Karma

Caroline and Honora by the pool in Orlando.  Emma, of course, is in the pool.

Caroline and Honora by the pool in Orlando. Emma, of course, is in the pool.

I happen to be posting this from poolside in sunny Orlando, Florida and simultaneously drinking a fruited beer, Corona Light to be exact.  My daughters are enjoying their lunch and my wife (the Owner, CEO, and Lead Visionary of KPM Flooring) is attending a very chi-chi meet-and-greet event with the gang from Artistic Tile, a very innovative bunch who has some really fashion-forward and innovative flooring designs.

This leads me to talk a little but about karma.  I believe in karma, or at least in the concept that what you reap is what you sow.  The other day, for example, there was a bee on the floor of my garage. To be specific, it was a carpenter bee, those pests who dig into any exposed woodwoork and destroy it by burrowing and laying larvae, which then add to the destruction by burrowing out. I was carrying a bag of trash to the service yard and threw the bag on top of the bee. End of story?  Perhaps, but not quite. Three days later, mind you, I went to put the bag of trash into the service yard and barefoot, stepped on the bee. While the bee had gone on the the great hive in the sky, it’s stinger was still poised and ready for action. Thus a painful stick in the foot and yes, karma. I cursed in pain for only a moment until looking down and seeing what had caused this, and suddenly laughed; I had it coming to me, I guess.

So while being humble, I certainly don’t believe I actually deserve anything good that has happened to me, I can say that I try to lead a good life and do right by others and when good things happen to me, I like to think that being good to others had a little to do with it.  However, I hate to get too convinced that things will always be good; that might border on hubris.

But while we can’t always expect things will go right if we do well by others, I can suggest to you that as a leader, if you fail to do right by your subordinates or colleagues, if things don’t go badly now, once others realize your vulnerabilities, they will.

People will gladly work for and with someone they like and respect.  People will also tolerate a certain amount of dislike and disrespect before someone has enough and that person becomes the leader’s foil.  In some cases even, that individual will do whatever they can to undermine the leader.

While Machiavelli suggests that fear is stronger than love and others find that a cowed nation will serve a tyrant willingly, history has shown that ultimately tyrants often are overthrown and die horrible deaths. I think that while it is okay to be a strong leader, one must lead with good judgment and compassion.

Leaders must consider the impact of their decisions and know that failing to be fair, prudent, and stalwart will only bear bad fruit.  People will follow good leaders and do what they can to remove bad ones.  If you take the time to be understanding and enlightened, you too can have your day in the sun.  Be open to others and demonstrate excellence in leadership.  If you can be like this, you can lead multitudes; if not, you won’t be leading long.  Thanks for reading.

3 Comments

  • Tom says:

    I get the whole reap what you so idea. However, when I look at my department and granted I’m still only a firefighter, albeit with 10 years on the job, at what a most members feel is a good boss I’m concerned. To most of the guys a good leader/boss is someone who stays out of the way, doesn’t ask too much, doesn’t expect much and lets guys do whatever as long as he doesn’t get into trouble and when we are at a fire is agressive and not talkative on the radio. Those pesky size up reports are bull crap, plus not everyone has a radio anyway so who would hear it? Ok I’m ranting now. Anyway, yes you reap what you sow, but what if the attitude is don’t sow?

  • truck6alpha says:

    Tom,

    Unfortunately, I get e-mails and comments from lots of fire and EMS folks who say the same thing and to me, it’s a symptom of how poorly the emergency services select leaders, which is a bigger symptom of the problem we face internationally.

    When I say that overall, the “leaders” of our industry are the people who stepped forward and said “I’m the leader” rather than having qualifications, it would be a pretty accurate assessment. If you look at any number of studies, fire officers in most places aren’t required to have much more than time in rank and a cursory test before they are thrust into roles they aren’t able to handle. Even some of the most well-intended officers I have met with don’t have a firm grasp on global issues that affect our industry, don’t have an understanding of budgeting and programming, and don’t understand how to develop subordinates, except by the way they themselves were developed, which is largely- “Do this.” Thus, officers aren’t taught to think, they are taught to react.

    I have said to others that there are plenty of ideas about what to do and my first instinct is to try to be the lone beacon of rational and enlightened leadership, and try to outlast the others. That will buy you time to 1) learn the system and use it to your advantage to educate other like minded individuals, 2) establish your own credentials in the hopes that maybe someone will recognize your ability and take you under their wing, 3) add to your resume so that if things don’t get better you can split at the best opportunity.

    My best advice to you involves two things: first, find other like minded individuals in your organization and develop a “support group”. When an organization I was in at one point was at it’s lowest, there were a core group of us who would go out and have beers and pizza, and instead of complaining, establish ways to improve things, and how to survive, mostly. It’s an internal network, but from there, you can use that network to help establish an external network- people from across the nation or the region who also think alike. You are already doing this by participating on this website, as are probably other sites you are commenting on.

    The value of networking is that the ideas you pick up help recharge your batteries, the others give you support and encouragement, and mostly, the interactions provide opportunities to shine, elsewhere if need be. Be open minded and keep learning and keep in touch. Hopefully you can find creative ways to improve yourself and your organization and move forward.

    Anyone else reading these comments have any ideas, or want to network with Tom? Please feel free to jump in…

  • Tom says:

    Thanks for the positive feedback and please for anyone reading this please do not think that 1) I’m against agressive interior attack. I’m all for it. It’s our job and what we get paid for. 2) That I’m against any kind of seniority promotion. What I’m against is everyone getting promoted because it’s their turn. What my members will tell you is that it’s the fairest system and just because you’re a book work won’t make you a good boss. This is true, but neither does sititng around waiting for your turn. Just because you can be a boss doesn’t mean you should.

    Our brother’s in blue (law enforcement) don’t seem to have this problem. Most L.E. departments require some sort of degree to hired plus the academy and promotion will most always included some sort of written and oral examination. When you look at who works in Emergency Preparedness or Disaster Response positions in a government they are filled by police officers. Why? It seems to me that the LE community requires, nationwide it seems, education and training beyond the academy.

    While no promotion system is perfect and there will always be complaints I have always been an advocate of a testing and seniority system. Testing to be a written (i.e. dept SOP’s, tactics and strategy, etc), seniority (i.e. 1/2 point for each of service). Anyway my ideas for a utopian fire department.
    I have reached out to members with similar ideas, but I’ve got to be careful it’s almost like recruiting for a rebellion.

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