Leaders Must Face Their Doubts

Every leader has doubts. The good leaders face them head on and work their way through them. The not-so-good leaders join the ostriches in burrowing their heads in the sandy soil of their existence and hiding until the troubles pass. I suggest that...


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Every leader has doubts. The good leaders face them head on and work their way through them. The not-so-good leaders join the ostriches in burrowing their heads in the sandy soil of their existence and hiding until the troubles pass. I suggest that behavior of that type is not productive.

There is a particular way in which I try to handle my problems: I think my way through them. I can recall one night last summer when I spent time on my front porch. As I sat in my favorite chair, the words of my kindergarten teacher, Miss Neumann, came tripping back into my brain: “OK, boys and girls, let’s put on our thinking caps.”

How insignificant I felt, as I sat in the presence of the stars, with the majesty of the heavens above me. I suggest that each of us needs to sit in humble awe as we observe the creations of the universe above us.

I have been concerned recently about just what it is I am working to achieve in the fire service. My detractors have been turning up the heat. I guess that means I must be getting to someone. I can recall the time when a buddy sent me an e-mail that spoke of one such warning that he got from an individual I considered to be a professional buddy. This person suggested to my friend that he should not believe what I say.

Talk about a humbling experience. I began to wonder, am I part of the problem or am I part of the solution? That is a tough one. I believe that I am a realist. As one who grew up fat in a world of mostly thin people, I got that way early in life. The longer that I live, the greater seem to be the number of the errors of my ways. Am I right or am I wrong?

There was a time in my life when I felt like I was invincible. I studied as much as I could about the fire service. I traveled far and wide in pursuit of knowledge. I wrote, spoke and shared all that I could about what I learned as I lived my life in the fire service. I pursued excellence, and thought that was how I should make my way in the world. It seems now that the more I learn, the greater the number of questions that fill my meager brain.

What is it that I believe in? What are my honest and sincere hopes for the fire service? What is my place in the world? What do I wish to accomplish? Does anyone believe the same things as me? Am I making a difference? Talk about serious questions.

Maybe I am just an idealist, or at least I hope that I am. I find it hard to believe that I can still be naive after spending more than a quarter of a century in the midst of one of our nation’s toughest, big-city political machines, but that is just the way it is. I still take people at their word. I am still a sucker for a hard-luck story, and I always root for the underdog.

Why have I chosen to take on the thorniest issues facing the fire service? Why do I continue to badger those who choose to treat the fire service like an orphan? I guess I do it for the people I know to be in fire service, and the thousands that I do not know, but hope are like the ones I do know. These are good people, many of whom are life’s underdogs, and as I said earlier, I always root for the underdog.

I truly believe that there are a great many fine people in the fire service. Sadly, I also believe that there are also some truly selfish, one-way-street people. Week after week, I search the world around me. I see a great deal that seems wrong. People are doing battle with the damning demons of a demanding boss. Is there anything I can do about this? Should I be working to do something about this? How long can I do battle against what in many cases turn out to be windmills? Why bother? This is a time for personal introspection.

Every once in a while, a person needs to stop, look around and say what the heck. What I mean to say is that I cannot get out of my responsibilities in life. My life has been cast in a very active mode. There is a lot to do and precious little that I would wish to change. However, that doesn’t mean that I have to go through my life without thinking about its direction. This is one of those times.

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