The Way of The Chief

The chief who is resolute, brave, and strong is capable of leading fire companies into battle. The chief who is intelligent and visionary is capable of developing the department. Chiefs who are strong and brave, while possessing intelligence and vision, are capable of leading thousands.

We tend to think that one set of characteristics is independent of the other, when in fact, there are those who have learned to develop all of these qualities. Rhett Fleitz, over on Fire Critic, posed the question, “Who will be our new leaders in the fire service?” Who are tomorrow’s Brunos and Yvarras? Our Downeys and Dunns? The Brennans and the Brannigans? What did these people possess that we, perhaps, do not?

Maybe things like charisma, or an innate knowledge of what ideas stick and how to sell them to others? Or perhaps it is simply a passion for their ideas? Is it that they cared for others so much that they were/are compelled to share all of their riches, which in their cases were their vision of something better than the status quo?

If you look at my list, you’ll note that some of those names are no longer with us and some still are. While legends may grow after someone passes away, none of the individuals identified in my short list became legendary only after their demise. In fact, when they left us, they were very much in the leading edge. Those on the list who are still among us, although retired, are still sharing their passion with us today. They could easily have gone to hang out at the pool and sip Mimosas, but they still can be heard and seen, sharing their vision, and probably will up to the day they too leave us (hopefully nowhere near soon).

When you think about who these new visionaries are, do you say to yourself that they should be instruments of conveying today’s knowledge or are they those who share the idea of what it could be if we all apply ourselves? Because of today’s ability to reach out over the internet, I’d suggest there may be more “candidates” for those “positions”, simply because we were limited, in the early days of my career, to those who were able to come to me, or I to them. Now you can find an expert on every click of the mouse.

What constitutes the next leader of the fire service? Which qualities break someone out from the pack? You tell me. As far as I am concerned, we have lots of leaders now, and we have none. We should all be reaching out to exceed even what we perceive is our potential, understanding that the only limitations we possess are the ones we have given ourselves or gave permission to others to place on us. Until we can look past what is and look toward what can be, we will remain right here in our own existence. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” If you want to be the next leader, it’s yours to reach out and grab.


  • Peter Lupkowski says:

    Thanks for sharing the “Zen” with us Mick. There are lots of different kinds of leaders out there but I always enjoy the one that challenges me. Keep it up.

  • Chicken Little pointed me over here to see this. It was kind of spooky, because the reason he did so is that you and I sort of blogged of the same thing, on the same day, though in very different ways. Frankly, you did a much better job of articulating some of the things I rolling around in my skull.

    So… I wonder what it was about April 15th that got us on that topic. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • truck6alpha says:

    Funny thing is that I was driving home from my shift and heard something on NPR about strong leadership and I was thinking that there needs to really be balance (which, if you are a student of Eastern Philosophy like I dabble in, it might have occurred to you as well if you heard the piece). I’ll go check out your post and perhaps we can share some reflections on the subject. Thanks for coming to see!

  • Kind of funny, I blogged about this topic in a different kind of way and wound up with a one day rip after someone with many more bugles than I took a personal exception to it. While I agree with the premise of your post I continue to not hold out much hope for individuals that are driven to make a difference and try to shake-up the status quo, at least in my area. In order for the next leaders to take over they have to be recognized as such. In my personal experience we have many more managers than leaders. These managers think of themselves as leaders but really do not know that there is a difference between the two or what that is. While it is certainly possible to lead from the bottom it is much easier and influential to do it from the middle or the top. Getting into those positions is exceedingly difficult when those that are of the managing mind-set are the ones influencing the promotions. You begin to see a pattern of a certain “type” being promoted and they emulate those that are already above them. Frustrating.

  • Mick –

    As you know, I responded to Rhett’s original post in a somewhat tongue and cheek manner.

    This part of your blog really struck a chord with me: “… understanding that the only limitations we possess are the ones we have given ourselves or gave permission to others to place on us.”

    That very last part is something I really hadn’t given much thought to, at least for quite a while. There are/have been people in my life who I have “given permission” to limit my potential for leading.

    In my “Fix It.” ( New Year’s Resolution/Mantra I published several years ago, I encouraged the reader to never let anyone — or anything — prevent you from being the firefighter you want to be. The same could be said for one’s want to be a leader.

    I’ve never had much respect for those in charge of the “progress prevention department” in our fire service but this certainly motivates me to take them to task on several new levels.

    Thanks as always for being thought-provoking.

    Stay safe. Train often.

  • truck6alpha says:

    Thanks for commenting and I just wanted to reflect a little on the last two comments. While Tiger points out that we should never let anything stand in between us and being the leader we want to be, Hallway Sledge points out that there are times when our desire to lead are suppressed by those who lead us.

    I agree 100% with those observations and would also share that there have been a share of times when I too faced those who, because they felt threatened or their egos needed stroking, were hurdles in the path of my quest to be a good leader. I would also suggest that all things are temporary: either those people will leave (voluntarily or summarily) or you will have to make the decision to remove yourself from the equation.

    Fortunately, I found the ability to land on my feet the first time this happened to me (and I had to make the decision to leave for my own good). In later situations, I found the ability to either outlast or outsmart those who sought to marginalize me. I have been rewarded by the ability to currently work in an enriching and participative environment and since we have accomplished so much, I would hope that others see that this model is successful.

    But trust me, I totally understand how efforts by us to achieve enlightenment can be shoved into the dirt by those who “lead” us. Good luck on dealing with those individuals.

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