Blame First

Blame then find out the facts.  It’s become the American way. We all get it: reaching for a headline, individuals are indicted in the media, who then are leapt upon by the masses.  Time after time, this scenario continues to pop up and with the anonymity of the internet, what used to be bad journalism has become blood sport.  Being tried in the media is one thing, but you know, we don’t have to buy into it.  No matter how sensational the headline, there is always more to the story.

Lest you think this is some scathing review of my buddy Dave's chosen profession, think again.  I am simply using it as a convenient analogy to focus on a leadership issue we are probably all familiar with. This would be the situation in which as officers or leaders, we find a problem, and in our haste to rain shit down on the heads of the offenders, fail to consider there might be a plausible explanation for the "error".

As usual, don't think that I am without blame.  Most of the things I write about I have myself engaged in throughout my career.  But I use this blog as a means to educate you all on things I have seen and see over thirty years on the job and hopefully, maybe, I can make a difference in your own careers.

So back from the disclaimer, I just want to make sure you understand that being appreciative of all the facts doesn't make you a weak leader.  In fact, your judicious use of power strengthens your hand.  If you strike a dog too many times, it will eventually turn on you.  Likewise, if you are too heavy-handed with the troops, they eventually come to resent you.  This can have farther reaching implications than you may ever realize, especially when there is that position you have always wanted and you don't get it because the people you supervise won't support you.  But that being said, the real reason for considering all sides before rushing to judgment is because it is a hallmark of "Just Leadership".

I said a while back that Capt. Tom over at pointed me in the direction of the concept of "Just Leadership" as the root of a just organizational culture.  Phil LaDuke, who has a blog on the subject, really explains it well and I think this is a subject that a lot of leaders simply don't get.  From his blog:

Just leaders share characteristics that set them apart from the pack. These leaders see themselves as leaders first and foremost and they live their lives by a code of conduct that is set not be some artificial external criteria but by their personal values…A just leader is able to clearly articulate his or her values and institutionalize  those values into a work culture that is fair and just.

An integral part of just leadership requires an appreciation for the whole story, not just the part you want to hear.  Just leaders get to the heart of the matter in a rational, unemotional way and approach the development of solutions via time-honored means, like getting the people involved in the problem to solve the problem.  In doing so, they can understand the root cause better and they can learn to "fish for themselves".  This is truly transformational leadership.

I highly recommend looking further into each situation deeper before rushing to judgment.  At first you may find it to move slower than you choose, but ultimately, you will see that the outcomes are much fairer and better received by all involved, especially when your charges see that you aren't going to go off half-cocked at every challenge that comes along. And even better, the example you set will hopefully be seen and adhered to by others aspiring to lead, and they too will govern in a similar manner.  THAT is how we change our organizational culture for the better.

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Michael "Mick" Mayers

Deputy Fire Chief - Operations Division for Hilton Head Island (SC) Fire Rescue and an Emergency Response Coordinator with the United States Department of Health and Human Services  National Disaster Medical System Incident Response Coordination Team.
Recent Posts
Colin Fanning
The Roto-Ray: Beauty or Beast?
One of the most important facts we reviewed when deciding on the roto ray purchase was this; With the speeds of traffic on SC 278, by the time people heard the sirens on our fire trucks our light bars (on top of the roof) were out of sight. The roto ray, with its mounted location…
2014-07-25 15:07:00
Mick Mayers
Questioning Heroism
Thanks, Bryan! I genuinely believe I do and they tend to reward me with professionalism, innovation, and compassion to our citizens daily. That's something I am happy to facilitate.
2014-07-15 04:10:00
Bryan G. Riebe
Questioning Heroism
Chief, appreciated in your response to Geoff that you work for the FFs. Believe if more Chiefs lived that philosophy our fire services would be bastions of honor, ethics, and human potential.
2014-07-15 00:05:00
Christopher Roy
Questioning Heroism
Geoff, EMS, as its own service, does not have a strong voice and in turn, does not get the respect in the media/public that it does deserve. I do hope that changes. EMS doesn't have a home either, and that doesn't help. There are so many different delivery methods in this country that its probably…
2014-07-14 23:49:00
Mick Mayers
Questioning Heroism
I'm sorry you feel that way, Geoff. The department I work with has been doing EMS (advanced care AND transport) with cross-trained personnel for over twenty years and doing a pretty good job. Our community expects a certain level of service that we have been able to provide through that model and while not every…
2014-07-14 22:01:00

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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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