Anyone who has embraced the call to ‘step up and lead’ understands the weight of this great responsibility. Whereas we once cast stones at others about their incompetence or poor leadership abilities; we now are more understanding due to having walked several miles in their shoes.
Leadership by its very definition is to be out in front. In times of conflict, those who are out in front are bold but also the ones to first to receive the first opposing fire from the enemy.
In the fire service, the very act of becoming a firefighter is the acceptance of leadership. A firefighter is on the nozzle, taking the brunt of the harsh environment they enter. A firefighter is the first through the door in many challenging situations and is often the first to sacrifice for another.
But as one steps up into the front seat of the fire service, they encounter an entirely new perspective. They are not often greeted with appreciation for their decisions and when the time comes to deliver unwelcome news they now bear the true burden of leadership. Many speak of leadership under fire but many shy away from dealing with the ‘working fires’ under their own supervision.
Everyone who writes of leadership speaks of leading from the front, setting the example, and staying accountable but few enlighten others of the responsibility of having to discipline, or deliver unwelcome news, and accept responsibility for the actions of others.
Few speak of the challenges of having to discipline those who are our friends who took advantage of the relationship.
Few share the pain of loneliness felt when those we try to help, walk away, or refuse our counsel.
Few speak on the hurt as they try to affect change within the organization only to have their ideas and countless hours worth of work discarded as if it were meaningless.
Few individuals understand that these aforementioned experiences are part of being a leader as well. The responsibility, privilege, and authority in leadership goes hand in hand with accountability. There is no escaping this. We as leaders cannot have one without the other. It is a balanced equation that must be understood. The trumpets on our collar are symbolic of a leader and a manager.
Leadership means to embrace all of its responsibilities and not shirk away from the hidden struggles of personnel problems. It also means that we are to lead, inspire, and motivate others even if they move on. A leader’s goal should to be help others reach their full potential. This requires great personal sacrifice and is often painful. But we are not here for an awards ceremony, our greatest reward as leaders will be reflected in the hearts of changed lives that we were blessed to watch over.
So when the next dark moment comes upon us, and we wonder if all our work is for naught; pause and give thanks that we are an integral part of the leaders of tomorrow. Our efforts are developing and shaping the future of emergency services.