Tuesday, August 20, 2019

We are all replaceable, but...

future (finger point to you)
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 
As I write this blog, I look in the review mirror of a 35-year career in wildland fire. When I started in wildland fire at the age of 19, I had no idea the job I took to help pay for college and an education in business administration and high school vocational education would become the vocation from which I would retire. But here I am with three to five years left until retirement.

For the last 19 years, I have had the unique opportunity to work in the interagency environment at the National Interagency Fire Center and help promote the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program. During that time, I have helped nurture many of the programs used in the field today. Some include staff rides, leadership campaigns, Leadership in Media, Professional Reading Program, as well as the social media platforms. I have also been the logistics coordinator for the NWCG Leadership Committee.

I am not tooting my own horn here, and I want to remain as humble as possible. I could not do what I do without a lot of help, a great team, and most importantly you, our followers. I know I am a pivot point for the program, but I am replaceable. Even though I am replaceable, it might be difficult to replace me (or so I am told).

Part of a leader's job is to lead others well enough that you can be replaced. Everyone can be replaced, but who replaces you is important. If you have done your job well, there should be someone ready to take your place or at least making the case for the type of person who should replace you.

Well, here is the confession. I won't know if I have made the case. This job is a collateral duty for the most part. My agency backs my participation which complements my writer/editor position. However, I don't know if my replacement (if there is one) will assume my duties. Additionally, the individuals I have groomed as my backups have moved up in the service and don't have the time. They want to help; they just can't. 

It might be hard to replace me, but it can be done. I don't just want anybody. I want someone who will love what was created and has the will to make it better. There is someone (or a couple someones) who loves leadership like I do. Someone who watches a movie and says, "This is a great leadership movie and need to tell the Leadership Media Coordinator." Someone who likes to read, write, learn, and unlearn. There are those out there that want to be involved and just didn't know the opportunity exists. There are agencies out there that understand the importance of leadership and are willing to give someone the operational flexibility to support the cause.

This is a job that doesn't come with a position or pay (other than that from your day job). It comes with a great team—some of the finest leaders in the service—who cares about the future of the wildland fire service,. It comes with a joy of helping others. It comes with a lifetime of learning.

Are you that one (or more) who isn't afraid to "do leadership" and is willing to put yourself out there? Are you the one who doesn't have to have a position to lead and willingly serves for the greater good? If you are, be sure to reach out. Together we can make a difference.

I know I am leaving tools of the program better than when we started (shoot many didn't exist). My hope is pass the baton onto someone who have a deep sense of duty, respect, and integrity and isn't afraid to lead.

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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