Over the past year, Firehouse® Magazine has published a series of articles addressing critical leadership issues designed to focus on fire company officer development and performance. This is my final article in that series.
Much of the material presented was derived from forums conducted with new and experienced company officers from various locations in the country. In fact, the total number consulted has grown to several hundred. From their input, which was presented in behavioral and realistic terms, you have had the opportunity to review the following articles:
- Part 1 - "Safety Leadership By The Company Officer" (July 1998).
- Part 2 - "Self-Discipline In Your Fire Company" (September 1998).
- Part 3 - " 'Running Your Own' Fire Station" (November 1998).
- Part 4 - "Staying A Positive & Productive Company Officer Over The Long Haul" (March 1999).
I hope you found something in their content that was useful to you in your role as a fire company officer...or a wannabe company officer....or as a chief who supervises company officers.
This article will focus on a few of the behaviors that are consistently mentioned when we discuss the subject of company officer leadership in the fire service. This list is not intended to be all inclusive, but these behaviors were consistently repeated when discussing leadership in the areas of safety, self-discipline, empowerment, and a staying positive, productive and healthy leader throughout a career. I have added a couple of additional thoughts to them, as well. They are as follows:
- Always set a positive example and practice sound personal and professional values.
- Share our expectations of others up front and encourage members to get involved in their department's issues and processes.
- Good behavior and performance should be rewarded in some way at every opportunity; it should not be taken for granted. Unsatisfactory performance or behavior should never be rewarded; if it is, expect to see it repeated.
- Consistent with our long-standing fire service tradition, company officers should be customer focused (externally and internally) and community/neighborhood centered.
- Stay an advocate of the fire department and help other members be successful - including your boss.
- Remain competent in our jobs and value composure as a critical trait of an officer. Help the crews stay trained and help each member grow professionally.
- Display a high regard for personnel safety, including physical, psychological and emotional fitness.
- Practice self-discipline and expect the same from others. Be willing and able to impose corrective discipline when necessary.
- Remember the "5 L's":
Never stop Learning.
Love your friends and family.
Believe in Laboring hard.
Know when it's time to Leave.
An old friend shared the 5 L's with me years ago. They are good for the soul and can help focus and balance leaders.
- As a company officer, decide what you would like others to say is special about working for you, then do a set of things to make it reality. It helps to know what we stand for as a leader...but we should probably keep the list short.
I have enjoyed being involved in the Firehouse® series on company officer leadership. My thanks to Harvey Eisner for asking me to participate.
There is nothing more to our mission than providing leadership and support to the members who perform the mission every day. Company officers play a key leadership role in this process as a conduit that connects the support to the street…and thus to service.
I don't know anyone capable of meeting everyone's expectations and needs every day, but the more thought we give to these basic leadership concepts, the closer we will come to that target. Good luck to all of you as we continue to ponder leadership and its relationship to external and internal service delivery. It's all connected to the overall cause. We are very fortunate to have so many capable company officers in our systems.
Dennis Compton, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is the fire chief in Mesa, AZ. He previously served as assistant fire chief in the Phoenix Fire Department. During a career that spans 28 years, Compton has been involved in many fire service and civic organizations, and is a well-known speaker and author. He currently chairs the executive board of the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) and serves as vice-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Institute's National Advisory Committee.