Higher Accountability For Leaders

Kimberly Alyn suggests that as you acquire more responsibility and leadership, more is required of you in regard to accountability.


The more responsibility and leadership you are afforded, the more is required of you in regard to accountability. I work with a lot of promotional candidates for the fire service. I notice they do a lot of preparation for the promotion, but not nearly enough preparation for the position. One of...


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The more responsibility and leadership you are afforded, the more is required of you in regard to accountability.

I work with a lot of promotional candidates for the fire service. I notice they do a lot of preparation for the promotion, but not nearly enough preparation for the position. One of the points I try to drive home in my promotional classes is the concept of higher accountability for supervisors and leaders. Not everyone can handle this higher accountability and I have actually counseled some people against promoting those who seem to struggle with this issue.

Real leaders understand a leadership concept that goes back to Biblical times: "To him whom much is given, much is required." The more responsibility and leadership you are afforded, the more is required of you in regard to accountability. Winston Churchill once said, "The price of greatness is responsibility." I couldn't agree more. Supervisors and leaders in the fire service need to recognize a higher level of accountability in these four main areas:

  • Have a love and passion for what you do
  • Support the mission, vision and goals of the department
  • Model great customer service
  • Keep behavior in check (on and off duty)

Have a love and passion for what you do. I can say, with a great deal of confidence, that most people in the fire service were once on fire with passion for the job (pun intended). I know people who have camped out to get an application, people who put their heart and soul into probation, and people who looked for ways to serve others. Then we gaze into their lives 10 years later and they are disillusioned by the politics, burned out by the grating personalities and frustrated with the daily drama that goes on in every fire station.

It's a lot like a marriage. In the beginning, when people are dating, there's an awe of each other and a driving passion to serve one another and show the best side of each other. Then the years settle in and with those years come comfort, complacency and apathy. It happens to everyone, and without a conscious effort to change it, the relationship deteriorates. The same is true in the fire service. If you don't get back in touch with the love and passion you once had, your performance will deteriorate and you'll hit a point of burnout. Instead of divorcing the fire service, many people just drag themselves around like a dead weight until retirement.

Leaders have a higher level of accountability and responsibility for maintaining that love and passion for the job. Even if you don't feel like it, if you act like it, the feelings will follow. If you find yourself in burnout, you need to sit down and remind yourself why you got into the fire service in the first place. Followers need leaders with passion and purpose. They need leaders who love what they do. It's very frustrating for followers to have leaders who are burned out and hate what they do. It's also contagious. Be a leader who loves the job!

Support the mission, vision and goals of the department. You may not support every policy, procedure or goal the department has as a leader in your department. Few leaders do. However, real leaders voice their disapproval up the chain, not down or across the chain. Real leaders don't complain to their followers. Real leaders don't complain to co-workers. They complain to the source or up the chain of command until they find resolution. My theory has always been if you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, then change the way you perceive it. If you can't change the way you perceive it, change departments.

I know that sounds harsh, but leaders need to step up and do the right thing. While small minds talk about people, average minds talk about events, and great minds talk about ideas. Leaders need to be talking about ideas for solving problems, not the people who seem to be perpetuating those problems. More importantly, leaders need to encourage their followers to do the same.

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