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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Strong feelings of loyalty will sharply increase your team's eagerness to learn and grow. As a bonus, loyalty will nurture the flexibility your crew needs for adapting to rapidly changing conditions. Within your fire station, foster loyalty by being industrious, friendly, and enthusiastic; speak highly of people when they are present — and when they are not present. Loyalty means supporting people when they make mistakes just as often as you will support them when they excel. (Sometimes, the only significant feedback people receive from up the organizational food chain is when they make a mistake.) Try this: Think of each firefighter as your customer!

Cooperation. There must be cooperation at all levels if your crew (and your fire station) is to reach its full potential. Cooperation means working together to accomplish common goals — a united team effort. However, if you want to receive cooperation you must first be cooperative. Cooperative fire station leadership is about empowerment — not power and control. Cooperation cannot be demanded; you must earn cooperation, earn respect and earn loyalty.

As a mature, cooperative leader, you seek the best way rather than insisting on your own way. (You are not the only person with good ideas.) A mature leader is willing to risk looking for excellence from others because they are not threatened by the success of others. The success of others is celebrated as a contribution to organizational excellence and the organizational big picture. Without friendly, enthusiastic, cooperative interaction among your crew, there can be no cooperation at your fire station. A selfish, lazy, immature fire station culture will position you against them — especially if "them" are new members who are not selfish, lazy and immature. (An immature fire station culture will often produce juvenile, petty shift wars.)

The manifestation of fire station success and professional excellence is a friendly and cooperative combination of diverse talents, abilities, backgrounds and styles that can transform a collection of individual firefighters into a loyal and enthusiastic high-performance team. Successful high-performance teams work hard, get along, and are enthusiastic, loyal and cooperative. Bottom line: If your crew doesn't like you (or you don't like your crew), you will have a tough time developing a high-performance team — never mind building the pyramid; you will be challenged to simply assemble the foundation.

Friendliness, loyalty and cooperation don't come easy and they often don't come naturally. Lasting friendliness, loyalty and cooperation require industriousness and enthusiasm to achieve and sustain. The only way to pull a fire station out of a downward spiral is with rock-solid leadership. To put into perspective the value of your fire station having a rock-solid foundation, you need only consider the antonym (the opposite word) to each pyramid foundation word:

  • Industrious — Lazy, lethargic, slothful
  • Friendly — Antagonistic, hostile, aloof
  • Loyal — Unfaithful, treacherous, not trustworthy
  • Cooperative — Unhelpful, obstructive, unaccommodating
  • Enthusiastic — Apathetic, indifferent, passionless

I don't care if going to the fire service is your avocation, your vocation — or both — how would you like to work in a fire station that is slothful, hostile, untrustworthy, unhelpful and passionless? Having a root canal would be more enjoyable.

Build Upon Your Foundation

You have just discovered the foundation for personal, team and fire station success and for achieving professional excellence. However, you will not be successful unless you take action. As business-excellence guru Tom Peters once said:

Creativity + Awesome Follow Through = Success!

Wooden's Pyramid of Success principles are not "Kumbaya" consultant psychobabble. (Recall that Wooden's NCAA dynasty was built upon the Pyramid of Success.) The pyramid is a simple, yet powerful life navigation system for personal and professional excellence — and for enjoying the peace of mind that comes from the self-satisfaction in knowing you gave your best effort to become the best of which you are capable. Once you have assembled a rock-solid foundation you will ready to assemble the next level of your Pyramid — the preparation level:

  1. Self-control
  2. Alertness
  3. Initiative
  4. Intentness

Next month, the second level of your Fire Station Pyramid of Success will be added atop the foundation. In the meantime, invest in yourself, your crew and your fire department. Today is a good day to begin building the foundation for your leadership legacy.