Leading From the Front: Some Thoughts

Did I ever tell you the story about the Captain I knew in the City of Newark who would never help his crew load the hose back onto their pumper? It did not matter if the crew was full or riding short. This bum would sit in the cab of the pumper...


More than that, the ways in which we train our followers set the tone for the future leadership pool in our organization. A great leader can bring about several generations of effective leaders. However, one bad apple can beget a series of future bad apples that can hamstring their department’s ability to be successful into the future. Many fire departments are experiencing leadership problems owing to a series of poor leaders who followed one upon the other.
There is also the matter of the inside versus the outside search for fresh departmental leadership. Many communities go through the window dressing of a wide area search to disguise the fact that they intend to crown a local prince as the new king. A number of professional associates have gone through the sweat and strain of traveling for interviews only to see the insider get the job anyway. If a fresh style of leadership is deemed necessary, it should be done in a fair and impartial manner through the use of a third party recruiting firm.
I fear that many communities are almost at the point of no return when it comes to changing how they operate. The insidious growth of political influence has so thoroughly permeated many municipalities that the fire departments in those places have been reduced to job services for the favored few. I see instances of this every week on the Internet.
How did the fire service come to this point in history? This came about through the magic of misguided leaders who never did have a good example to follow during their growth and maturation as first-line and mid-level managers. Can people change? There is always hope. That is why I keep pounding the keys on my weary computer. 
Maybe someone, somewhere will rise up, shake off the dust of past bad leadership and take an enlightened approach to the 21st Century. They will then become a true servant to the troops and a leader within their community. If and when they do, I hope that they might possibly remember that back in his day a tired old Battalion Chief from the City of Newark stood up on more than one occasion and yelled, “… follow me”  That is what I hope.