Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Awaken the Leader Within

"There is only one moment in time when it is necessary to awaken. That moment is NOW."  - Buddha
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to talk to a lot of firefighters about leadership. The comment I hear more often than I would like is, "I don't want to be a leader." Due to the high-risk, high-complexity nature of our business, this comment concerns me. Leadership is about influence and choice. Many of us choose to accept the the title of leader; however, we are all leaders.

At a minimum, every wildland firefighter is a leader of self. No matter your position or title, you make personal decisions--choose what you will and will not do, perform how you will, and trust who you want to trust. You have a personal ethos. You are the master of your domain.

Whether on the fireline or living life, situations will arise that require each of us to embrace a leadership moment. The fact that you don't have a title to lead doesn't mean that you won't be presented with a decision to lead. That decision to lead may be what saves a life--that life may be your own, a stranger, or someone you love.

Therefore, I challenge each of you to awaken the leader within. As a wildland fire leader, you have a duty to other members of the community to be ready when called upon. With or without a title, we are counting on you to be there when you see something that others don't. We need you to practice the art of influence and lead.

Here are a few things you can do now to prepare for the ultimate leadership moment:

  • Embrace the leader within. 
    • You don't need a title, but you need to accept the inevitable. You may need to lead.
  • Initiate or expand your self-development plan. 
  • Know yourself and seek improvement. 
    • Know your strengths and weaknesses in your character and skill level.
    • Ask questions of peers and supervisors.
    • Actively listen to feedback.
  • Seek responsibility and accept responsibility for your actions.
    • Accept full responsibility for and correct poor team performance.
    • Credit others with good performance.
    • Keep others informed of your actions.
  • Set the example.
    •  Share the hazard and hardships with others.
    • Don't show discouragement when facing setbacks.
    • Choose the difficult right over the easy wrong.
About the Author:
Pam McDonald is a writer/editor for BLM Wildland Fire Training and Workforce Development and member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee. The expressions are those of the author.

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