The Fire Station Pyramid of Success

Mark Emery continues this series about Coach John Wooden's model of success with Part 5 - Leadership and a Legacy of Professional Excellence.


Part 5 - Leadership and a Legacy of Professional Excellence Live and lead according to the principles of the Fire Station Pyramid of Success, and others will follow. Near the apex of the Fire Service Pyramid of Success are the final two blocks: poise and confidence . Coach John Wooden, on...


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Poise without personal leadership (in the form of industriousness, self-control and condition) is smoke and mirrors; without personal leadership, your energy and focus will be diverted to the struggle to appear cool, calm and collected. As you struggle to appear poised, the flimsy poise you may have and started with will crash and burn.

Bottom line: Don't waste your time and energy trying to appear poised; authentic poise is achieved through a natural progression of personal leadership attributes: industriousness, self-control and conditioning. However, even a genuine, strong self-leader can't do it alone. Poise requires support, and because you have assembled the blocks of personal leadership your poise will have the support it needs - the collective leadership and confidence of your fire station team.

Confidence

Positioned next to poise at level four is confidence. If you would like to have master-craftsman confidence, you must believe in your crew and crew members must believe in you; if you want others to have confidence in your leadership, you first must have confidence in yourself and your crew. Poise and confidence are the direct result of preparation, character and a strong foundation.

As discussed previously, poise is supported on the left side of the pyramid by the three blocks of personal leadership: industriousness, self-control and condition. However, these four blocks tilt precariously to the right and would topple over were they not leaning against a 10-block "sub-pyramid" that culminates with confidence. The 10 blocks that comprise this sub-pyramid represent "team leadership." Enduring fire station team leadership is supported by four of the five foundation blocks: friendship, loyalty, cooperation and enthusiasm. These foundation blocks support the three blocks of team character: alertness, initiative and intentness. These character blocks support the two blocks of team preparation: skill and team spirit. Collectively, team leadership welcomes, supports, nurtures and celebrates the personal leadership that each member brings to the fire station team.

Fire Station Leadership

Fire station leadership is achieved when each member's personal leadership is combined with the leadership of the fire station team. Fire station leadership is achieved when the Fire Station Pyramid of Success is complete and the fire station team embodies authentic, collective poise and confidence. Professional excellence will be the natural outcome of genuine fire station leadership; professional excellence will endure so long as the fire station has leadership.

High-performance fire station leadership is created when a high-performance team is assembled that consists of individuals who each possess a strong pyramid foundation and each personify personal leadership. High-performance teams, high-performance organizations and high-performance fire stations have high-performance leadership.

Coach Wooden's high-performance basketball teams were comprised of carefully selected, high-performance individuals; each high-performance individual was chosen for his ability to contribute to the program and to the culture that Wooden's program had created. No team member was insignificant; each individual team member's contribution was appreciated and ensured the long-term success of the program and the culture.

Proportional Confidence

Great leaders have earned what I call "proportional confidence." Proportional confidence occurs when confidence in those that you lead is proportional to the confidence they have in you. For example, as an operations battalion chief, my confidence that company officers can develop an initial incident action plan (IAP) and provide for the safety of their crew members must be proportional to their confidence in my ability to build upon and manage the incident action plan and provide for the safety of all crews.

You achieve professional excellence when each member of your crew possesses a high level of confidence in themselves (personal leadership) balanced with a high level of confidence in each other (fire station leadership). You have a powerful combination when the eccentric blocks of personal leadership are supported by the collective blocks of fire station leadership; in fact, your Fire Station Pyramid of Success is now complete! Your crewmembers now possess the character, preparation, poise, and confidence to experience lasting professional excellence.