Leadership Equates to Success

A new century has dawned and at first light it has revealed itself to be a very dynamic one, especially for hazardous materials response. Many changes are on the horizon for hazmat programs and the way we respond to these emergencies.


Author's Note: Last month this column discussed three basic principles to follow for identifying your organization's (or program) path to achieve success. It must have hit a chord because there was an over-whelming response, especially in the area of how badly leadership is needed in hazmat response programs. Since so many inquired about leadership principles the following column is dedicated to those brave souls who dearly desire to lead their hazmat response programs to success.

A new century has dawned and at first light it has revealed itself to be a very dynamic one, especially for hazardous materials response. Many changes are on the horizon for hazmat programs and the way we respond to these emergencies. Some changes are good and some are bad. One fact is true though; our actions before, during, and after these impending changes demands our total and complete involvement. That is why our leadership is so important.

"When the sky is the darkest the brightest stars come out" is a statement that many of us have heard and may agree with. Leadership, and that of being a leader, can sometimes be a daunting challenge and a difficult role. It is definitely not a role for the faint-hearted; in fact it is commonly associated with being courageous, unnerving, and steadfast. In times that may seem the darkest often the true leaders emerge to assist in solving the problems at hand. It is also their leadership in those critical moments or periods of time in which they are remembered.

So how does a person go about developing their leadership skills? This column will take a look at leadership and its development with the goal of merely assisting in a direction for your own personal development and also to hopefully inspire you to chart your own course and achieve success.

To begin, it is important to realize that there is a huge amount of information pertaining to the subject of leadership. There are numerous books, magazine articles, and papers on this subject. The Internet and web also offer many "leads" on this topic. It is also important to recognize that many of these resources offer "theories" on leadership. We know that theories are "abstract thoughts or general principles of a subject that are offered to explain observable facts". Theories can also be described as merely a hypothesis or a guess. The point here is that there is no concrete definition or "set-in-stone" procedure to follow in developing a leadership style.

While one theory may work in a certain situation that same theory may fail in another situation. As a matter of fact, the U.S. Army requires that generals read a periodical by the name of The Military Review, which characterizes leadership as "one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth". Even our national defenders, who develop leaders, have a hard time with the concept of leadership. Still, realize that many ideas on leadership can be utilized and integrated into your own development. Maybe that is best; the development of your leadership style and your legacy will be unique to you. Like Frank Sinatra, you can claim you "did it your way"!

Developing Your Leadership Skills

Much of what we have learned about leadership has come from the examples that we have observed. This may be beneficial but most likely we have not had stellar examples in which to mold our own leadership styles, at least in the modern day view of leadership. Some long held views of leaders include John Wayne, Steve McQueen, or Clint Eastwood in silver screen depictions or real life leaders such as Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, or JFK. Modern leaders may include people such as, Bill Clinton, George Bush, or even Lee Iacocca, the savior of Chrysler Corporation. Iacocca once said, "Leadership means setting an example. When you find yourself in a position of leadership, people will follow your every move."

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