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How to Be a Champion for Change

Posted by Feld Fire on 8/20/2014 to Fire Fighting

You are a good, talented firefighter in a great department and a great station crew. So this is not to say that there are bad departments out there, but certainly some departments are better than others. And if you are someone who thinks there should or could be changes that can help your department be even better but you are not in a position of authority in order to put some changes into motion, that doesn't mean you should sit by and wait for someone in authority to come up with the ideas on his or her own.

If you are a firefighter who reads all the latest research in fire science and checks out all the latest trends in equipment, strategy and tactics in firefighting, there is no reason that you can't address the need for changes. Leadership doesn't have to come from the top - and many times, it doesn't.

While your department may be very good, if there is a way to make it more efficient and serve the people at a higher level that what is already being accomplished, you have a duty to present your ideas to your superior officer.

But you don't just storm into his office and tell him. You have to compile some of the research you have been reading and put together a compelling presentation to your boss. If you go in with a thoughtful and well-researched and factual presentation about the way things have been and how things can be better, a good leader will not only listen and pay attention, but could be convinced to implement some of the changes. Or if the boss can't unilaterally implement the changes, he can support you and encourage you to take your ideas to the real decision-makers higher up in the chain.

Leadership can come from anywhere, and good leaders can recognize that great ideas don't have to come only from them or those higher up. Good leaders know that the rank-and-file care just as much about the work they do as the officers and chiefs, and everyone can agree that the focus should be on providing the best service for the public and the best efficiency and safety possible for the firefighters. That is a lot to juggle, but if there is a way to do it better, we all have a duty to be open to a new idea - and we can present our idea in a professional, open-minded and collaborative fashion.

That is how to cultivate leadership skills in ourselves and in our departments. To either do this ourselves, or encourage our rank-and-file to be open and comfortable to come to us with their ideas and feedback. The important aspect of being a leader, whether you are a firefighter, an officer or a chief, is to have the ability to convince and persuade those of influence.

That makes you an influencer of the influencers. And that makes you a champion for change. Embrace it.

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