A wise person once said, “It’s not life that’s important, but those you meet along the way that make the difference.” Many people have taught me many valuable, unforgettable leadership lessons. Here are ten I’d like to share with you.
1. Be Cautious of Labels. Labels you place on people may define your relationship to them and bound their potential. Therefore, be cautious of a leader who callously says, “Hey, he’s just a firefighter.” Likewise, don’t tolerate the O-1, who says, “I can’t do that, I’m just a lieutenant or captain.”
2. Everyone Deserves Respect. We often do not respect others and even hang labels on them. Remember the old adage do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
3. Courtesy Makes a Difference. Be courteous to all around you, regardless of rank or position. Fire Department customs, as well as common courtesies, help bond a team. When your daily words to an individual will turn from a perfunctory “hello” to a heartfelt greeting, their demeanor and personality will outwardly be changed.
4. Take Time to Know Your People. Life in the fire service is hectic, but that’s no excuse for not knowing the people you work for and with. For years a hero walked among us at the station and we never knew it. Who are the heroes that walk in your midst?
5. Anyone Can Be a Hero. Don’t sell your people short, for any one of them may be the hero who rises to the occasion when duty calls. On the other hand, it’s easy to turn to your proven performers when the chips are down, but don’t ignore the rest of the team. Today’s rookie could and should be tomorrow’s superstar.
6. Leaders Should Be Humble. Most modern day heroes and some leaders are anything but humble, especially if you calibrate your “hero meter” on today’s athletic fields. End zone celebrations and self-aggrandizement are what we’ve come to expect from sports greats. A real hero will be too busy working to celebrate his past heroics. Leaders would be well-served to do the same.
7. Life Won’t Always Hand You What You Think You Deserve. We in the fire service work hard and, dang it, we deserve recognition, right? However, sometimes you just have to persevere, even when accolades don’t come your way. Perhaps you weren’t nominated for officer or firefighter of the year as you thought you should – don’t let that stop you.
8. Don’t pursue glory; pursue excellence. No job is beneath a Leader. If a Medal of Honor winner could clean latrines and smile, is there a job beneath your dignity? Think about it.
9. Pursue Excellence. No matter what task life hands you, do it well. Dr. Martin
Luther King said, “If life makes you a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper you can be.”
10. Life is a Leadership Laboratory. All too often we look to some school or certification class to teach us about leadership when, in fact, life is a leadership laboratory. Those you meet every day will teach you enduring lessons if you just take time to stop, look and listen.