The definition of something “world-class” years ago led me to consider what we mean in the fire service when we say “world-class” in the same breath as “progressive” and “professional”. The use of these terms is truly in the eye of the beholder. Given the evidence that continues to mount in the Charleston incident, many people in that community are struggling through the nightmare of believing their fire department was the definition of excellence only to find that the leadership mentality was still operating in the past.
I guess its all in how you frame your reference as to what is acceptable versus what is “excellent”. It certainly sounds as if that culture is evolving into a better place with Chief Carr at the helm. But across the entire fire service, while exposed to so many ideas, we continue visit the same problems within our own organizations that other organizations have been experiencing for years.
Professionalism or progressiveness isn’t defined by experiencing the same problems over and over again. Being effective doesn’t include repeating mistakes that others have made, got the t-shirt for, and moved on from. If learning isn’t occurring from all of the rhetoric, then what use is it? When your organization is experiencing such dysfunction that it is obvious even to the newest recruit, then how clueless are you to insist that everything is coming up roses?
The sad part is that this lesson has to come on the backs of dedicated firefighters and the deaths of our brothers. While it appears our friends in Charleston are moving forward, we continue to read story after story around the rest of the nation of lessons that continue to be learned the hard way. After all, how many unbelted firefighter LODDs need we read about before deciding once and for all that using our seatbelt is a smart idea?
Instead of reading the news and saying, “Wow, that’s incredible”, perhaps we should be saying, “Wow, how do I make sure that doesn’t happen here?” Be an agent of productive and progressive change. Set the positive example and show others what the real definition of progressive and professional is and be a real leader.