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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Monolithic Behavior

When building your Fire Station Pyramid of Success, start by establishing a solid foundation of industriousness (hard work), friendship, loyalty, cooperation and enthusiasm. As subsequent levels are added, they are secured with behavioral "mortar" that bonds each block and each level in place. This behavioral mortar will ensure that your Fire Station Pyramid of Success behaves as a single, monolithic structure rather than a collection of independent pieces.

  • The four blocks of level two are bonded to the foundation with the behavioral mortar of ambition and sincerity.
  • The blocks of level three are bonded to the blocks of level two with the behavioral mortar of adaptability and honesty.
  • The blocks of level four are bonded to the blocks of level three with the behavioral mortar of resourcefulness and reliability.
  • The final block, professional excellence, is secured to the blocks of level four with the behavioral mortar of fight and integrity.

Imagine what an incredible place your fire station will be when it is functioning as one seamless, monolithic pyramid of success.

Professional Excellence

Professional excellence is enabled when each block and each level of the Fire Station Pyramid of Success are firmly in place and secured with the behavioral mortar. (Hey, if professional excellence was quick and easy, it would be achieved more often by more people and more fire stations; mediocrity is easy.) Each of the 14 blocks of the pyramid is required to achieve professional excellence. Professional excellence requires that you give your best effort at all times. Professional excellence requires that you have the poise and confidence to welcome a challenge when things become difficult - even when things become very difficult. Because you are prepared and because you have the unwavering support of a high-performance team, you will accept and even welcome the challenge.

Most of the "stuff" that you do in and around the fire station is simple, often routine, even dull and uninteresting. Any person off the street could do most of the basic routine stuff. However, when the bells hit and it's show time, only the prepared professional will possess the poise and confidence to greet the challenge. As a fire and life safety professional, one day your mind, body and spirit will be challenged - maybe not today, perhaps not this year, but that challenging "it's-show-time" incident will occur. It will take special people - a high-performance fire station team comprised of authentic prepared professionals - to rise up and greet this challenge with poise and confidence. Prepared professionals will welcome this challenge as another opportunity to do their best.

Each player John Wooden coached was with the UCLA team for just four or five years; players routinely changed from one season to the next. Imagine what can be accomplished with a high-performance fire station team that is together for 10 or 20 years!

Unless the simple, routine and uninteresting is performed with poise, confidence and enthusiasm, lasting professional excellence is impossible. When all members of a high-performance fire station team do their best each day, each week and each year, that fire station will be prepared to confront challenging situations with reliable and authentic poise and confidence.

Legacy of Professional Excellence

"Success" is not a block or a level of the Fire Station Pyramid of Success; fire station success is an intangible byproduct that happens when you have invested your time and energy to achieve professional excellence. Professional excellence is the direct result of fire station leadership; fire station leadership is the direct result of the self-satisfaction knowing that each member gave his or her best effort to become the best firefighter and the best fire officer that he or she is capable of becoming.