Important Qualities for Fire Service Leadership – Part 5

To summarize so far – As part of the National Fire Academy (NFA) Executive Fire Officer Program (EFOP), the student is required to author an Applied Research Project (ARP) within six months of completing each of the four classes. For the executive Leadership class ARP, I sent a  survey to 50 metropolitan departments including my own department at the time. I then compiled the results and completed an ARP that culminated in describing the top 10 leadership qualities that my own department and outside fire departments felt were important for their leaders to have. In this, the last installment in the series, the last two qualities are presented.

2.  Approachable

Be approachable; Listen to both good news and bad news. Be aware of what your body is saying. We all speak with body language, and you don’t have to actually say anything to communicate a message to others. Unfortunately, your body may not always say what you want it to. Approach others. If people aren’t approaching you, why not go to them? Nothing makes you look more outgoing and approachable than actively seeking out people and talking to them. Compliment others. Ask questions. For success, you should be good at making others feel comfortable and important while feeling comfortable yourself.

1.  The number one quality identified by other departments, business leaders, and my own department at the time is Integrity. Today if one performs a google search for top leadership qualities, integrity, honesty or being trustworthy are at the top of almost every list.

As a leader, or as a first year firefighter, one should practice honesty and integrity and treat people the way we would want to be treated. People want to do as good as job as possible. We need to supply them with the tools and allow them to perform. As leaders, a climate of trust and participation is much more important today than ever before. Build ownership by building trust. As a leader, you should never shed the cloak of honor, morality and dignity. As a leader, you should hold a profound conviction of duty above all else. By your own actions, not your words, you establish the morale, integrity and sense of justice of your subordinates. You cannot say one thing and do another.

While there are many definitions of leadership that are published each year in hundreds of books, one thing remains certain, we do seem to think that we know leaders when we see them: they are those individuals who, in their inimitable ways, inspire confidence, undermine despair, fight fear, initiate positive and productive actions, light the candles, define the goals, and paint brighter tomorrow’s.

It has been observed over the years that countries, provinces, cities and lesser organizations rise and fall on the strength of their leaders and on the ability with which their leaders carry out the responsibilities of office – seeking first the good of the people. The fire service in general has strong traditions that bind all of us magically together.

Leadership is not for everyone. If you become one or are one, the rewards can be great and the act becomes fulfilling.

Stay Safe – Everyone Goes Home

BOOKS

Roberts, W. (1989). Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun. New York: Warner Books

Hersey, P. Dr. (1984). The Situational Leader. New York: Warner Books

Bennis, W., & Nanus, B. (1986). Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge. New York: Harper

& Row.

Smith, P. (1998). Rules & Tools For Leaders. Garden City Park, New York, US: Avery

Publishing Group.

Ziglar, Z. (1986). Top Performance. New York: Berkley Books

Maxwell, J.  The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader