Karpluk: Books to Add to Your Shelf, Open Your Mind

Fire Chief Les Karpluck shares a list of books that he has marked up to learn about leadership, management and the fire service.


I have recently received several inquiries about books that aspiring officers should read. I feel honored that a firefighter would seek me out to get my advice on leadership books, but the more I thought about this, the more I started to worry that I would embarrass myself if I missed a book written by a fire service leader.

There are simply so many great fire service leadership books out there, so rather than list fire service authors, I quickly grabbed some books from my bookshelf that I believe any member of the fire service should read.

In order to minimize the size of this blog, I will refrain from writing why I believe these books are a must and hope you believe me when I say that you will learn from each of these books. Here goes…

  • The Greatness Guide - Robin Sharma
  • A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War - General Rick Hillier
  • Leadership Rules - Chris Widener 
  • As a Man Thinketh - James Allen
  • Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success - Rory Vaden
  • Wooden on Leadership - John Wooden
  • Full Steam Ahead: Unleash the Power of Vision in Your Work and Your Life - Jess Lyn Stoner & Ken Blanchard
  • The Attitude of Leadership - Keith Harrell
  • In Becoming a Coaching Leader - Daniel Harkavy
  • It’s Your Ship - Michael Abrashoff
  • The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader - John Maxwell
  • Everyone’s a Coach: You can Inspire Anyone to be a Winner - Don Shula & Ken Blanchard
  • Emotional Intelligence - Daniel Goleman
  • The 360° Leader - John Maxwell

And, speaking of books, while I was recently reading Situational Awareness: For Emergency Responders by Rich Gasaway I found myself reflecting upon the first time I met Dr. Gasaway.

I met Dr. Rich Gasaway in St. Johns at the 2012 Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) annual Fire Rescue conference. I knew he was going to be speaking at the conference so I took the chance and sent him an email hoping that he would have time for a coffee. My philosophy being, you never know unless you ask -- so why not ask?

Never did I expect that it would work out, but Dr. Gasaway made it a point to contact me and set up a coffee time. Typically when meeting an individual for the first time, there is the usual small talk to break the ice. That didn’t happen in our meeting as we seemed to connect and we just engaged and talked about our passions.

For 90 minutes I had the honor and privilege to exchange ideas with a man that has a complete conviction, passion and belief in his message. He is truly on a mission and wants to eliminate the line of duty deaths by educating our profession about situational awareness.

Last year I presented at the Fire Chief’s Association of British Columbia conference in Abbotsford and as fate would have it, so did Dr. Gasaway. Once again we were able to visit and talk about our passions. Dr. Gasaway talked about situational awareness (while I morphed into a sponge) and not only did I learn some valuable lessons about situational awareness, I was able to take away some great leadership insight from him.

There seems to be a personal connection to a book when I have heard the author speak and Rich Gasaway’s book was no exception. When I read a book I need to have a yellow highlighter, sticky notes and a pencil readily available. It’s my way of creating a quick reference system and death by highlighter means the book is invaluable.

I have been fortunate to listen to Rick Lasky and Dennis Rubin speak at conferences and I’m chomping at the bit to start reading Five Alarm Leadership (Rick Lasky & John Salka) and D.C. Fire (Dennis Rubin). And, yes these books are on my bookshelf just waiting for me to pick up my yellow highlighter and sticky notes.

One of the items on my to-do list for 2014 is to attend a leadership session with Al Brunacini presenting. I have not had the opportunity yet, and it just makes sense to try to get into the same room with one of our professions most admired and respected leaders. When this happens, I will need more than a yellow highlighter and sticky notes to create a quick reference guide.