Fire service leadership

CarolinaFireJournal - Glenn Hamm
Glenn Hamm
10/14/2011 -

(This is the first of a multi-part series on leadership.)

Ripples in the water

As a child, my grandfather used to take me fishing at a pond near his house. I remember well how he sat on the bank and shared his knowledge of baiting hooks, tying the perfect fisherman’s knot and where to cast. He knew then that these trips would serve as lessons not only in fishing but of life in general.


Now, it would be a lie if I told you that I sat beside him on the bank hanging on to his every word. Within a minute or two, at best, of sitting still on the bank I was picking up rocks and sticks and throwing them into the still, early morning waters just to watch the splash and see the ripples carry out across the whole pond. I messed up a lot of good fishing for my granddad. But, he was right; I did take away some valuable lessons from our trips to the pond.

In the fire service, the stones that you toss into the waters are your actions. As a rookie it may be more like pebbles than stones. However, as you advance in years of service your actions will make considerably larger splashes causing the ripple effect to carry across the entire pond. Ultimately, regardless of rank or length of service, leadership begins with you. From the first day that you set foot into the firehouse to the day you hang your helmet on the wall for the last time, EVERY action you take WILL influence the actions of those around you. You are already a leader. The big questions are: Where are you leading your fellow firefighters? Where are you leading your department as a whole?

Finding your Core Values

Knowing that our actions influence the actions of those around us, we must ensure what we do constantly reflects the standards of the modern fire service, if we wish to have a successful department. The quality of every fire department can be traced directly back to its leadership. Great departments are great because their leaders are great. They are great at not only what they do, but who they are deep down inside. The same is true of bad departments. These influencers that drive our actions and ultimately the direction of our department are known as core values. Your core values are the deep rooted parts of your persona that you act on, daily, without thinking. Good or bad, we all have them. These are the actions we repeatedly make. These are the words that will be used to describe us long after we have left the face of this earth. It is these core values that are determining how our ripples in the water influence our fellow firefighters and our department.

Task: Write down your core values and then ask yourself these six questions as you review them.

  1. Q: How are my core values directing the status of my department?
  2. Q: Do I embrace and exemplify the nationally accepted standards for the fire service?
  3. Q: As a Chief, Officer or major influencer at my department do I allow inferior core values to deter me from taking charge and leading the department in the right direction?
  4. Q: Are my core values a positive influence on those around me?
  5. Q: Am I satisfied with my core values and where they are taking my department?
  6. Q: Am I willing to improve myself and my core values so that I can be a positive influence on those around me?

Glenn L. Hamm, II. graduated from The Citadel, Class of 2003, with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology. Currently he serves the fire and rescue service as an Assistant Chief at Station 17, Newberry County Emergency Services and Dive Team Leader for Newberry County Emergency Services. Hamm also services the needs of the fire service as owner of Poseidon Fire Rescue Equipment (
E-mail [email protected] or call 803-924-7146.
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