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.