Trust: Leadership's Solid Cornerstone

One of my favorite church hymns has a line which has helped to guide my life for many years now. The line goes like this: "Trust and obey, for there is no other way." A simple thought indeed, but it can serve as the basis for great faith if followed...

You know me my friends. I believe that there is a better way out there, but it takes courage to try a new approach to running the ranch. Let me suggest that there is a way to do this. All it takes is the selection of a new leader who loves people. This new leader then begins to turn the path of the organization ship in a new direction.

Just for arguments sake, let me suggest to you that your new leader meets the criteria for being a servant leader in the true mold of Greenleaf and Autry. Will this sudden injection of a people-oriented, servant leader lead to instant success? While you would think that it would, I offer that there are three things that you might expect to happen in this situation.

Your organization will have those people who are so desperate for a change, that they will buy into the new leader's ideas in short order. These are the people upon who you should begin to build your future successes. These are the people whose strengths must be played up and whose weaknesses addressed. These folks will make you feel good about yourself and your ideas for change.

The next group will be a bit standoffish. While many in this group have been vocal critics of the old regime, they are going to hold off from granting their support to your efforts. These are the folks who will challenge your skills as a salesperson. They will wish to see each and every "I" dotted and "t" crossed before they will sign on board. However, once convinced of your sincerity, they too will become ardent supporters of your efforts.

The last group will be the toughest group. These will be the people who flourished under the old boss. They either knew where the bodies were buried, helped to bury the bodies, or were paid for their silence about the location of the bodies by the assignments or privileges they were given.

These people almost never come around to the new way of doing business. Regardless of this, they will have to be understood, appreciated, and treated the same as everyone else. Perhaps it is true that people can be killed with kindness. Here is your opportunity as a new leader to see if this can be done.

You must make sure that you treat everyone alike. Treat them with respect. Offer your support. Solicit their ideas and opinions and seek to make their contributions a part of your plan. Never yes people to death or give them lip service. People possess an uncanny ability to always spot a phony.

You must sincerely ask for their ideas and support. Use their ideas whenever you can. If you cannot, please be kind enough to explain the reasons for that decision too. Then work to see if the people can help you come up with other acceptable alternatives, based upon their original offerings. The more you work to include people in your plans, the wider will be the circle of your support.

It is my hope that you can understand the rightness of this argument about growing trust and support among the members of your fire department. I am sure that there will be many among you who totally disagree with my belief that people really want to contribute to your organization. That is your right in a free society.

Next time you are hunkered down in the front seat of your unmarked chief's car, spying on the troops, pause for a moment and think a bit. Let me offer a thought to guide you. It is a slogan which was made popular during WWII when the need to conserve gasoline for the war effort was a critical element of government policy.

I think it sums up my views on all of you "Hide in the Bushes" leaders out there across America ruining our fire service. "Is this trip really necessary?" I think not. "Trust and obey, for there is no other way."