As Chief Dennis and I delivered The Privilege of Leadership at the Durham Technical Community College for the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Officer Development Program, we reviewed the section of our presentation, “What Leaders Do.” Ron and I offer suggestions on what we believe are some basic principles and actions that good leaders use to be effective in their role. Once we reached the principle that leaders use intuition, common sense, and good judgement which leads to innovation; two attendees commented that “leaders(chiefs) should encourage creative thinking and allow fire officers to try new things.” We could tell from the passion that these individuals exhibited in stating their case, it would suggest that perhaps that kind of empowerment within their respective organizations may in fact be stifled.
Certainly, we couldn’t let that sit on the floor unanswered, and we tried to explore what kind of creative thinking and new things should be allowed. There are obviously some “bosses” who are restrictive in allowing their personnel to be creative, but there must be a reason. So why? Now, we understand that anything that would compromise safety or create a life and death situation is often non-negotiable.
However, we ask you, have we become less likely to try new things out of fear? Do we manage and lead only by policy? Have we become more inclined to take the safest route even though we can predict an unfavorable or less successful outcome? What are your thoughts on if this exists in the today’s fire service, and if so, why and what can we do about it?