Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Framework for Leadership

(Photo credit: GGP.com)

Today's blog was inspired by Ted Coine's blog "This Leadership Framework Helped Lincoln Save the Union. You Should Try It."

Ted uses the lessons he learned studying President Abraham Lincoln's leadership legacy. He believes that Lincoln's leadership success is attributed to what he calls a "Principles-to-Practices Framework." Those who took the 2012 Leaders are Readers challenge and read Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals are well aware of Lincoln's simplicity and focused leadership. Here is how Ted Coines views Lincoln's leadership using his Principles-to-Practices framework.
  • Principles - the view from space
    • Lincoln's Principle: Save the Union.
  • Strategies - the view from 30,000 feet up
    • Lincoln's Strategy: Wear the confederacy down until they surrender.
  • Tactics - the view from a second-story balcony
    • Lincoln's Tactic: Charge head-on, and don't let up until the enemy is driven to flee.
  • Practices - the view if you lie on your stomach and look down
    • Lincoln's Practice: Give the soldiers 50 rounds of ammunition each, and resupply them as needed.

Team of Rivals book cover

Wildland Fire Service's Leadership Framework

The ultimate purpose of leading in the wildland fire service is to protect life, property, and natural resources.

Leading here requires that we manage uncertainty and events that are not within our control. A framework to understand this leadership environment is critical to enable fire leaders to make effective decisions and communicate those decisions in dynamic situations.

The decision to lead and be successful within this framework requires an avid commitment to self-development.

The wildland fire service's framework is built upon the following foundational concepts:
  • The Authority to Lead versus the Decision to Lead
    • The authority to lead is established by law. 
    • The ability to lead is something that cannot be legislated.
    • A leader's journey is a perpetual cycle of acquiring, shaping, and honing the knowledge and skills of leadership. 
    • Leaders choose to sacrifice their own needs for those of their teams an organizations.
  •  Art of Leadership
    • Committed leaders can inspire others and make an enormous difference in people's lives, on the results of the team, and in the progress of the organization.
    • The art of leadership requires a constant interchange of theory and application.
    • The art includes being able to view the larger picture.
    • The art of leadership requires successfully balancing many factors in the real world, based on the situation at hand, to achieve a successful outcome.
  • Wildland Fire - A High-Risk Environment
    • We are asked to make tough decisions under a compressed time frame, given limited information, in a complex and high-risk environment.
    • Fire leaders must have the ability to integrate varied resources into effective and responsive temporary teams.
  • Leadership Environment
    • The leadership environment is made up of four elements: 
      • The leader
      • His/her people
      • The situation
      • The consequences (short- and long-term effects of the leader's actions)
  • Command Philosophy
    • Translating vision into clear leader's intent is at the heart of our command philosophy.
    • Our leaders subscribe to unity of effort.
  • Command Climate
    • Command presence sets the tone for the command climate.
    • Communication is the primary tool for establishing an effective command climate.
  • Levels of Leadership
    • Four levels of leadership exist in our leadership framework:
      • Followers
      • Leaders of people
      • Leaders of leaders
      • Leaders of organizations
[Adapted from "Leading in the Wildland Fire Service", pp. 5-24]

Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Look Back at The Cedar Fire - 10 Years Later

(Photo credit: San Diego Fire-Rescue Department)

"The Cedar Fire was reported on Saturday, October 25, 2003, at approximately 5:37 P.M. The fire, burning under a Santa Ana wind condition eventually consumed 280,278 acres and destroyed 2,232 structures, 22 commercial buildings, and 566 outbuildings, damaging another 53 structures and 10 outbuildings. There was 1 fire fighter fatality, 13 civilian fatalities and 107 injuries. The fire was under Unified Command with the United States Forest Service, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and local government.” ~ 2003 Cedar Fire Green Sheet, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
Sandra Millers Younger shares her perspective of the Cedar fire in her recently released book "The Fire Outside My Window." Younger does a great job sharing her experience as a homeowner and complementing her story with excerpts from individuals involved with fire suppression and emergency operations. 

In 2007, the Cedar fire engine crew entrapment that took the life of Steven Rucker was a featured module in the Annual Fireline Safety Refresher. Take time to familiarize yourself and your crew with this tragedy.

Group Exercise: 

Assume you are a crew member on Engine 6162. Given the scenario and the information below, what is your assessment of the current situation? Do you have any concerns you wish to voice to your Captain or do you agree with the plan to continue burning out and defending the structure?

