All You Need is Love

Once you decide that you are going to be a true leader and an agent of change in your department, be sure to strap on your seatbelt.


Let me begin this visit with you by making an apology to the Beatles. In pursuit of leadership success in the fire service, I have hijacked the title of one of their hit songs. I am referring to the 1967 Beatle's hit song, "All You Need is Love." Hopefully the remaining members of that legendary quartet will forgive me for the use of their words in an education endeavor.

The idea behind this week's visit with you came to me quite suddenly. As is my way, I was reclining in my thinking chair on the front porch of my home here in Adelphia when the creative juices began to flow within a cloud of aromatic cigar smoke. It was my good fortune to be able to spend the better part of a very raining afternoon preparing for a doctoral-level course in leadership which I am facilitating for Capella University in Minneapolis during the summer quarter of this year.

After teaching several quarters of courses in our public safety program which revolved around the world of the National Incident Management System (NIMS), it is indeed a pleasure for me to be able to return to a world with which I am most intimately familiar: leadership. As you all should know by now, leadership has been one of my primary research and writing subjects over the past decade since I retired from the Newark Fire Department back on June 1, 1999.

As I was reading through one of the two texts for the course, I came across a phrase that caught my eye. It was a simple statement, but its meaning leapt off of the page for me. Kouzes and Posner (1987) claim that love is the secret of leadership success.

Suddenly all sorts of weird visions began to run rampant through my brain. My first urge was to begin writing a fictional book entitled Lust Under the Ladder Truck. My thoughts next turned to creating a movie entitled, Pump Operator's Paradise. I actually had to put the book down and repair to the kitchen for a fresh cup (pot) of coffee.

Fortunately, I was soon able to reign in my imagination and return to the world of knowledge and education. Upon further reflection the authors of the text defined love as, "...encouragement, loyalty, teamwork, commitment and respect for the dignity and worth of others" (Anderson, et al, 2006, p.53).

These authors go on to claim that, "...it (love) is an affair of the heart and not of the head" (p.53). I frequently cite Biblical sources as the basis for how far back in history love goes. One of the great messages about love comes from the Book of First Corinthians. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs."

Anderson, et al, (2006) provide an undated version of this verse, one more in line with the way we think and speak today. Part of it goes on to state that "...love doesn't strut; doesn't have a swelled head; doesn't force itself on others; isn't always 'me first'; doesn't fly off the handle; doesn't keep score of the wrongs of others; doesn't revel when others grovel (and)...never looks back but goes on to the end" (p.53). My friends, I believe that this is a terrific modern version of that classic Biblical exhortation.

Like many of you who have a great deal of seniority within the fire service, my initiation into the fire service came at the hands of a great many World War II and Korean War veterans. These folks had come up the hard way, by living through the Depression and World War II. Many of them had earned their spurs in actual, mortal combat. Heck, one of my chief's had a scar from an enemy soldier's bayonet on his side. He used to regale us with stories about how the man who did that to him died a short time later at his own hands.

These folks had been taught their craft as firefighters by people who hadn't allowed much in the way of commentary and practically nothing in the way of individual feelings and dissent. During our lessons under these folks, we were taught to do what we were told, no questions asked. I can only imagine the reception I would have received from my first captain in the Newark Fire Department if I had asked him about his love for me and the other guys.

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