Leadership: More steps in the right direction

CarolinaFireJournal - By David Hesselmeyer
By David Hesselmeyer
10/22/2013 -

Last edition we discussed what makes a good leader. As was mentioned, there are no specific templates for what makes a good leader. However, most have some form or fashion of certain aspects. The first two we discussed were self awareness and expectations of the members. This issue we are going to mention a few more.


Great leaders can apply their direction in fairness. Favoritism in the fire service can quickly kill morale and make achieving goals extremely difficult. However, this is seen in fire departments everywhere.


A good leader can see what motivates their staff and use this to the betterment of the department.

So how do we maintain fairness? First and foremost, if you become an officer or a person of authority, remember that this is a job and not a buddy system. Think about your decisions before implementing them. If the decision is not time sensitive, run it by another officer or counterpart. Secondly, be consistent. Don’t apply one set of policies or rules for one person or group and then another set for others.

Lack of fairness can really be detrimental. Be Fair!


This is a touchy subject. Some think you cannot discipline volunteers. There are others that say career policies and procedures are too hard to understand to be able to comply with them.

Discipline is something that you can practice with volunteers or career. It is important. That being said we need to look at the implementation of discipline.

First we need to ensure that our policies and procedures are easy to understand and available to members easily. While at one department I was given a set of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and had to sign stating that I had been given them. As long as these were easy to understand — which they were — I could not argue with those rules even if I broke them.

Second remember that discipline should be implemented to change a member’s normal course of action. It should not be something that punishes them for their past mistakes but should be implemented to ensure that this person does not continue to make the same error. And part of this is being fair as mentioned above. If someone reports to work late and they get an unpaid one day suspension, don’t give the next person four days unpaid suspension for the same offense.


How do you get someone to do something? It is about motivation. Something motivates them to do that action. With fire and rescue personnel it is the same thing. Something gets them to run into burning buildings, sliding into a mangled car to aid a person after a car wreck, and countless other dangerous acts.

I challenge you during the next time you are in an open discussion meeting to ask you members why they do what they do in this service. You may get answers such as “I like helping people.”

A good leader can see what motivates their staff and use this to the betterment of the department. This can ensure that the priorities are done and can even help find new approaches to old problems when these people are given proper motivation and authority.


Think about past managers or supervisors you have had. Were they good leaders? In an upcoming issue we will discuss the differences between managing and leading. Until next time be safe out there!

David Hesselmeyer has been in emergency services for 15 years. Currently he is a firefighter, rescue technician, paramedic, and emergency management coordinator Type I. He is the owner and primary consultant with Emergency Preparedness Consulting (EPC). EPC contracts with emergency services agencies, health departments, fire departments, EMS agencies, and non profits to assist in risk assessments, plan writing, plan revision, exercise development, etc. He currently volunteers with Buies Creek Fire Rescue and works part time with Pitt County EMS. If you have any questions or concerns about this please feel free to contact Hesselmeyer at [email protected].
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Welcome to the Carolina Fire Rescue EMS Journal! We want to provide you with timely online information and breaking news that best equips you to meet today’s emergency challenges. Among our firefighting articles, you will find the latest in firefighter technology, firefighter training, leadership development and the newest products and services presented in an “Act Now” user friendly format.  We want to be your best online source for the fire and rescue information, resources and reviews you need.
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