Leadership That Matters, Part 8

A good friend I have known since our teenage years is a writer (and a reader of FHZ, thanks!) and upon catching the Twitter link the other day re-tweeted with with the comment that what she loved about the post  was "the exhortation to THINK".  And really, it's what I am truly asking you to do when you read this series.  Not only that, it does no good for us to keep this to ourselves.  I am also exhorting you, to use this very appropriate word, to share it with others and to get THEM to think.

The only way you will achieve this ability to lead with altruistic values is to do it yourself and make it a hallmark of your leadership.  You alone must develop your own instinct as to what works and what does not, but as I tell my people all the time, "If you are caught between two alternatives and can't decide, choose the right one."

I can't tell you what the right alternative is.  Only you can know what is and isn't.  In the First Book of Kings, when Solomon was asked in a dream what he desired, his answer was not riches or fame, but an understanding mind, by which he might discern between good and evil.  With the knowledge of what is right and wrong, you can truly achieve greatness.  But what is right, like beauty, can often be in the eye of the beholder.

There are those subordinates, however, for whom altruistic leadership is poses challenges, in that they are either unable or unwilling to receive the message. We'll talk about the first one here today and the latter in the next post.

The new member of your team requires your empathy, your efforts to understand, and your patience.  Depending on their level of competence, however, your efforts at leading them must be more directorial in the tasks that keep them safe (and the rest of the team) and the soft skills, like dealing with people, can be handled in a more approachable manner.

Eight years ago, when I was still a Captain, I wrote an article for Withthecommand.com about the analogy of training your family pet as related to training your personnel.  A Dog's Lesson In Discipline was one of my first online articles and it was about the techniques I encountered in training our long since deceased Dalmation, Beau.  If you have firefighters who require closer supervision because they are new or they are learning a new facet of the job, the expectations must be made clear, the expectations must be appropriate for their skills or abilities, and if the subject fails to comply, either remediation or discipline is warranted, depending on the nature of the failure.  Like the article says, when you give an order, you should expect that it is followed.  If it is not, there MUST be consequences: either the order needs clarification, the subject requires more training, or the subject requires discipline.  Failure to comply must create a reciprocal action, or plan on never having your orders followed.

However, as people begin to become more competent, as they learn to understand exactly what you expect, and they learn to do these things with a minimum of conscious thought (actions become more automatic), you can start increasing the side-by-side type of guidance that altruistic leadership provides.

As a little analogy, if you just ran a long race yourself and found yourself exhausted, yet were running with a friend who is also exhausted, if one of you is too week to walk across the finish line a few feet away, what is the best way to do so?  If you have to do all the pushing, you won't make it.  If you have to do all the pulling, you won't make it. Likewise, it is so for your friend as well. But if you both work together, side by side, it becomes a force multiplier.  Two of you together can create the strength to move forward.

Working together implies sharing the load when it is necessary.  If we sit back and let someone else do all the work, the team gains nothing.  If we do all the work, same result.  If we work together, amazing things happen.  Try it and see.

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Michael "Mick" Mayers

Battalion Chief with Hilton Head Island (SC) Fire and Rescue and an Emergency Response Coordinator with the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ National Disaster Medical System Incident Response Coordination Team.

DISCLAIMER

Although I am affiliated or employed by certain entities, I in no way speak in this forum or others on behalf of those entities unless I have specifically stated such. Any implication otherwise is doing so contrary to my agreements with those entities. The result is that the observations and opinions by myself or on behalf of Firehouse Zen are not sanctioned by any other entity other than Graffiti Train Sherpa Publications and are protected by the copyright laws of the United States of America.

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