Perhaps I have even been like this myself. It is a human trait to want things to remain as they are, even though such thinking is a fool’s mission.
In our Grandmaster's commentary he urged Masons throughout New Jersey to embrace the younger generation. He was attempting to portray to the brethren the true nature of those who are turning 21 this, and whom we are seeking to bring into the fraternity. He urged us to seek these people out. But more than that, he urged us to share the reins of power with them. He knows how hard it is to do this, and as a result asks us to make an extra effort in that direction.
Perhaps, my dear readers, he has hit at the heart of our problems in the fire service as well. It has been my observation that the leadership in far too many organizations has hung on to the reins of power well past their prime. By clinging to what they perceive to be the proper way to run the fire service, these people may well be creating an organizational environment that has nothing to do with today’s young people. It is not relevant and therefore becomes an anachronism. This is the living version of dinosaurs laying dinosaur eggs which will begat future problems.
By now you may be wondering where Stephen Covey’s book fits into this discussion. Quite simply there were two points that he made early on in his writing which seem really critical to me. In the early part of his text, he pounded home the need for each of us to become proactive in our view of the world. He spoke to the fact that if we do not take control of our lives, we possess no right to complain when others begin to call the shots for us.
It is my belief that this is a critical thought that compliments those above in the paragraphs I have just written. If change is to occur in the fire service, someone has to step up to the plate and cause it to occur. That is how I have lived my life and you cannot imagine how many times it has gotten me into trouble with the powers that be. Change involves risk and risk scares a lot of people.
The problem was quite simple in every case I faced during my years in the Newark Fire Department. I was becoming a voice and a force for change. The people whom I was challenging did not want change. The result in almost every case involved arguments, recriminations, and periodic punishment.
Oh, I was never put on charges or anything like that, because I always took pains to stay within the regulations. However, my career was stifled, I was shunted into dead-end positions, and my assignments were occasionally jumbled. I guess that you could say that I was paying the usual price for being proactive. Let me assure you that I always lived to fight another day. This should serve as an important motivator for those of you who may be afraid to buck the system.
I can recall the time when I was returning from a meeting at the National Fire Academy and passed a particular construction equipment distributor located next to the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Eastern Pennsylvania. Through the years I came to enjoy passing by their facility, because they have a signboard out front with motivational sayings. On this particular day they had a particularly insightful statement. It read, “… The only way to manage change is to create it…”
This short quotation leads me directly into my next thought from the Stephen Covey text. He stated that, “… (T)he proactive approach to change is from the inside – out; to be different, and by being different, to effect positive change in what’s out there.” Very simply he is telling us that we can effect change as individuals.
Having said this, I must also point out that being a proponent for change is not a job for the faint of heart. You must be willing to have the strength of your convictions. You must be able to challenge whatever the existing wisdom is. And you had best be able to provide sound reasoning for what you are attempting to accomplish.