Exceptional Company Officers: How To Set Yourself Apart

Competent fire officers at all ranks are important to the success of a fire department. It is hard to single out a particular rank and say that their performance is more (or less) critical than that of other ranks, and I’m not going to do that. However, it would be a huge mistake for senior fire department officers or others to underestimate or undervalue the role that company officers play within the mission of career, combination and volunteer fire departments.

Company officer leadership, supervision and overall job performance impacts the rank and file of the fire department every day and in all aspects of the department’s work. Their technical competence, people skills, attitude and commitment have a direct effect on performance outcomes, morale and the work environment inside and outside the fire stations.

Whether they’re called lieutenants, captains or other titles, the role of company officers is of great value to the organization. They are very important people.

We could easily go to a textbook and capture a list of positive company officer skills and characteristics. Every one of them would have importance and they should be among our list of expectations of all supervisors. We should train on them and they should be part of the criteria for evaluating officer performance. However, let’s take that a step further and identify some key characteristics and capabilities of the exceptional company officers we’ve known in our careers.

Within that context, I offer the following observations about exceptional company officers I’ve known:

  • A positive and productive work atmosphere is the order of the day, and the company officer creates and nurtures it. Crew members clearly understand what is expected of them regarding their performance and behavior, and this is communicated by the company officer, up front, but never in an “in-your-face†way.

There are lots of traits, skills and behaviors that contribute to, or hinder, company officer leadership, supervision and performance. However, the eight that I’ve addressed here are the ones that I believe make the difference between company officers and exceptional company officers. This is a critical rank and responsibility in any fire department. Company officers tend to have a lot of influence on the people and the mission. Let’s value their role, for exceptional company officers are an organizational treasure.

Chief Concerns is a forum addressing issues of interest to chief fire officers. Opinions expressed are those of the writer. We invite all volunteer and career chief fire officers to share their concerns, experiences and views in this column. Please submit articles to Chief Concerns, Firehouse Magazine, 3 Huntington Quadrangle, Suite 301N, Melville, NY 11747 or to editors@Firehouse.com, with “Chief Concerns†in the subject line.

Dennis Compton, a Firehouse® contributing editor, was the fire chief in Mesa, AZ, for five years and as assistant fire chief in the Phoenix Fire Department, where he served for 27 years. He is past chair of the executive board of the International Fire Service Training Association, past chair of the Congressional Fire Services Institute’s National Advisory Committee, and serves as vice chair of the board of directors for the Home Safety Council.