Leadership: Affective or Effective, you decide

CarolinaFireJournal - Chad Beam
Chad Beam
07/15/2014 -

Often we try and wrap our minds around what exactly produces a quality leader. We constantly think about this for multiple reasons which include wanting to better your shift, wanting to better your department, or even maybe for a promotional test. The idea of leadership has been around since the beginning of time but do we truly understand the qualities of a successful leader? Let’s discuss the two main attributes of leadership and you decide.

Leadership, like stated above, has been around for quite some time, in fact, the beginning. From stories in the bible to stories in early war history, there has always been a leader identified. The leader demonstrated one of two types, if not both; they were either an affective leader or an effective leader. I know you’re sitting there asking yourself well, what is the difference? Don’t they mean the same thing? The answer is no and we’ll discuss why.

Affective is described as “to act on, or to move.” Many definitions discuss such things as to give the appearance of, to assume artificially, or to assume the character of. That’s when we ask ourselves, do we want a leader that is giving an appearance of, or artificially assuming a role? That should be a fairly simple answer for you — NO! We don’t want a fake. We want a genuine leader that can go and take charge and if they are giving an appearance, it’s the appearance of someone solid, strong and trustworthy. Those are three very solid characteristics of a leader.

Then there is effective. Effective is described as to bring about or to accomplish. Some other descriptions of effective are listed as the power to produce results, a state of being able to be functional, or purpose or intention. When looking for a leader we want someone that is able to accomplish, someone that is able to use their power to produce results, someone that is functional, and most importantly, someone that has a good intention with a purpose behind it. That sums up an effective leader, which in the fire service, we need more of.

In the fire service we look to many people to serve the role as leaders. No, it doesn’t have to be the guy or girl wearing the red or white helmet; it can be a guy or girl wearing the black helmet that represents a line firefighter. Sometimes these are the best leaders because they don’t lead from an assumed role; they lead from love and passion of the job. They’re leading because they want to see new people improve, they want to see their department improve, and most importantly, they want to see themselves improve.

In the fire service, many times we’re under the impression that you have to have been in the fire service for 30 plus years to be a leader, when in fact, that’s completely false. Now I’m not saying let the guy that graduated from the academy yesterday lead the scene but if you have an experienced firefighter that has some good thoughts, let him or her share. A leader is not someone that stands in front of a bunch of people and yells. A leader is not someone that says it’s my way or the highway. A leader is not someone that is too prideful to use outside resources or someone under them that may be better versed in a certain subject.

A leader IS someone that will lead from the front, but instead of yelling they’ll calmly talk understanding the impression that may be left. A leader IS someone that understands that there are other ways then theirs, which may be better or safer. A leader IS someone that has so much pride in their ability to lead that they’re open to the opportunity of others from the outside or under them to help achieve certain things. A leader IS all of that and more. Most importantly, a leader is effective, not affective.

As a leader, be effective; make a difference in the way that will leave an impression of respect, knowledge and understanding. Don’t be an affective leader and portray a role that you’re not able to fulfill. Do not lead that false since of knowledge that could ultimately end up in danger for the people under your leadership. Remember, we eventually have to retire from this business. We may be the leaders today but we’re training the leaders of tomorrow!

What are you going to do? How are you going to lead? Are you ready for the challenge? Pride is healthy as long as it’s within its limits. When pride gets in the way, it becomes unhealthy, we lose our focus, we lose our safety factor, and ultimately, we lose our future leaders.

As always, yours in training.

Chad Beam has over 10 years in Fire/EMS. He feels fortunate to have grown up in the business watching his dad. Now he’s enjoying the same great profession in both fire and EMS, employed by the City of Fountain Inn Fire Department where he serves as a Firefighter/Paramedic. He is also employed with Greenville County EMS as a part-time paramedic. Beam currently teaches for the South Carolina Fire Academy as well as Greenville Technical College Continuing Medical Education program. He can be reached at [email protected].
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