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I have written a great deal over the past three years regarding the things that make a leader great. The thrust has been on the leader. But wait a minute. What good is a leader without followers? Wouldn't that be like having a football team where only the coach or the captain ran out onto the field to do battle?
As I sat in church a while ago, the sermon of the day once again caused my mind to go spiraling off into a world populated by my imagination and my demons. The message dealt with the impact of the Spirit on the believer. Inspiration leads to belief. I believe that is what I heard. My mind began to move, as it always does, toward the fire service, the center of my universe. How can the fire service to be guided by the spirit of effective leadership?
I believe that great leaders inspire us. It is my belief that these leaders ignite within us a spirit, if not a zeal that allows us to explore the boundaries of our own personal capabilities and limitations. These people create within us a desire to be more and to do more than we ourselves believe is possible. These leaders also have great expectations for us. They set goals for each of us that seem difficult to reach. They do this to stretch the boundaries of our capabilities.
The greatest of the great in the world of leadership are perceived that way because of the results they have been able to generate through their team. As my dear friend Alan Brunacini has often told me, it's all about the people in the organization. I believe that without willing followers, no leader in the history of the world would ever have succeeded in their drive for greatness.
The Phoenix Fire Department has succeeded because of an environment where teamwork is encouraged, and active participation is expected. Chief Brunacini has been able to field an outstanding team over the years because he has created within his mind a vision of what a good team should look like. He has then passed that vision along in an easily understood manner.
The vision was created based on the environment of that agency. The expectations were based on the reality that he knew he had to operate with. The people were a given. He knew he had to work with the human tools provided to him by the system. People were challenged to expand themselves. This was done in order to assist in creating the new reality of the organization.
Members have been allowed to grow in ways that benefit the team. However, these folks have performed in an outstanding manner because they wanted to. They perceived that the wanted to be members of the team. They also knew that excellence was the expected standard. They knew what membership of the team required. They knew this because the chief's vision was communicated to the in the same simple, but straightforward manner for which he has become so famous.
I can hear you all out there now. Oh that's Phoenix, and that's Brunacini. None of that stuff would work here, because everything we do is unique here in the Fort Fictitious Fire Department (F-Troop). Do you realize how patently ridiculous that statement is?
The world has existed for millions of years. Civilized society has existed in one form or another for centuries. How can anything be unique to anyone in the year 2003? I would suggest that the time is long past for us to concentrate on the development of each and every one of the fire departments throughout the United States and Canada, and on around the world. Get off your butt and generate a modern thought.
The organizational mindset within far too many fire departments was formed sometime during the Eisenhower administration (1953-1961, for you kids out there). Some of you might be lucky to have late Lyndon Johnson or early Richard Nixon era thinking, versus Eisenhower or even Truman thinking.