I have spent the last hour or so on FFN checking on the discussions I am interested in & looking through my groups for topics of interest. One of my favorite groups is Command Safety where Christopher J. Naum, SFPE posts some very good information & references. One of his topics of conversation was Leadership. There is a very well written piece with some "tips" on Leadership & how to become a better leader. Very good reading for anyone particularly those in officer positions. He states that good leaders are not born, they are trained (basically that is what he is saying but not in those exact words.)

I'm not a marine. I haven't had too many classes on leadership but I read everything I can find to try to better myself as a person and as a fire fighter. Leadership is basically management. I have tried for some time to get into the NFA "Leadership & Administration" class. I tend to be a little late with my applications because the classes are always full & I haven't managed to be accepted to one yet.

I have been told that I am "bossy". But I've also been complimented on my management skills and being an organizer or a "take charge" type of person. I don't always mean to come off as bossy but people often need a direction to follow. The problem is not that they can't do anything, they often just don't know what TO DO. They need a little nudge in the right direction or just plain ORDERS to follow.

I think sometimes LIFE in general prepares us for certian roles. I am the oldest of 5 kids. As a teenager, my siblings were often left in my care which can be a pretty good responsibility for a young person. That makes me a pretty good leader and a referee. My parents depended on me to take charge of my brothers & sisters. I started working when I was 14. Often getting your butt up to go to work @ 8am while everyone else is enjoying their summer vacation isn't the most FUN thing to do but I really think I learned responsibility by doing so.

We live in a rural area where kids learn responsibility @ a fairly early age. My family depended on me for things like picking fruit or vegetables, setting tobacco, taking in hay & feeding stock before I was 10 yrs old. Child labor laws didn't apply. We didn't get paid, we had a home & food & clothing. Sometimes we had to help provide those things for ourselves & the rest of the family.

Girls couldn't be firefighters back in the day, so I joined the Ladie's Auxiliary @ age 14. That isn't a LOT of responsibility but we worked pretty hard @ times with fund raisers & supporting events of the FD. For many years I was in charge of windows & cob-webs @ the fire station, a job my Uncle Chiefie found appropriate for me since he wouldn't ask the Jr firefighters to do such tasks.

Somehow in school I managed to get elected to offices such as president or secretary of extra curricular clubs & organizations. I wasn't popular but I was dependable. Which was probably why I was selected to be an aid in the office and/or the library in high school. Of course in my day (oh that makes me sound old) if you wanted to drive a car, you had to earn that right & help pay for it too. Once you began to drive, you were also expected to run errands for your parents & make sure the siblings got to practices, activities & parties or sometimes just OUT to get them out of the folks hair for a while.

Becoming a mother & the wife of a VFF and OTR truck driver and working odd or part time jobs was also a source of learning management skills, organization, responsibility & dependability. One of those responsibilities was telephoning members of the FD when there was an alarm. Waking folks up in the middle of the night makes you less than the most popular person in the fire house.

Somehow soon after joining the FD as a full fledged member @ last in 1985, I found myself as one of the Jr leaders. Ramroding & training up to 20 teenagers can require quite a bit of bossiness, management & organization skills. Being a female firefighter, the department Secretary and assistant to the Chief requires the same thing as well as determination. So does raising 2 kids, working a 40 hr week @ a full time job & being a VFF running calls, going to meetings & functions & accumulating @ least 36hrs a year in training.

By getting to know the people you are in chare of you learn to recognize strengths & weaknesses in them and how to help them increase their potential. (or you are going to get your tail ripped by the Chief when something goes wrong)

In my full time job, for many years I trained, scheduled & organized workflow for work study students and became responsible for the care, maintenance and access of the collection in an academic library. Which later included helping to organize & complete moving over half the collection to a new facility across campus. In May they gave me a gold heart "I love Marshall" necklace for 20 yrs of service to the university. In working with people you tend to learn how to read co-workers & figure out how to help them get the most out of the job & who to assign which tasks or who not to assign and sometimes how to subtly suggest certian things that need to be accomplished. In middle management, where there are people working over you & others working under you, sometimes the "stuff" falls down from the top while more of it piles up from the bottom & lands somewhere right around the middle. Those of us in that position learn creative ways of maintaining @ least what LOOKS like doing a good job of handling our situation or doing our jobs to the best of our ability.

When you are dependable & have determination, management/organizational skills you are often expected to take charge of matters. Quite often you are also expected NOT to try to FIX things that other people don't see as broken so you spend more time TRYING to get things done because you have to go about them assbackward. But in the end, you accomplish your goals (even if it takes you twice as long to get it done.)

When you tend to be responsible & dependable you sometimes find yourself in situations you would rather not be in & have to find ways to get out of them or do what everyone else expects you to do for the good of the order (what ever that is) and make the best of it and do the best you can do. I think in an officers class once they called that helping to affect a positive outcome. Somehow through all this organizing & managing & being dependable & responsible, you gain respect from those around you. Personally, I have had the good fortune to be able to work with some folks who were pretty good @ leadership & been able to learn from them not only thier good points but things that need some adjustment to make them work a little better.

I have been able to meet some fairly well respected people in the fire service and learn from them. Some where instructors others were officers who have been in the business for many years and were willing to share their experience.

At one point I made a list of objectives for being a good leader/officer. (Some other people where pretty impressed with it) but in one computer crash or another, through my organization skills, I have since lost the list. But somewhere near the top of it was that a leader should never ask a subordinate to do something they themselves would not do.

Some folks strive to be leaders and demand respect and responsibilities they haven't earned. They often never really figure out HOW to be a leader. They lead but few if any actually follow. While others of us seem to evolve into the role, yet accept that responsibilty and learn more about how to be effective & develop better leadership skills. They say with age comes wisdom. I've come to the conclusion that all that really means is that you do learn from experience. At some point in your life you learn to recognize your own strengths & weaknesses & decide how much effort you are willing to put into reinforcing those strengths & improving the weaknesses.

I am not knocking youth, God knows the people you mentor today might be pulling your butt out of the deep stuff tomorrow, but often having been there & done that & learned from it is just as important and often more rewarding than having read it in a manual. The best leaders are those who have the advantage of experience and are willing to continue to use the resources available to keep working toward being a better leader, role model and mentor to the folks they are responsible to/for.

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Comment by Christopher J. Naum, SFPE on October 28, 2008 at 8:07pm
Great discussion and thoughts...keep it up and stay true to yourself.
Mentoring and being a role model is the greatests of all leadership traits....stay safe.
Comment by Art "ChiefReason" Goodrich on October 28, 2008 at 11:28am
Jenny:
Excellent blog.
A leader isn't a leader if they don't have anyone who will follow them. Followers will not follow if they don't respect the one who is suppose to lead. Without followers, there is no leader.
I can call myself anything, but that doesn't make it so to the rest of the world. There are a lot of imposters and pretenders out there who believe that it is a simple matter of sewing on 5 bugles and all of a sudden, they are the top officer and commands respect.
We don't become leaders because we want to be better than everyone else.
We become leaders to make everyone else better.
And if we aren't doing that, then we are failures; not leaders.
TCSS.
Art

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