Tuesday, January 26, 2016

South Puget Sound Shows How to Lead by Following

A few weeks ago, we announced the winners of the 2015 IGNITE - From the Field for the Field Contest award winners. Thanks goes out to all those who participated.

Over the next couple of months, we will share leadership nuggets from the submissions. Even though we share them, we HIGHLY recommend you read review the application packets for yourself. After all, they are FROM THE FIELD FOR THE FIELD!

First Place Winners
Washington Department of Natural Resources
- South Puget Sound Region -


Within our organizations – particularly in governmental organizations – change is often dictated by something well outside our control and we are tasked with implementing the change. Instead of being a blind follower and doing something that someone else told you to do, become an active follower in your organization who is the transition point in the chain and become the one to lead the change. This way of thinking is best summed up in the following passage by Sergeant First Class Michael T. Woodward, in the US Army journal Infantry:
Effective leadership requires followers who are more than Pavlovian reactors to their leaders’ influences. When followers actively contribute, are aware of their function, and take personal pride in the art of followership, then the joint purpose of leadership and followership – higher levels of mission accomplishment – is achieved effectively.
This mindset on change is not limited to or unique to our program, nor is it something that can only be implemented when you “have the time.” By all measures, Washington State had its worst fire season on record in 2015 (over one million acres burned to date). The above examples are what we have been able to implement throughout an extraordinary fire season and we have at least half a dozen ideas so far that we plan to implement for 2016. All these examples stemmed from a change outside of our control where we saw an opportunity to implement an idea and help guide the change. While the ideas hatched and pursued may be different, the mindset can be used effectively in any group – an engine module, a Hotshot crew, a fire district, and even at a state or federal agency level. The only limitation is your willingness to accept and promote the mindset. This is when followership is leadership; where the synergy between the two produces greatness and the opportunity to Lead the Change.

Listed below are some of the activities SPS wants to share with you. Click here to download SPS's packet with more details about how they implemented their leadership development.


South Puget Initial Attack
Changed the crews' mindsets as mop-up specialists to initial attack resources. 

A-Team Pro Tip
Captured learning opportunities and shared them immediately with the engine crews via text message.

Teambuilding Day
One full day committed entirely to building cohesion among all crews. This one-day catalyst sets the tone for the season. 

A-Team Leadership Award
The fire foresters established a leadership award for exemplary performance. Selection must be a unanimous decision and may not be awarded annually.


Leadership Library
Started a leadership library with books received from the 2014 IGNITE contest. Region staff added books and videos to create an ever-growing selection. 

Fire Training Academy and the L-280 Roadshow
Volunteered to teach L-280 courses at the fire training academy as well in other regions. Exposed non-fire program staff to leadership. 

Hose Drills - Seasonal vs. Permanent
Broke down barriers between season and permanent personnel and built team cohesion through proficiency drills. 

Shared Ideas on Leadership
Shared leadership ideas and exercises between non-fire workgroups and fire workgroups. 

Our success to date has driven us to push our ideas up the chain to the top of our agency and to the leadership of our cooperating partners. The fire districts that we share wildland protection with are impacted the most by this, so we’ve paid particular attention to their needs and made conscious efforts to develop ideas with them.

Annual Refresher Module - Leadership Greatness and Apollo 13
Developed a leadership module for our annual refresher that was built around David Marquet’s “Greatness” speech/video and the “Houston, we have a problem” scene in Apollo 13.

Fire Open House
Established an open house for all fire districts within our region to meet face-to-face with our cooperating partners in a controlled setting. Doing so gave us a significant advantage this fire season when we were able to recognize and make a connection with our counterparts as we arrived on scene of rapidly expanding incidents.

Cooperating Agency Initial Attack AARs
Expanded AARs to involve cooperating agencies.

Developing Training Opportunities
Recognized areas of need and took the initiative to address them, including wildland awareness training for structural firefighters.

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