Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Knowing Ourselves and Seeking Improvement

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(Photo credit: Hermera Technologies)
Knowing Ourselves and Seeking Improvement

The starting point for leadership development is self-awareness. In many ways, our greatest challenge is to know ourselves. Self-awareness is an inward application of situation awareness. Fire leaders have an inner drive to analyze and know ourselves. We probe our blind spots and come away resolved to improve ourselves. We honestly appraise our own strengths and weaknesses.

Understanding our abilities and limitations, seeking feedback, learning from our mistakes, knowing where to improve, recognizing when to seek others with complementary strengths—these are all behaviors that enable us to become better leaders. 

Born Versus Made 

Our perspective is that leaders are made, not born. The distribution of innate leadership traits in the wildland fire workforce is similar to the normal Bell Curve distribution for any set of traits in any population. A small percentage of people are natural leaders, possessing the character and traits that compel others to follow them. Another small percentage have character flaws or issues that would prevent them from ever becoming effective leaders. 

Most people—the vast majority—do not come to the job as natural leaders, yet they have the ability to become very effective leaders by working to develop their leadership skills. 

The wildland fire service cannot be successful depending on that small percentage of natural leaders. As a result, we accept the responsibility of making ourselves the best leaders that we can be, continuously embracing opportunities to learn the art of leadership through formal training, field experience, and self-development. The best leaders are life-long students of leadership.

Increasing What is Known 

Fire leaders seek and accept feedback to maintain accurate situation awareness about ourselves. We are willing to examine and probe blind spots, seeking feedback from others. Because blind spots can lead to problems, leaders accept and act on feedback as part of the responsibility to mitigate error. 

Effective leaders also share information about themselves with others. Greater situation awareness about the leader builds trust among team members and enables them to help the leader compensate for weaknesses. 

Seeking and accepting feedback and sharing information enables leaders to increase what is known among team members and contributes to the development of a strong team. 

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