Karpluk: Welcome to Fire Les-sons on Leadership

Editor's Note: We would like to welcome Chief Les Karpluk as the newest contributor to Firehouse.com. Check back as Chief Karpluk shares his experiences and thoughts on leadership the fire service. Look for his You can learn more about Les here.

When I started my career in the fire service my firefighting Bible was Firehouse. Seriously, I read the magazine at our station and was so inspired by many of the writers that I bought my own subscription for years and kept every issue. As we all know there comes a time in our life when the old stuff needs to make room for the new stuff, and as our family grew, I had to get rid of boxes of my Firehouse magazines albeit against my wishes

I have to admit that having the opportunity to blog for Firehouse is an extreme honor. I am one of those individuals that simply can’t learn enough about leadership and I am not going to publicly admit how many books I have bought and placed onto my “must read” list for fear that my wife reads this and forces me to make room for my new stuff (books) and forces me to get rid of my old stuff (books). Is it unusual to have four books on the go at the same time, keep a notebook for recording ideas, and buy yellow highlighters as a regular part of your home supplies? (Feel free to email me with your response-this is my way of proving to myself that I am normal).

I entered the fire service in 1982 and after 31-years in the fire service I can honestly say that I am more proud of our profession than when I started my career. I have an abundance of reasons for feeling this way and as we progress together through this blog, my goal is to reveal these reasons to you.

I am all about leadership, but sometimes I think as a profession we tend to get tunnel vision on leadership and can at times miss the bigger picture. It’s similar to the fire mindset that we only see things as far as our city limits, and forget that there is a big world our there.

As we progress together through this blogging journey I will selfishly learn from you. In fact, the selfish part of my brain (not sure if that is the left or right side) wants to absorb as much as I can from your feedback. Hey, (no, I am not going to spell, eh…but the reality is we say it ) real leadership growth is about learning from each other and being there for each other.

Years ago I earned my first Dan Black-Belt in TaeKwon-Do. Even today, I recall the personal sacrifice in blood, sweat and tears (not an exaggeration) and the months of preparing for my test. The big day arrived and when that Black-Belt was being wrapped around my waist I realized how much I didn’t know about the sport I was involved in.  A couple years later I recognized that to really lead my students, I had to take my second Dan Black-Belt test. Once again, a great deal of personal sacrifice was required and when successfully achieving this goal, the realization sunk in that it was all about the journey. Yes, of course there were competencies and skills required, but it really was about the journey.

This may be a strange analogy for a fire blog, but I believe our leadership journey is similar. We may achieve different levels of leadership training, but we need to understand that leadership is all about the journey. We should never attain our black-belt in leadership and we must be prepared for some personal sacrifice in this journey. If we are not ready for the personal sacrifice in our leadership journey, then its probably best to leave the leading to those that are.

If we become complacent in our leadership journey we expose ourselves to leadership mistakes that can cost us in blood, sweat and tears. Admittedly, I’ve been there, made those mistakes and want to do whatever I can to help others avoid those mistakes. As in any sport, true growth occurs when the athlete is willing to make great personal sacrifices in order to achieve the goal-whatever that may be. It’s simply “impossible” to excel at something without putting in significant effort on a daily basis. Not sure if this is a Canadian thing, but note that I emphasized the word “impossible” here.

In order to grow as leaders we must be willing to step outside our comfort zone and take the steps required for leadership growth. It’s a leadership requirement and the fire service deserves nothing but the best in leadership.

Thank you for joining me in my inaugural blog and please join me in this journey and let’s grow together…eh.