What It Means to Be An Exceptional Leader

As you look around society today, it gets more and more difficult to find principle-based leaders. Passing the buck is commonplace as everyone points the finger at someone else. Society is starving for quality leadership and it's no different in fire...


As you look around society today, it gets more and more difficult to find principle-based leaders. Passing the buck is commonplace as everyone points the finger at someone else. Society is starving for quality leadership and it's no different in fire departments all over the world. Firefighters want...


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When you empower people, you communicate that you trust them to use their best judgment. If you can't trust them to do that, you probably haven't provided adequate training. If you have provided adequate training and coaching and a firefighter still isn't using good judgment, discipline needs to follow. If the discipline does not change the behavior, the firefighter may need to consider a different line of work. Unfortunately, because most fire departments have a few dense firefighters who refuse to use good judgment, every other firefighter is punished by being denied the opportunity to be empowered in any way they can be. Company officers and chief officers must step up and discipline firefighters who need it and the union needs to back that discipline so the other firefighters can have confidence that management and labor share the desire to have the highest levels of excellence in the department at every level.

Empowerment increases morale and lets firefighters take ownership in their departments. People find it difficult to buy in to missions, visions and goals that they didn't help create. Empower your firefighters to become part of the process and you will be amazed at the increase in participation. Exceptional leaders empower others.

Respond Humbly

Humility is a highly desirable trait in a leader. Many leaders in the fire service mistakenly think that if they are to exhibit confidence, they can't exhibit humility. You can be highly confident as a leader and still be humble. In fact, those are the easiest leaders to follow. No one wants to follow a humble leader who is insecure or unsure. No one wants to follow a confident leader who is arrogant either.

Humility is best exhibited in your ability to listen and take input from others. If you invalidate the ideas and input of others, people will view you as arrogant. If people come to you and point out an area you could improve in, respond humbly. If people come to you and praise your abilities, respond humbly. If you have offended someone or acted like a jerk and you know it, swallow that pride and respond humbly.

When you maximize your mistakes, people want to minimize them. When you minimize your mistakes, people want to maximize them. When you exalt yourself, people want to humble you. When you humble yourself, people want to exalt you. Humility covers a wide variety of areas as a leader, and exceptional leaders will respond humbly. Just remember the words of Ezra Taft Benson: "Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right."

If you want to become an exceptional leader, these are a few key areas you can start with. Love what you do, excel in competency, act with integrity, demonstrate accountability, empower others and respond humbly. Society is absolutely starving for exceptional leaders and you have an opportunity to step up in your department and be the leader your fellow firefighters need.

KIMBERLY ALYN is a best-selling author and an international fire service speaker. She is the owner of Fire Presentations (www.Fire-Presentations.com), a company dedicated to presentations and training workshops for the fire service. Alyn works with fire departments across the country on firefighter and officer development, and is the author of 10 books and eight CD/DVD productions. She holds a bachelor's degree in management and a master's degree in organizational management. Alyn can be reached at 800-821-8116 or kim@firepresentations.com.