The Fire Station Pyramid of Success - Part 3

Mark Emery continues a series on fire station success based on Coach John Wooden's Pyramid of Success.

Part 3 - The Character Level Live and lead according to the principles of the Fire Station Pyramid of Success, and others will follow. Last month, you were introduced to Level One, the five behavioral blocks that establish a solid foundation for personal and team leadership and for...

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The Company Officer Model

As a company officer, you need to ensure that you are providing your firefighters what they want and what they need. A master craftsman fire officer does not surrender fire station leadership to a recliner and to the television. "Dine & Recline" is not leadership, but subversion of history and tradition; perpetuating a fire station culture of "Dine & Recline" does not establish a legacy to be proud of.

This requires that you:

  • First of all, model the Pyramid foundation.
  • Model self-control - Set the bar high. You are the example your firefighters will observe; make sure the example you model is the best you can offer; schedule your time and schedule your day; be a "cool head"; keep your emotions under control.
  • Model alertness - Constantly monitor your "opportunity radar." What does my crew need? What can I do to make us better? What can we do to improve my fire station, my fire department and the community we serve?
  • Model initiative - Don't wait for things to happen and for everything to be perfect, just get started - now, today. Momentum will build quickly.
  • Model intentness - Stay focused and stick with your plan, even if you occasionally blow it. (The only way to guarantee that you won't make mistakes is to do nothing.) If you don't blow it occasionally, you aren't trying hard enough and aren't doing enough. Start over if necessary.

Eye on the Prize

Coach Wooden began coaching basketball at UCLA in 1948. During each hour of practice, the players worked hard. Each day, they worked hard. Each week, they worked hard. Each season, they worked hard. For 14 years, they worked hard and didn't win a national championship. However, Wooden and the UCLA Bruins had character. UCLA won its first of 10 national championships 15 years after Wooden's Pyramid of Success was finished and it had become woven into the culture of the program. Wooden and his players will tell you that they could not have achieved their remarkable record were it not for the power of the Pyramid of Success.

You can have a "championship" career, crew, fire station and life. All you have to do is begin assembling the first two levels of your Fire Station Pyramid of Success:

  • Level One - The foundation: Be industrious. Be enthusiastic. Be friendly. Be loyal. Be cooperative.
  • Level Two - The character level: Develop self-control. Be alert. Show initiative. Live and work with intentness.

Next month, you will be introduced to Level Three, the preparation level of the Fire Station Pyramid of Success:

  1. Condition
  2. Skill
  3. Team spirit

Check out the official website of John Wooden:

MARK EMERY, EFO, is a shift battalion chief with the Woodinville, WA, Fire & Life Safety District. He is a graduate of the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer program and an NFA instructor specialist. Emery received a bachelor of arts degree from California State University at Long Beach and is a partner with Fire Command Seattle LLC in King County, WA. He may be contacted at or access his website