Many people feel that desire is the sole requirement for being a leader. "I want it, therefore I should get it" seems to be their motto. This is not how I see it. Even if you wish to become a leader for all of the wrong reasons, you need to gather a certain amount of knowledge into your being and psyche. If you just want the white helmet and the red car, there are a number of things that you need to know.
In this the 21st Century, many of the old methods need to give way to the new realities we are facing. Many times people forget to gather the requisite knowledge that they will need to do the job they have targeted. I believe there is a minimum of technical and human relation's knowledge that you need to gather and absorb.
You will also be required to share knowledge periodically. This means that you will need to know a bit about being an instructor. Those who do not bother to prepare for a position of leadership are at the root of most of our problems. These shallow sorts of leaders have no concept of their responsibility to train, prepare, and take care of the troops. They gather an inner circle of associates who mirror their views and proceed to run roughshod over people whom they consider unworthy of associating with them and their stalwarts. When things go wrong, as they so often do, the first words out of their mouths are along the lines of, "...what's the matter, can't you people follow orders?"
Sadly, leaders like this fail to consider that the orders the hurl about may have been incorrect, or inappropriate. They fail to recognize that their lack of technical expertise was the root cause of issuing an order that was incorrect to start with, and stood no chance of success. No, they firmly believe that it is the fault of the dummies that they are forced to work with that cannot do what they are told. Rather than light a single candle, they choose to curse the darkness of their selfish little world.
Can you see what I am saying though? The old ways of doing business are not going to work in the midst of the new realities we face. In the final analysis, the modern leader may well reach a point where the face their governing body and state grimly that they can do x number of things with x number of dollars. They must gird their loins for the battle and be aware that honesty is not always a comfortable place when it comes to taking responsibility within the public sector.
HARRY R. CARTER, Ph.D., CFO, MIFireE, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, is a municipal fire protection consultant based in Adelphia, NJ. Dr. Carter retired from the Newark, NJ, Fire Department and is a past chief and active life member of the Adelphia Fire Company. He recently published Leadership: A View from the Trenches and Living My Dream: Dr. Harry Carter's 2006 FIRE Act Road Trip. You can reach Harry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.