achieve both departmental and personal goals. I use a leadership
C.P.R. approach: courtesy, professionalism, and responsibility.
Courtesy is a great place to start when developing your team. As
a true leader, you wouldn’t ask your crew to do anything that you
wouldn’t, so why would this be any different? By allowing input
and treating them as a part of the team and with respect, they will
feel empowered and exceed expectations.
Many firefighters have experience outside of the fire service.
Firefighters with backgrounds such as electrician, welder, builder,
and other skills are the norm. I had a call for smoke in a concession room. While investigating, we had an “electrical” smell.
There was something wrong with either the soda machine or
the wall outlet, but it was difficult to diagnose. At this point, I
needed an electrician, not a firefighter. If I kept my rookies from
speaking and failed to capitalize on their backgrounds or talents,
I would not have been able to easily diagnose the problem. In this
case, it was the machine, allowing us to isolate the problem while
keeping the electricity turned on to the room.
With a job so dynamic, we should use the team’s entire knowledge to the fullest extent. If we foster a “don’t speak” environment, your firefighters may be able to easily fix a problem but
choose to not because of fear of repercussions. A true leader
knows the assets of the team and uses their talents to achieve
goals. Show your crew courtesy, and they will support your
visions and return respect.
Professionalism is imperative to success. The best motivation
is leading by example. If you don’t follow policy and complain
about procedures, your crew will follow suit. You must be
the example of the job and expectations you want from your
Leadership cannot be achieved without understanding and
practicing followership. Some view followership as “drinking the
Kool-Aid®.” This is not the case. How do you expect your crew
to effectively follow you if you choose to not follow procedures
yourself? Professionalism is vital to both your team’s success and
your success as a leader.
Responsibility is the highest mark of great leaders. Embracing
power while shunning responsibility will create a toxic environment for your team. Accepting criticism allows for improvement
and making amends in wrongdoing. I once changed the apparatus rotation matrix. I had good intention, but it didn’t include
everyone fairly. Once brought to my attention, I apologized and
corrected it to ensure fairness. Ultimately, you are responsible for
activities and decisions made by yourself and your crew. By blaming others for your shortcomings, you will lose respect as well as
appear arrogant and unapproachable. In addition, responsibility is giving credit to those who deserve that acclaim. Humble
leaders are secure with the ability to accept their weaknesses while
nourishing the talents of others. Being responsible is a transparent
process, and this builds trust in your team.
By focusing on leadership C.P.R., you can help build an
effective team while shaping the leadership style of those who will
surely replace you one day. Be humble and approachable so you
are not limiting your team to the best that you can be but the
best that the team as a whole can be. By doing the right thing for
the right reasons, you can break the cycle of producing unprepared leaders and at the same time make it out of any personnel
Jamie Howarth is a 15-year veteran of emergency services and a lieutenant with
the Anne Arundel County (MD) Fire Department. She is a nationally registered
paramedic, has national certification as a fire officer, and has a bachelor’s degree
in public safety administration from University of Maryland University College.
(Photo by Robert Howarth.)