The success or failure of leadership boils down to how functional that leadership is. Crews on career fire departments may rarely interact on a personal or professional level with anybody above the rank of Battalion Chief. On volunteer departments, the Chief is very likely to be on the call. You see and interact with these individuals professionally and perhaps socially on a regular basis. This can make managing and running the department challenging on several fronts.
The volunteer fire service is volunteer. We require our members to commit their time and effort in a para-military organization with little or no fiscal reward, just the reward of serving their community when their community needs them most (which I might add, should be the core reason we all do it). Firefighters who are volunteering their time to do a very demanding, stressful and dangerous occupation deserve leadership that is functional and supportive.
Volunteers do not have to be on our departments and if the leadership environment is not functional, good quality people will leave.
Over the next three articles we are going to discuss three easy ways to provide function leadership.
#1 – Consistency & Follow Through
Being consistent is a very key element to leadership in any profession but especially in ours. Consistency means administrative or operational policy is set out and followed. It also requires us to handle personnel issues consistently and with fairness. Showing the members of the department that we are consistent in how we handle the routine tasks shows them that we are equally reliable in the not-so-routine tasks.
Being consistent also means that all of us, officers included, follow the very guidelines and policy that we set out and that we act as we want our department members to act.
Included in consistency is follow through. When your guidance is asked for, you must respond quickly. When members ask for something we must follow through if we’ve agreed to do it. Follow all the way through with that task and let them know what the result is.
Being consistent and following through shows that we care and are engaged with the membership — and that will go a very long way to department cohesiveness.
Consistency when it comes to personnel issues, especially discipline on a small volunteer department, will show the membership that even though we all volunteer to be here, there are standards that must be adhered to and that those standards will be applied regardless of relationship or rank.
This makes the jobs of volunteer officers a little harder as we may have to have some tough discussions with family, friends or people we work with in our regular jobs, but it will do the department a world of good.
In part 2 we are going discuss how consistent communication can go a long way towards building buy in and ownership on the department.
Photo courtesy of Erik Wood.
Read the complete series here!
3 Leadership Tips For Volunteer Fire Departments