Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Culture Clash

Wildland Fire Leadership Values and Principles

While searching for inspiration for this week's blog, I picked up my copy of Gilbert W. Fairholm's book Leadership and the Culture of Trust. The first three paragraphs of the book inspired post.
It is clear that much of current American culture works against internal unity and cohesion. Multiple competing cultures and subcultures with attendant different value systems are challenging our cultures from within and without. We are now in a situation in America where most organizations try to cope with multiple diverse value systems espoused by each of their stakeholder groups.
  • Do you know the values of your team, unit, or the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program? Can you without hesitation list your personal values?
  • How does your team subculture fit within your unit subculture within your district/zone/state subculture, within the wildland fire service culture?
  • How do your personal value system fit within the values and principles established for the wildland fire service? 
  • How do you mitigate the effects of personal value clashes within your team?
 Leadership in this cultural environment is difficult at best, impossible at worst. It stretches our collective imagination to suggest that one person can, by dint of individual personality or capacity, bring together a group of diverse individuals and groups to produce anything. The task is simply beyond the capacity of any one leader. This is especially true when effort is also directed to respect, honor, and preserve largely intact each cultural subset's unique values, customs, and traditions.
  • Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why or why not?
  • Can one person make a difference? Who is that "one person"?
  • Discuss how "command and control" relates. What are the pros and cons of the "command and control" model? Would another model?
  • Discuss the values of a mission-driven culture? Are they something you can accept?
There is little hope that acceptance of multiple and diverse internally competing value systems will produce stable, effective, responsive economic, social, or governmental organizations. The likelihood is that all that will be produced is balkanization. There is even less hope that a situation of unrestrained cultural diversity will result in a cure for our social ills and restore a nurturing culture most Americans can accept and to which they can conform.
  • Share with your team members a time when a clash of value systems caused balkanization (to "balkanize" means to "divide...into smaller mutually hostile states or groups", Google) within a group. Be respectful in your sharing and discussion.
  • What sort of emotion does the term "conform" raise?
  • What methods or standard of behavior does your team employ to promote healthy conflict and differing views to bring diverse team members to an "acceptable" place?
Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge - Digging a Little Deeper
  • Have a member of your group research the concept of "collective consciousness" and discuss this concept within the group. 
  • Discuss the following quote from Louis Savary and Patricia Berne, Teilhard de Chardin on Love: Evolving Human Relationships.
Love is the most powerful force or energy in the universe. That power is multiplied in relationships. Love’s potency is released most powerfully among people who have formed a relationship (a union). People who truly unite for a purpose beyond themselves become “differentiated” as they unite and work together in a shared consciousness to achieve their larger purpose.
Lead through relationships by building your team today. SHARE today!

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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