Monday, December 3, 2012

No Time for Leadership--I'm Fighting Fire

Imagine my shock this summer when I spoke with four hotshots crews as they passed through the mobilization center at NIFC and one crew member stated, "We don't have time for leadership, we're out fighting fire." Leadership is not something we fit into our busy schedules. Fire leaders make time for leadership--not only for themselves but for those they lead and serve.

Had this been my only experience that day, I might have considered it an isolated incident. Unfortunately, few knew about, few had attended any leadership training, and even fewer jumped at the chance to take a leadership pamphlet. What bothered me most was that some looked over their shoulders at their supervisors as if to gain permission to take one. Others came to me, ever so shamefully, to whisper, "I'll take one of those." Leadership development should be accessible to all and encouraged by every wildland fire leader in the organization because every individual has a leadership responsibility.

Levels of Leadership (Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, pp. 22-23)
Leaders provide purpose, direction, and motivation to those they lead. Although these leadership requirements are similar for the leaders at different levels of an organization, the challenges faced and the perspective required to meet the challenges are considerably different at each level.

  • To become competent in basic job skills.
  • To take initiative and learn from others.
  • To ask questions and develop communications skills.
Leaders of People
  • Accept responsibility not only for their own actions but for those of their team.
  • Act to develop credibility as leaders: placing the team ahead of themselves, demonstrating trustworthiness, mastering essential technical skills, and instilling the values of the organization in their teams.
Leader of Leaders
  • Build trust.
  • Act as a conduit between the organization and the people on the ground, interpreting the vision into mission, translating abstract ideas so that subordinate leaders can take definitive action.
Leaders of Organizations
  • Manage the most complex and high-profile emergency incidents.
  • Plan for future operations as well as mentor promising people for key roles in our organizations.
  • Represent the face of the wildland fire service to cooperators, stakeholders, and the general public.
Next Steps
Leadership development does not have to be conducted in a vacuum. The Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program offers a wide variety of resources for all levels of leadership. Therefore, become a part of something bigger and embrace, including the blog and Facebook presence.

In 2013, we will roll out a leadership campaign intended to bring all units across the nation together with a common purpose for leadership development. Stay tuned for more information!

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