The theme for the 2021 Leadership Development Symposium is “Lead Forward.” But what does this mean? Be progressive? Have a vision for the department? Develop future leaders? Yes, yes, and yes! To me it means all of those things and more. For this newsletter, let’s just tackle those few.
Be progressive - Leaders must be constantly seeking out ways to be progressive. Do we need to make progress around technology, training, personal protective equipment? Yep, we sure do. But more importantly we need to be progressive in how we provide service delivery. Now is the time to look at alternative response models, consolidations, or meeting the emerging needs of the community. If we do not evolve we become extinct. Emergency services are the home to many dinosaurs. Make sure you are not one of them.
Have a vision - Where is your department headed? Where do you want it to go? What do you want it to become? I recommended being progressive. But what are we progressing toward. It is the job of the leader to cast the vision. To dream about what can be. Then the leader has to get the followers to buy in to that vision. Your organization will not advance an inch without the members believing in a shared vision. Who wants to go on a trip with an uncertain destination? We all want a road map to follow. As the leader you develop the road map. Show them the milestones of how we get from here to there. That will go a long way towards getting people to get on your bus. A leader must also set the tempo for how we drive towards that vision. As leaders, many of us want to arrive so badly that we are willing to drive a 100 miles per hour. Not everyone on our bus may be comfortable driving that speed. We need everyone to arrive at the destination comfortable and safe. The only speed that is not acceptable is no forward movement. Those that want to stay stopped, or even drive in reverse, need to get off of your bus.
Develop future leaders - Can a department have too many leaders. Do you find yourself saying, “If only I did not have so many problem solvers, so many people that will step up and face challenges, then I would really have something?” Have a succession plan. Leaders will retire. They will move on to other organizations. If you think about developing a new generation of leaders after they have left, you have failed. We should always be in the process of developing our replacements. Your legacy will not be what you accomplished when you were in the position. Your legacy will be what the leaders you developed accomplish.
Be safe, keep those around you safe and “Lead Forward!” I wish you the best in your journey as a leader.
Oshkosh (WI) Fire Department