Fighting Fires: Part II
A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
While climbing up the popular tourist site of Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica, one member of our family began to struggle with the slippery rocks and steep ascent. A man just ahead of our group suddenly turned, offered his hand, and said, “Hang on, I’ll help you.” He was true to his word, and after stepping into calmer waters at the top of the falls, everyone in our party offered words of gratitude. Mike, as we shortly discovered, wasn’t one to bask in the limelight. As a New York City fireman, he was happy to help, even on his vacation.
Such self-sacrifice is an attribute that is common among first responders who exhibit a willingness of assist others in their time of need. As wildfires continue at this writing to rage across the west in the United States, that same sacrificial characteristic is being demonstrated on a daily basis. Last count, in California alone “more than 13,700 firefighters are battling nearly two dozen major fires throughout the state” which have been attributed in part to over 12,000 lightening strikes hitting parched land that hasn’t had much rainfall this past year. Upon providing an update to his team and community, the chief of Cal Fire ominously reported that “the worst is not behind us” (https://www.npr.org/2020/08/22/905099950/the-worst-is-not-behind-us-california-continues-to-burn).
In a previous blog LEADon® posted about fighting fires, we proposed that analyzing the actions and attributes of our first responders would be beneficial to those who are striving to survive the firestorm created by COVID-19. While many of us would agree that our personal and professional battles are not nearly as intense as those being waged by frontline workers across the globe, a study of tactics used by first responders can provide practical approaches to the current challenges we face. In particular, take a look at some of the characteristics firefighters are likely to exhibit and see how they might apply to your life. In addition to self-sacrifice, those who hope to successfully “fight fires” must:
- Be dedicated to their team: Most leaders understand the importance of being committed to their personal and Corporate Family® members, but it is in times of extreme duress that true devotion is validated. Remember the quote from Seneca in the “Fighting Fires Part I” blog? This Roman philosopher and statesman contended that while fire tests gold, it’s the struggles in life that test the mettle of individuals. A lack of dedication can be extremely detrimental, even dangerous, especially for those who serve as first responders on the frontlines. Those who “aren’t dedicated to the job, or who lack passion or work ethic quickly fall behind and can become a hazard to themselves and their crew” (www.firerescue1.com). Take a few minutes to consider how those on your “Team” view your dedication to them and the challenges you are currently dealing with. If you’ve lost some of your passion, you are not alone—but now is the time to double down, dig in, and devote yourself anew to your personal and professional families’ long-term success.
- Adapt to changing circumstances: As the recent wildfires have revealed, a shift in winds or sudden lightning strikes can create unexpected challenges. At LEADon®, we’ve observed leaders who have displayed flexibility during critical stages of their organizations’ development—and a few who refused to adapt. In one instance, a once-thriving Corporate Family® almost failed when a CEO wouldn’t adjust his style of doing business in order to meet the demands of a changing marketplace. He was eventually replaced, yet it took years for the company and its team members to regain the productivity and profitability they had previously enjoyed. In a COVID-19 environment, leaders don’t have “years” to improve, and making important midcourse corrections is an essential foundation of fireproofing needed outcomes. If you want more ideas on improving your flexibility as a leader, check out LEADon®’s blog entitled “Adaptability—Dot by Dot” (see The LEADing Blog for this posting and other free resources at www.LEADonUniversity.com).
- Communicate well: According to Fire Chief Marc Bashoor, “effective communication is the fuel that feeds momentum and action in achieving progress in the fire service” (see his article “Communication in action and action in communication” at firerescue1.com). This sentiment can be applied to all professions, and it’s absolutely critical for any kind of successful personal relationship. To effectively lead people, you must be able to communicate your message clearly. In The LEADing Edge: 9 Strategies for Improving Internal and Intentional Leadership (2010), we explain that exceptional communication should be free of assumptions and ambiguity. This is a high watermark for leadership but one worthy of striving for—particularly if you wish to lead your personal and professional team through trying times.
- Maintain your physical fitness: For decades, the team at LEADon® has shared the importance of maintaining personal and professional life balance. Firefighters are required to demonstrate and maintain their health and fitness for the well-being of themselves, their team, and those that they serve who depend upon them for their very survival. In addition to physical health, extraordinary leaders must take care of their mental and emotional health too. This is especially essential during stressful seasons of life. If you’d like some specific strategies for improving your overall well-being, LEADon® offers several online courses that can be of assistance, for instance LEADing with Personal and Professional Life Balance®, LEADing Through Stress and Burnout®, and LEADers Manage Their Health® (you can find these and other leadership courses at www.LEADonUniversity.com).
As we think about our first responders and frontline workers who have demonstrated these outstanding leadership characteristics during the COVID-19 crisis, we may feel that we fall short by comparison. And, if we’re honest, many of us are weary and wonder if we are going to make it through the physical and fiscal fallout of a global pandemic. But as Ralph Waldo Emerson so eloquently reminds us, heroes are just ordinary people who hold out a bit longer in order to overcome the problems that life often presents us.
While you may not be striving to be heroic, those in your sphere of influence may need you now more than ever before. So, keep moving forward, serving others with dedication and determination. Resolve to keep lines of communication open and clear. Stay flexible and keep adapting while also striving to maintain your overall health and well-being. If the team at LEADon® can be of any assistance in this process, please connect with us at www.LEADonUniversity.com or 858.592.0700.