Thursday, June 27, 2013

Leading with Compassion

Take a moment to watch the video below.

Reflecting on the Story:
How many leaders are highlighted in this story?

Think of the kid in the basketball game from the opposing team who passed the ball to Mitchell; how did he arrive at his leadership moment?

Personal Reflection:
In my opinion, I believe he used the situation awareness cycle to figure out what was going on, combined it with the integrity he was taught, fed off the positive leadership examples being displayed, and made a time sensitive decision to lead with compassion. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Remember, you can lead from anywhere…are you leading with compassion?

Thanks to Travis Dotson, Lessons Learned Center and NWCG Leadership Committee member, for this blog submission.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Rational Decisions or Instinct?

Fire leaders do not often have the luxury of when they make decisions; however, they can be mindful of the effects brain chemistry has on decision making. Baba Shiv shares some insightful information on the subject for all of us from his Stanford Business YouTube video "How to Make Better Decisions."

Video Highlights
  • "Most of our decisions, whether we like it or not, most of our actions, most of our behavior, most of our experiences are constantly being shaped at the instinctual level."
  • 90 to 95% of all decisions are made at the emotional level.
  • Neuromodulators such as serotonin and dopamine affect decisions.
    • Neuromodulators levels decrease in the afternoon leading to more risk-averse decisions and a aggravation to the status quo bias and manifest in an indecision.
  • Deep sleep is critical to bringing natural serotonin levels back to normal.
    • Lack of sleep can result in decisions made out of fear.
  • Physical activity releases a precursor to serotonin and helps keep levels elevated during the day.
  • High-protein breakfasts are beneficial.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Power of Unity

Unity of Effort (taken from Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, pp). 15-16.

Our leaders subscribe to unity of effort as a second key component our command philosophy. In a high-risk environment, mixed messages or countermanding directives add to the potential for friction, danger, and uncertainty.

Many times at all levels of the wildland fire service, leaders find themselves in gray areas where jurisdictional lines blur and overlap. No matter the challenges at hand, fire leaders work together to find common ground and act in the best interests of those responding to the incident, the public, and our natural resources.

In these situations, leaders must employ multiple leadership skills to influence decisions, forge effective relationships, facilitate cooperative efforts, and ensure that objectives are achieved.

The longer it takes to develop a unified effort, the greater the vacuum of leadership. Delays increase confusion, which in turn magnify the risk to our people and increase the likelihood that people will take unproductive or independent action without understanding the larger intent.

A unified leadership team sends a powerful message: when all leaders follow the same priorities and reinforce leader’s intent through consistent actions and words, our people develop a strong sense of trust for their leaders. It dispels the propensity to second-guess command decisions as subordinates recognize that the leadership team moves as one and is solidly in charge.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Bryan, TX - An Example of Excellence

(From left are TFS Regional Fire Coordinator Jared Karns, Bryan Emergency Management Coordinator Jerry Henry, TFS Mitigation and Prevention Department Head Bruce Woods, Bryan Fire Chief Randy McGregor, TFS Director Tom Boggus and TFS Fire Chief Mark Stanford.)
 Congratulations to Bryan, TX, and the Texas A&M Forest Service for making a difference in their local community by developing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). Bryan is the first city in Texas to complete a plan. The measures taken by this innovative fire department will help keep the community safe from wildfire.

(Bryan Fire Chief Randy McGregor, Mayor Jason Bienski and Texas A&M Forest Service Director Tom Boggus pose with the city's Community Wildfire Protection Plan, approved for implementation at the City Council's June 11 meeting.)
Check it out the Bryan Community Wildfire Protection Plan. We encourage fire managers to adapt the plan to meet local area needs. (This document is large and takes a while to download.)


We give a shout out to Texas A&M Forest Service for permission to post and for their leadership and ability to make a difference in the communities they serve.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Leader of Self

(Photo credit: Leadership Matters Now)
Leadership is risky.
“In the sea there are countless gains. But if thou desirest safety, it will be on the shore.” The Guilistan of Saadi, 1285.
Settle the debate within yourself and decide what you will do when the spotlight stops on you. Will you seek the safety of shore or will you choose the opportunities that could be yours? Developing leadership of self is a good start.

Lifehack has some good ideas to help you direct your self-leadership development. Their 12 Rules for Self-Leadership will provide valuable insight and good questions to think about to build your path. These examples may entice you to read through the whole list.
  • Rule #1: Set goals for your life
  • Rule #5: Learn to love ideas and experiment
  • Rule #7: There are some things you don’t take liberty with no matter how innovative you are when you lead. For instance, to have integrity means to tell the truth.
Develop your self leadership and lead with courage.
Thanks to John Wood, ADFMO, U.S. Forest Service and NWCG Leadership Committee member, for this blog submission.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Solitude Side of Leadership

(Photo credit: University of Minnesota)
Every once in a while I put myself out there on a personal note. Who is the person who writes on the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program (WFLDP) blog and maintains their Facebook page, taught secondary education for nine years, and was a fire information officer for over a decade. Well, she is an introvert. Yep, it is true. There, this leader has been exposed. Am I a fraud? Read on.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Leading Up - Influence without Authority

The art of influence is a powerful tool for both leaders and followers whether or not the authority to lead exists. Marsha Johnson shares her insight into influencing without authority in the YouTube video "Influencing Powerfully without Authority."

"Real leaders use authority as a fallback position." ~ Marsha Johnson

Looking out for our people includes not only those who work for us but also our leaders and peers. Leadership is about influencing others to accomplish tasks that are in the best interest of our organization; this often means influencing those above us and leading up. Similarly, we are open to upward leadership—and, in fact, encourage and reward it.

Fire leaders are expected to lead in many directions, an expectation that increases complexity and risk. Summoning the courage needed to intervene and influence peers or leaders above can be difficult, especially if providing unwelcome feedback about behavior or pointing out an alternative to a potentially bad decision.

However, in high-risk environments, no one can afford to assume that anyone has all the answers. Everyone, at every level, can make mistakes or feel pressure to make decisions without adequate information or make decisions based on outdated information. The potential for error is inherently high.

To build the kind of healthy and resilient culture required in the wildland fire service, we lead up—holding our leaders accountable, providing unvarnished situation awareness in challenging situations, and offering unbiased and viable alternatives.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Summer 2013 Readers are Leaders Challenge - A Captain's Duty

(Photo credit:

The WFLDP has issued a reading challenge for Richard Phillips’ and Stephen Talty’s, "A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea" which chronicles Captain Phillips’ leadership under fire during the hijacking of his cargo ship the Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates in 2009. The intent is to read and discuss the book throughout the summer and fall. As a capstone to the discussion, readers will be encouraged to venture into the Leadership in Cinema realm and watch and discuss Paul Greengrass’ "Captain Phillips" scheduled for release in October 2013.
(Photo credit:
Reading Schedule
  • July discussion - Chapters 1-5 (pages 1-83)
  • August discussion - Chapters 6-11 (pages 84-159) •
  • September discussion - Chapters 12-15 (pages 160-230)
  • October discussion - Chapters 16-19 (pages 231-304)
  • November 2013 discussion - comparing the movie " Captain Phillips " to "A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea" 
A reading room has been set up in for discussions.