The 7 Qualities Fire Service Leaders Must Possess

(This is part one of a seven-part series on leadership.)

During this series we will be examining the seven qualities that are necessary for a leader to be successful in leading the organization and the team.  The first part will focus on Commitment.

You cannot be an effective team leader without commitment. You must be committed to the organization you are a part of, committed to the people you serve, committed to being the best you can be and committed to excellence in all that you do. There has never been a great leader in the fire service that was not committed to these components. Commitment is a leadership quality that inspires and attracts people. It shows that the leader has convictions and that the leader believes in the organization’s mission, vision and values. Members of the team and the team as a whole will buy into the leader before they buy into the mission or the vision.

Commitment is About Passion

Team leaders cannot wait for everything to be picture perfect before they are willing to commit themselves. True leaders must have passion for what they are committing to. Commitment is needed before any significant success can be experienced. It is often a person’s passion in regards to the mission and vision that makes the difference between them being a good or a great leader. If you really want to make a difference in the life of others you need to look into your heart to examine the passion you have for the people, the organization and its mission to see if you are really committed. A passionate commitment will take a lot of energy, dedication and utilizing the talent of the personnel around them to accomplish the goals.

Commitment is Action not Words

The real test of a team leader’s commitment is action and not mere talk. It is easy to talk the talk but great leaders not only talk the talk but walk the walk. The walk they do is side by side with their personnel. Words are easy to say but they are much harder to live them out each day.

Commitment Opens the Door to
Opportunities and Achievement

Leaders will often face obstacles and opposition. It is important that leaders are able to find the opportunity in every situation. We know it is easy to lead in good times but the test of achievement is when a leader has the ability to lead during difficult and trying times. There will be times where their commitment is the only thing that carries them through these tough times. You will find that you second guess your commitment. Keep the vision on the end result. Keep the commitment and focus on what the end result is. Commitment allows team leaders to press on and get up no matter how many times they get knocked down. This quality will motivate the team around you and allow them to persevere as well. Nothing worthwhile can be achieved without commitment.

How to Improve Your Commitment

Measuring your commitment.

There are times when team leaders believe they are committed but their actions show otherwise. This is when leaders may be talking the talk but not walking the walk. Take time to intra-inspect really where you are on the commitment chart. Ask for others input as well, in fact a 360 evaluation at this point may be beneficial. The findings are often time low to both your commitment to the organization and the most valued resource, the personnel of your team. This intra-inspection will give you a clear indication of your true level of commitment.

Know What is Worth Dying For

I know most of you have heard don’t fall on your own sword or that you are in a no win battle. So when you are in one of these difficult times or battles, you must ask yourself and know intimately what you are willing to die for. In this case you can see just how committed you are as you can answer what I as the leader would not be able to stop doing no matter the consequences. See if your actions match your ideals.

Make Your Plans Public

No group likes to be left in the dark with no vision or plan to go forward. It is important that you provide that road map through vision and direction to accomplish the mission of the organization and be able to paint a vivid picture of the vision you have. In fact your vision has to become the team’s vision of the team to excel. If you are finding it difficult to make that first step towards commitment, paint that picture and make your plans public. Making your plans public will help you to be more committed to following them through.

So after this first quality — commitment — it is time for a self-evaluation and a team evaluation. Just how committed are you as a leader to the organization? How committed are you to the success of your team? Is your team committed to each other? Is the team committed to the organization? Is your team committed to you as the leader? Answering these will help you evaluate yourself and your team.

Douglas Cline is Chief of the Training and Professional Development Division with Horry County Fire Rescue. He is the Executive Editor for The Fire Officer and Executive Director for the Command Institute in Washington D.C. A 36 year fire and emergency services veteran as well as a well-known international speaker, Cline is a highly published author of articles, blogs and textbooks for both fire and EMS. As a chief officer, Cline is a distinguished authority of officer development and has traveled internationally delivering distinguished programs on leadership and officer development. He also has a diverse line of training videos on leadership, rapid intervention team training, vehicle fires, hose line management, and emergency vehicle operations and fire ground safety and survival.

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