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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A quick reading of these five steps tells you exactly how we, as a body of people, learn to fight fire. We look, we perform, we perfect. Unfortunately, there are still cases where these five steps are performed in an on-the-job basis. Fortunately the number of people who still throw a new person out into the field to learn-while-doing is shrinking.

But be warned. There are still people out there who practice this ancient and costly style of our old friend, "trial-and-error learning." Avoid these people like the plague. And if you find yourself in such a place, practice an active form of knowledge acquisition. Buy as many books as you can about firefighting and read them as quickly as is humanly possible. Then pray that you don't get killed or injured in the interim.

That part of learning about which we know the least is the affective domain. This is the touchy feeling part of learning which deals with our attitudes and feelings as they impact on our ability to gain knowledge. As we discuss this domain of learning, you will begin to see just why it is such an imprecise area of expertise.

Once again you will find that the levels of affective learning are sequential in nature, building one upon the other. They move from basic awareness of something to making it a part of their chosen attitudes. They then do their job in the newly learned way.

Fire Service Instructor tells us that the levels of learning in this domain are:

  • Receiving - Becoming aware of a concept.
  • Responding - Indicating that the concept has been received.
  • Valuing - Internalizing and committing to some position.
  • Organizing - Internalizing and adjusting among values.
  • Characterizing - Adopting and personalizing the concept or value.

As you can imagine, there is no scientific way of measuring this type of learning. The manner in which each individual assimilates knowledge as a result of affective learning is different. These differences occur based upon individual personalities and the influences on them during their period of growth and maturation.

When I am dealing with the internal aspects of affective learning, it is possible that you may be forced to use clues, rather than measurable performance for your measuring stick. If a person seems to perform the desired task willingly, without threats or coercive measures, then you may infer from these actions that the learning has taken place.

Now that we have covered the ways in which people learn, let us personalize it to the realm of the effective leader as a teacher. Concentrate on remembering the one man or woman who helped you to become the successful fire person you are today. Think of what they did and how they did it. Remember what it was about them that motivated you to succeed.

Having done this, I want to move on to a discussion of motivation and its critical importance in the delivery of knowledge. It is an axiom of the training world that people will learn better if they perceive that it will be in their best interest to do so. One of the great differences between educating young people and educating adults involves the reasons for the learner being in the learning equation.

The industrial psychologist Harold Leavitt said it quite well in his text, Managerial Psychology, when he stated that while people are alike, they are also different. They are alike in that their behavior is caused, motivated and goal directed and their physical equipment is roughly similar. They are different to the extent that they are subject to different kinds of stimulations and behave in different ways to achieve different goals.

The things that we need (and want) in life create goal driven-behaviors on our part. A need has been described by some experts as a deficiency in our personal being at a given time; something that which, if provided, will make us a whole person again. Perhaps the best description of needs and what they are comes from the work of Abraham Maslow.

During Maslow's years with the Air University, he developed an excellent analytical frame of reference with regard to what he perceived needs to be. His "Hierarchy of Needs" is one of our standard starting points in any discussion of human behavior or its effect on education. I draw heavily from it for my training programs. At this point, I will draw upon the experience and guidance of the text, Fire Service Instructor, 5th ed., to illustrate how the hierarchy of needs can be met in the classroom: