Dear friends, my study of the concept of leadership has formed a great part of my professional life for well over three decades now. Let me suggest that my research has documented the fact that some people really are better leaders than others. Let me now ask you a critical question. Why? Is this luck, fate, education, experience, or some combination of all of these?
Let me suggest to you that effective leadership comes about as a result of hard work and a strict adherence to certain personal and professional standards of performance. I am offering to you a recommendation that those individuals who experience the most success are those who spend the requisite amount of time learning the principles of effective leadership must. These people then take great pains working to maintain and refine those skills and principles.
The formula for leadership success is as simple to state as it is difficult to implement. Some people also work to continually refine their leadership style based upon their experience. Those things that lead to success are kept in their personal arsenal of skills and those things which do not are discarded. For many years, people in the fire service looked to the now-discredited physical traits theory to define what a leader is or should at least look like.
These traits were used to select and cultivate future candidates for positions of leadership. Therefore, if you didn't look like a leader, you never got to be a leader. As we all thought we knew back then, leaders were all tall, blond muscular, decisive, tough and possessing that chiseled look of a movie-star type of leader.
Now we know just how much bull was involved in those old leadership theories. Not all leaders were tall. How would you explain Napoleon and Hitler under these types of traits? Heck, they sure as heck were not nice people at all. Fortunately, we have moved well beyond an emphasis on the physical traits exhibited by an individual. We now use different concepts of what it takes to succeed in any position of leadership.
The things which we look for in our leaders have a lot more to do with mental characteristics and moral attributes than with a person's physical endowments. Let me stress to you that while traits are no longer the major determinants in selecting and developing our leaders, we do need to emphasize that such folks must behave in a respectful and morally-correct manner. We are not looking for the foul-mouthed, brutish people who come across as foul-mouthed, unkempt, and slovenly people. That much I know for sure.
Let me also strongly stress to you that people in positions of leadership must have an even temperament and act in a calm and rational manner. No one likes to follow a person who is constantly shooting from the hip and going off half-cocked. These folks need to serve as a rock solid foundation for the actions of the organization and their subordinates.
Leaders should be calm and even in their demeanor and act as a fulcrum during stressful situations. A successful leader must exercise sound judgment and make logical decisions based upon the facts which are available to them. Some decisions, such as those on the fireground must be made quickly, while others should be studied and analyzed to insure that the proper data has been gathered for the making of that decision. A successful leader will be the one who is able to exercise sound judgment and make rapid analyses of the available information and alternatives.
Effective leaders are enthusiastic about their work. This genuine commitment which they live in the midst of their labors is contagious. It spreads to subordinates, who, in turn, derive a similar level of satisfaction from their work. Such a leader builds an aura of trust and stimulates creativity among the work team. They do not toss cold water on the troops once they get them thinking and acting. They guide rather than herd or drive their people.