"Terrorism" Leadership

John G. Dahms, Richard A. Mueller and David F. Peterson propose strategies for dealing with fire service leaders who can and do inflict terror on members.


The words "terrorism" and "leadership" are not often used together, but there are fire service leaders who use terrorism tactics to lead. These are people in leadership positions who can - and do - inflict terror on their members. The behaviors resulting from poor leadership decisions can decrease...


To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login

Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.

OR

Complete the registration form.

Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required

Terrorist leaders unleash nuclear weapons on organizations by dropping the all-powerful and threatening "change" bomb on them. This usually appears as a new program or directive without any input or even advance notice to the employees. These programs or directives are usually not very well planned or thought out and do not include opportunities for member input. This leaves the organization to muddle through the new policy change and in the process making numerous mistakes. This type of terrorism zaps the energy and confidence of good employees and induces feelings that "this is the worst thing that has ever happened to this place." Poorly implemented change slowly erodes workers confidence and eventually workplace competence.

Anti-terrorism involves replacing the emotions of change with research and planning that outlines where the change will take the organization. This would include answering the "Five Ws" of who, what, why, where and when, and how the success of the change will be measured. Anti-terrorism involving change requires rational thinking, thorough planning, member involvement, patience, and the ability to look at the big picture of how change will affect our customers, not just the employees.

I stands for Incendiary weapons

These weapons use flammable liquids to cause terror quite commonly in the form of Molotov cocktails. Terrorists light the wick on the glass bottle filled with gasoline and throw the weapon on or near their intended target. The result is an all-consuming flash fire and total devastation.

Terrorist leaders use incendiary devices such as their fierce, volatile tempers and this usually happens when workers least suspect it. Once unleashed, the incendiary temper consumes everything in its vicinity. The result is that survivors run for cover and they may not fully recover from the event or events.

When leaders lose their composure, followers lose respect and confidence in the leader. Incendiary devices consisting of losing one's temper restrict communication. Followers can become fearful to approach terrorist leaders at other times. Trust is eroded and relationships die. When leaders include profanity or racism in these bouts of terror, the damage can be even worse. It shows a lack of respect for workers and the workplace and it also demonstrates a lack of maturity.

As a leader it may be hard to resist using words in anger, especially when followers may be using them, but as leader you are held to a higher standard. Yes, leaders have different rules than followers! When a leader breaks these rules they simply take themselves out of the leadership position. When leadership positions are filled with non-leaders organizations will suffer high casualties.

Anti-terrorism requires patience, understanding and the ability to listen, not just hear. In our fast-paced world, it is easy to hear only what you want to hear and not listen to what is being said. When listening is not practiced, it is easy to misinterpret spoken and unspoken messages. Effective leaders use reflective listening skills so that the messenger knows that they "got it" - message received. Fire service members have never been shy about speaking their minds and the effective leader will find the time (or make the time) to listen to multiple points of view and consider what the followers have to say. The anti-terrorism lesson for words is to choose them wisely. Words will hurt followers and leaders by damaging their spirit. When the words are unprofessional, they can damage careers.

C stands for Chemical weapons

Chemical weapons kill by coming into contact with the human body. They do this on the skin and in the eyes, lungs and stomach. Nerve agents essentially incapacitate and kill by affecting enzymes that control breathing functions. Terrorist leaders can also get on people's nerves. Blister agents cause damage to the skin by touch. Contact may be very painful.

Terrorist leaders can also blister with their words and actions. Nothing touches the nerve of followers more than ineffective or improper discipline. Discipline done improperly, or even unprofessionally, leaves lasting scars. It can create snipers who will lay and wait for a very, very long time to get a revenging kill shot. Knee-jerk discipline done without appropriately applied behavior modification methods can really create a hornet's nest. In fact, you don't even have to listen very closely to hear all the buzzing.

The anti-terrorism behavior involves being fair and using restraint when it comes to discipline. Gentle pressure applied relentlessly will generate the most long-lasting change. Discipline is also a policy decision that is closely watched by associations and they will not hesitate to challenge poorly executed discipline. As supervisors, it is good to remember that if it feels good, don't do it! Take time to process; keep a level head and most of all keep the situation in perspective. After all, your fellow employees are also only human.