The Fire Station Pyramid of Success - Part 2

Mark Emery continues a series on fire station success based on Coach John Wooden's Pyramid of Success.When the time comes to clear out the locker, wouldn't you like to know that you left your fire station and your fire department a better place than...


Mark Emery continues a series on fire station success based on Coach John Wooden's Pyramid of Success. When the time comes to clear out the locker, wouldn't you like to know that you left your fire station and your fire department a better place than before you got there? Would you like to be...


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The Fire Station Pyramid of Success is not a motivational, get-leadership-quick pyramid scheme. First and foremost the Fire Station Pyramid of success is about personal and team leadership.

Start With a Strong Foundation

This article will enable you to build a strong foundation for your pyramid of success — both personally and in the fire station. Professional excellence begins with this rock-solid foundation. Your rock-solid foundation will consist of five blocks:

  1. Industriousness (hard work)
  2. Enthusiasm
  3. Friendship
  4. Loyalty
  5. Cooperation

In 1934, Wooden began constructing the pyramid using two powerful blocks that serve as its cornerstones: Industriousness and Enthusiasm.

Industriousness. Wooden called his left cornerstone industriousness. Industriousness simply means that lasting, meaningful things don't happen without hard work. At the fire station, I call this showing up to work rather than simply showing up at work. Hard work is essential if you desire a worthwhile outcome. Wooden does not equate hard work with time. Each of Coach Wooden's UCLA practice sessions lasted just 90 minutes — no more and no less. However, each of those 90 minutes was meaningful. Wooden's amazing legacy is the result of smart hard-work. No moment or motion was wasted during a UCLA practice session. Smart hard work was better served by investing focus rather than time.

The firefighter or fire officer who avoids hard work and cuts corners will never reveal his (or her) full potential. Wooden captured the spirit of hard work as follows: You can work without being industrious, but you cannot be industrious without work. Wooden advises that industriousness must complement — not interfere or compete with — a life that is balanced. His highest priorities are family, faith and living according to his principles.

Enthusiasm. At the right corner is the second cornerstone, enthusiasm. Enthusiasm simply means that you enjoy what you are doing; when you show up at work your heart and mind must be fully engaged to work. Again, Wooden: Without enthusiasm you can't work up to your fullest ability.…Enthusiasm ignites plain old work and transforms it into industriousness.

As a company officer, you must be enthusiastic; enthusiastic about training, enthusiastic about fire prevention, enthusiastic about customer care, and enthusiastic about maintaining your "house," your tools and your apparatus. You control the rudder that guides your crew and your fire station.

Enthusiastic leadership can be expressed in many forms. Enthusiasm doesn't mean you need to be an organizational cheerleader; you don't need to be loud, gregarious, dynamic or animated (you're not trying to sell the latest infomercial exercise gizmo). You simply need to be an enthusiastic leader. Enthusiastic leadership requires only that you express enthusiasm through consistent industrious action. Don't surrender your fire station leadership to a recliner and TV — to do so is selfish, lazy and unprofessional.

Complaining about your job, your administration and the weather is the antithesis of enthusiasm. If you don't like your job, get another job. If you don't like your administration, prepare yourself — with enthusiasm — to become the administrator you wish you had. (If you don't like the weather, relocate.) Either your heart is in the fire service or it's not. On high-performance teams there is no in between. Do things that will help your administration look good; doing so will make your fire department look good and will make you look good.

A key component for enthusiastic leadership is to understand that firefighters work with you, not for you. Teamwork requires respectful collaboration. So that you evoke the best in yourself and those you supervise, your primary responsibility as a leader is to generate and maintain enthusiasm. With authentic enthusiasm (not artificial) you will compel your peers to progressively higher levels of achievement. As an enthusiastic and hard-working leader, you will direct your efforts at three primary targets:

  1. Your people
  2. Fundamentals (the basics)
  3. Career (life)-long learning