaders block out an appropriate amount of time to discuss the book.  Depending on the book, crew members generate discussions that are very relevant to wildland firefighting, but all of the discussions generated concern leadership.  

Potential Discussion Points
  • How does the book's theme relate to wildland firefighting?
  •  What leadership trait does the main character display that you like/dislike?
  • Who helped to resolve the situation? Who did not help?
  • Why did a certain decision change the course of the book?
  • When did an action create a point of no return?

The book is what drives the discussion process, so any of the above questions may or may not be relevant. We have read books from the military, personal survival stories, and sports; this years selection will be a Sci-Fi book.

Some years generate very good discussion, others not so much. A lot depends on how well the book appeals to the crew.

This Seasons Book
  • Enders Game by Scott Orson Card

Previous Selections
  • One Bullet Away by Nathaniel Fick - 2011
  • It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy by Capt. Michael D. Abrashoff - 2010
  • '59: The Story of the 1959 Syracuse Football Team - 2009
  • Corps Business: The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marine Corps by David Freeman - 2008
  • Endurance: Shackleton’s Amazing Voyage by Alfred Lansing - 2007
  • Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer - 2006


Since inception, the San Juan Hotshots have found this activity an excellent method of building crew cohesion. Members of the crew come together to discuss a common topic as well as develop leadership skills.

Members of any crew, team, or group--not just IHCs--may find this a great way build cohesion.

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