The Truly Great Leader Is A Teacher

I knew that there would come a month and time when the heart and soul of my true passion would come to the fore. This is the month where I lay it all on the line. If you are a leader, you must wake up to the fact that you are in the knowledge...


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I knew that there would come a month and time when the heart and soul of my true passion would come to the fore. This is the month where I lay it all on the line.

If you are a leader, you must wake up to the fact that you are in the knowledge business.

Whether it is in gathering a wide range of facts, in monitoring the latest technical trends or in the arena of human interaction, you must be aware of the latest and the best ideas on doing this thing we call firefighting. And you must learn to share. Doesn't that sound like something your kindergarten teacher was trying to tell you oh so many years ago?

Some of the saddest examples of leadership deadwood I ever met were people who never shared what they knew. I guess the best way to categorize these people is to lump them all together into a general class of human subspecies known as "knowledge hogs." I bumped into people like this time and again as I moved through my career in the fire service.

These people are not hard to identify, once you catch on to them. You see them at many of the big fire service conferences. They are paying rapt attention to the words of every speaker. They grab two or three copies of every handout, then badger the salespeople in the exhibition halls to learn everything they possible can about the latest in technology.

Now you may be saying, Harry, what is so bad about that type of behavior? Don't we want people to do that? Yes we do. But the part of the equation that makes these people so useless occurs when they return to their communities. These people could become a real source of help to their departments, many of whom paid for these knowledge hogs to travel and eat at the finest restaurants. But they don't, because they keep everything they learn to themselves. They get some weird sense of self-importance from the fact that they can go amongst their associates saying to themselves, "I know more than you do, nyah, nyah, nyah."

But Harry, you may be asking, who would be so selfish? Trust me, they're out there. In their minds they feel quite important, but in their organizations they are a real source of hard feelings. People like this do sometimes arrive in positions of leadership. Whether by test or by ballot, they sometimes gain positions where they can spread their doctrine of selfishness.

And these folks are dangerous, because they like to gather similar selfish souls unto themselves. Then you have a clique made up of self-righteous Knowledge Nazis. They have enough knowledge to do many good works, but they keep it to themselves, because they feel that it gives them power over those who do not know as much (or so the Knowledge Nazis think). Just remember that a person with a thirst for knowledge will seek out the necessary sources to quench their thirst. But think of the divisive nature of an environment like this.

A good leader is a sponge when it comes to knowledge, always out there sucking up the widest possible array of knowledge. But remember, in order to be effective, a sponge operates in two ways. It can suck up a great amount of fluid. But if you want to be able to use the sponge a second time, you must squeeze the fluid out and go back for another load.

As I said at the beginning of this visit with you, a good leader is a teacher. Just what do you need to know in order to become a good teacher? Remember that a good teacher is one who can create an environment wherein learning is a prized activity. Perhaps a good place to start would be a basic definition of what learning is. How can you teach if you are not aware of how learning occurs.

According to the fine IFSTA text Fire Service Instructor, learning is a relatively permanent change in behavior that occurs as a result of acquiring new information, skills or attitudes from or through an experience. Once an individual has gained that experience, it is improved upon it through practice.

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