(Proverbs 11:2) “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
Let’s break this down to two parts. 1) Pride leads to disgrace 2) humility comes wisdom.
1) the fire service is full of pride. It is an occupation that strives on pride. Pride leads to disgrace when firefighters use it to cover up mistakes. I have seen it over and over again when firefighters make mistakes their pride gets in the way, instead of just facing their failures. The step toward disgrace is when you realize you made a mistake and you start thinking of excuses. We were enroute to an apartment fire in our first due territory. Enroute I asked the driver if they knew where the building was or did I need to look it up in the map book. He responded that he knows where he is going. So, I did not think anything of it and continued to get dress thinking about what actions I was going to take when we arrived on scene. Well, we got lost. The driver missed the turn. By the time we figured the right way the second due engine had beat us to the scene and we got water supply. I will never forget what the driver told me right before I exited the truck, “Let’s tell them we were getting fuel, that is why we were second in.” That just led me to believe that pride leads to disgrace.
2) humility comes wisdom. I was promoted at a young age and I had a lot of pride that made me have to prove that I could do the job. I can not remember my first mistake as Battalion Chief but I can remember my most recent. Resources and strategy is my number one role as an incident commander. Tasks and tactics is the role of the company officer. My first is responsibility is the resources not just on an incident but throughout the city. For a while I would get caught up in the dispatch of the location address and incident description that I would forget who was dispatched. After realizing the wrong units were dispatched, I took my humility and learned that I always need to write down the responding units and address then make sure the territories align correctly. I had to accept what I did was wrong and that I have become wiser by doing so.
How was humility helped you grow?
Why do we send multiple units to a complex emergency incident? To have enough people to complete all the tasks needed.
The first due company is responsible to respond to all emergencies in their territory, the rest are just support. We can even break down the support to the individual fire crews. The engineer supports the firefighters and officer by driving them safely to the scene and providing the water and tools need for the firefighters to do their job. The firefighters support their company officer by perform the duties to best of their ability. The company officer supports their people by providing them with the leadership and resources they need to do their job. We support each other everyday.
What about your personal life. Life can be just as complicated as a not so ordinary structure fire. We need support to get through life. Who supports you in your personal life? Your spouse, your children, your parents, friends, a neighbor. Do not be afraid to reach out for support, we all need it. The best way to get support is by giving it.
How have you supported any one today?
My favorite leader in the Bible, besides Jesus, is Nehemiah. Why? Because Nehemiah had the passion to make a difference. When Nehemiah had heard that the walls that protected Jerusalem were destroyed, he felt a sudden passion to go help rebuild that wall. Nehemiah, a king’s cup-bearer, had so much passion to go rebuild the wall that it gave him the courage to ask the King for his help. (Nehemiah 2:2&5) So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.” I replied, “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah (Jerusalem) to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”
Passion will drive a person to push through challenges and obstacles just like it did Nehemiah. When was the last time you had the passion to drive you? Do you provide your people the opportunity to share their passion? Imaging what would have happen if the King never asked Nehemiah. I have heard and seen fire service leaders strike down the passion of firefighters. To the point that firefighters no longer have the ability or willingness to share their passion. I sometimes wonder if leaders in the fire service do that just because they are afraid that someone will out-do-them or look better than them.
Promote passion and give your people the ability to strive to fulfill their passion. It will only make you a better leader.
Recently I was having a conversation with an individual about our fire department participating in a multi-department training event. As our agreement came to a close, he said, “Chief, with all due respect, (which is never good) you should send some of your best firefighters to represent your department.” I immediately knew what he was saying. We all have good firefighters and we all have bad firefighters. After we hung up the phone, I leaned back in my chair and thought about what he had said. It made me realize that our weakest link is our department’s standard. If I could not send any of our firefighters to represent our department in a positive way than we shouldn’t send anybody.
As a leaders in your department it is your job to address the lowest standard. Ignoring them will not work, it will only prevent your department from raising it’s standards. Invest the time, set expectations and hold your people accountable. This will help raise the bar for all the firefighters. Who is your department’s weakest link? How can you raise your department’s standards?
We all know what happens when there is a leak in the hose. It does not matter where the leak is, it causes a problem at the end.
Decisions and actions in your life are the same. Everything is connected in life. The decisions you made 5, 10 or 15 years ago are connected to today. Some you may still regret and are still paying for it, while others you are glad you made because you are successful today. This is true for every aspect of your life; personal, professional and spiritual. When you make a decision in life make sure you remember that your decision will be connected to you from years to come.
What decision will you make today that will be connected to your future?
Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen any further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” I can relate to what Isaac Newton is saying.
When I first started my career in the fire service I had, what I like to call it, an opportunity to learn from the best leaders and the not so much best leaders. Regardless of who the leader was, I always took a little something away that I can use in my leadership tool box. It was, of course, those great leaders who influenced me the most. They influenced me because they were giants and still allowed me to climb on to their shoulders to see further.
You know immediately who these giants are when you first meet them because you notice immediately that they do not have an agenda for themselves but want to help other. These are the people who you need to find and build a relationship with. It is sometimes hard to find those people but if you look hard enough you will eventually find them. That person may be a parent, a friend, a boss, a subordinate, or a fellow employee or teammate.
The most fascinating part of the quote from Isaac Newton is that giants actually allow people to stand on their shoulders. Remember that when you find yourself to be a giant. Let someone stand on your shoulder instead of chasing them saying, “I am hungry”.
Leaders have ideas. Not only do they have ideas but leaders also know how to communicate those ideas. Who else has ideas? The people you lead have ideas.
The only way people know when to share their ideas is when it is welcomed. Welcome the people around you to present and share their ideas. They might just have an idea that will benefit everyone. Not all ideas are great ones. But, the opportunity to share ideas gives the ability for people to grow and when your people grow, you grow as a leader.
In the 80’s and 90’s leadership, or should I say manager, only used Autocratic leadership because at that time the top three employee demands were job security, amount of pay and benefits. Today the employee’s top three demands are different, they want to “feel included”, appreciated for their work, and for their bosses to have compassion and understanding toward their personal lives and problems. That is why participative leadership is the new leadership of our time. Toyota is a great example of a company in the 90’s who looked at their leadership styles and changed the way they include their employee’s ideas and passion to strive.
Try it out by providing the opportunity to your people to share ideas and you may be surprised of the results.