The next step of progression is middle management or the beginning of the bell portion of the bugle, for lack of better terminology. These are the ones who realistically get it done in the fire service, much like the sergeants in the military. They have boots on the ground; they have direct connection to both the firefighters on the floor as well as the ones in the hall. And they have the responsibility of having broad enough perspective of their department to lead those who follow them and answer to those they follow.
At the top of the bugle, the one person who should have the broadest of perspective about how a fire department operates, the politics (yes, a necessary evil), the personnel management, the payroll if applicable, and a host of other intricate aspects of leading a fire department of today, is (or should be) the chief. They should have the biggest picture and the ability to make decisions based on that perspective, regardless of popularity or fear of reprisal.
Where I have recognized frequent problems and the “us versus them” mindset that often times finds its way onto the bay floor, is when people move up the bugle (promotions), but ignore or miss the boat when it comes to consideration for all that there is involved with leading firefighters and ultimately a fire department. This leads to a hostile work environment at best and an ineffective fire department at the very least.
So the question begs to be asked, how do we minimize the potential for inept leaders and pay raises instead of promotions? Well, that my friends begins with you and I, at least in my useless opinion. Someone in my career imparted some spectacular wisdom upon me, “Do not give up when you cannot change what you see as wrong, instead work hard to put yourself in a position where you can successfully improve on it and avoid the mistakes of others while you do.” That work, I submit, begins with you and me.
Now please do not consider me sitting on a perch and speaking from on high. I am not an officer, yet. I am a senior firefighter who above even my own ambition, wants only to see our service progress despite financial constraints, despite less desirables amongst our ranks, and despite ourselves. I have only recently figured out where on the bugle I fall and what it is that I lack to move up. Now the challenge remains, how do I make the changes to get up there? So to you I pose the question, “Where are you on the bugle?”
See Lee Live! Lee Levesque will be presenting “Public Relations & Fire Prevention: Effective Tactics for the 21st Century Fire Service,” with Dan Byrne, at Firehouse Expo, July 19 – 23, in Baltimore.
LEE LEVESQUE is a firefighter and public affairs officer for the Lady's Island St. Helena Fire District in South Carolina. A 20 year veteran of the fire service, both career and volunteer, and is a fire and life safety educator instructor. Lee is a member of the NFA Alumni Association. You can reach Lee by e-mail at: email@example.com.