Additional Information to Consider:

  • There was a fire weather watch issued by the San Diego National Weather Service at 0930 hours on October 29, 2003, that did not reach the crew of Engine 6162.
  • IAP weather forecast for October 29, 2003: Temperature, upper 70s to 80s; RH, 8-20%; ridge top winds, 5-15 mph in the morning becoming southwest to west 15-25 mph in the afternoon; fire danger, very high to extreme.
  • During the 36 months prior to the incident, the area received between 50-70 percent of normal precipitation.
  • The elevation of 920 Orchard Lane is 200 feet higher than the ridge to the west and 400 feet above the bottom of the San Diego River drainage.
  • The Task Force Leader had trouble reaching the Division Supervisor on the assigned frequencies.
  • The Engine 6162 crew had only a mobile radio pack in the engine; the Engine Captain carried a handheld radio.
  • The residents of 920 Orchard Lane were not home.
  • The IAP documented the span of control for Division I as 27:1.
  • The Engine 6162 crew was not aware of the firing operations conducted by the CDF Captain and Engineer at 930 Orchard Lane.
  • The strip burning operation below the driveway created approximately 140 feet of black line.
  • The Engine 6162 crew originally identified the meadow (east of Orchard Lane—about 200 yards away and directly across from the bottom of the driveway) as a safety zone prior to being assigned to 920 Orchard Lane.
  • Once at 920 Orchard Lane, Engine 6162’s Captain identified the house as a refuge.
  • Resources assigned to Orchard Lane observed the fire from individual vantage points.
  • There was no dedicated lookout for the Branch, the Division, the Orchard Lane area, the Strike Team, or the Engine 6162 crew.
What do you think the fire is going to do? Which fire indicators are you using to make your prediction?
    Communication on the division was poor. What can be done to improve it?
      Do you have any trigger points established for disengagement or withdrawal?
        Engine 6162 was not aware of the fire weather watch issued or the firing operation happening around them on Orchard Lane. Assuming you did not have the additional information, would your assessment differ?


        Read and discuss the "Safety Issues for Review" found within the Green Sheet regarding the 10 Standard Fire Orders and 18 Watch Out Situations that were identified as applicable. Using lessons learned from the Cedar fire, what will you do on your local unit to avoid a similar situation?

        Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Resources:
        • Cedar Fire Green Sheet
        • Cedar Fire Fatality NIOSH Report
        • Navato Fire Department 72-hour Report 

        Tuesday, October 22, 2013

        An Education in Fire - A Look Back at Yellowstone

        “Wildland fire is a phenomenon essential to nature’s design. But fire, whether caused by natural force or human beings, can also pose a threat to people and communities.”~ Leading in the Wildland Fire Service

        The fires that plagued Yellowstone National Park in 1988 may be a distant memory for some; however, fire leaders charged with leading the effort are well aware of the challenges this chaotic leadership environment presented.

        The New York Times reflects upon the summer of ’88 and paints a picture of what has shaped the leadership environment for today’s leaders—especially those facing similar circumstances with this year’s Rim fire in Yosemite National Park.

        Fire leaders lead because leading is where they make a difference. The job of bringing order to chaos is not always easy. Those who choose to lead know their decisions may impact the fire service for years to come, but the willing accept their role in order to improve their people's lives and strengthen our organizations. (adapted from Leading in the Wildland Fire Service)

        Thursday, October 17, 2013

        Powering Your Influence

        marbles linked to show influence
        (Photo credit. Alphia)
         Situational Leadership (Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, pp. 38-39)

        Leaders use a variety of power sources and leadership styles to influence others. Being able to select the most effective leadership tools in a given situation is an application of situational leadership.

        Power can be defined as a person’s ability to influence the actions of others. How leaders use power shapes others’ perception of their ability to lead. A leader’s ability to read a situation and apply the appropriate source of power enhances their ability to lead.

        The more visible power is, the less it works. The less explicitly leaders rely on power to accomplish tasks, the greater their power actually is.

        Those who rely on position, reward, or discipline power have less real influence on others. On the other hand, those who are able to rely on expert power and respect power—less overt forms of power—often influence in ways that have more far-reaching and deep effects.

        To gain power, the most effective leaders give it away. By giving away some power to team members, leaders actually increase their influence and strengthen their ability to lead.

        Leaders also use different leadership styles as appropriate for the level of experience of the people involved and the situation.

        With inexperienced people or time-critical situations, leaders use a directing style, explicitly telling people what needs to be done. As team members gain experience, leaders increasingly seek team members’ participation in discussions and decision making, working together to devise plans and actions.

        Leaders keep sight of the long-term goal of being able to delegate most tasks and responsibilities to experienced and capable team members, setting the conditions that enable them to grow as leaders.

        At every step of the way, leaders judiciously employ the amount of supervision required. They provide adequate feedback to make sure people can successfully accomplish the mission yet avoid micro-managing competent team members.

        A Video Example
        Dr. Kevin Nourse briefly talks about power and influence in this YouTube video:

        Discussion Questions
      • How does the authority to lead influence the ability to lead? Or does it?
      • How does situation awareness fit into a leader's source of power selection?
      • Give an example of how you have given power away to team members.