Next Man Up

I was catching up on my reading and came upon an interesting tidbit.  While I have heard it said before, I never really ascribed to the concept that when a leader is cut down, the enemy is unable to function.  This was apparently a widely held belief in World War II which led to some surprise when, after cutting down an officer, confusion did not necessarily occur.

On teams where a leader takes a very regimented stance and fails to entrust his or her subordinates with the "keys to the ship", there may very well be some disarray when something happens to that leader.  Believing that to be true disregards the power of initiative when the leader falls, which has historically been the very opportunity seized by those who are now considered to be our most treasured heroes.  Think of all of the Congressional Medal of Valor winners who have stepped up in the wake of a lost officer.  Think about the forces of the FDNY who charged forward when they lost so many of their commanders on 9-11-2001.  And you can trace back throughout the story of mankind where this has happened again and again.

It is necessary for not only officers to show leadership, but everyone, all the way to the probie on their first shift.  It is important to know that being a leader is contextual.  You may not be the ranking officer on your department, but when something goes wrong, you may very well be the one who has to step forward and take action. You may need to be the one who says, "Follow me" and charges ahead.  Or you may be the one to coax someone to go be seen by a physician even though it's three in the morning and you don't feel like transporting, but because this individual needs your leadership at that moment, you do it, and it's because it's the right thing to do.

Leading implies by its very nature that you are "in front".  And being in front places you in a very vulnerable position.  But the vulnerability keeps us honest and causes us, if we really are leaders, to act with diligence and to be restrained when it becomes advantageous, especially for those whom we lead.  Leading is mostly give and sometimes take, but mostly give again and again.  Leading is serving others.

We have to foster leadership tendencies in our followers and this is best done by our example.  Being a "just" leader shows everyone that doing the right things for others has merit, and it hopefully breeds a culture of everyone on the team doing these same things and stepping in if something happens to you, and then even with the same results.

Share your vision with others, especially those on your team, and bring them up to your level.  They will in turn lighten your load and someday, hopefully, cause you an enormous amount of pride.

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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.

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