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Leaders Needed: You Can't Forget What You Never Learned

As important as it is to understand what makes a good leader, it’s equally as important to understand why so many fail in leadership positions. Here is a quick list of some traits associated with poor leadership.

1. Lack of passion 2. Unclear vision 3. Poor communication skills 4. Risk aversion 5. Callous 6. Unethical 7. Poor self-management 8. Incompetent 9. Plays the victim 10. Tears others down 11. Micromanager 12. First to take the credit 13. Last to take the blame

When someone in an authoritative position displays poor leadership traits, the mission they are trying to accomplish is doomed to fail. A fire service officer will never earn the respect of his or her crew unless they develop the qualities that align with those of great leaders.

As I was writing my book Step Up and Lead (PennWell 2013), I kept thinking about the most common thing said about many high ranking officers within our industry, which is “Why do so many forget where they came from?”

The truth is, few of them forgot. In reality, many of them have never taken time to learn how to lead in the first place. They are suddenly put into a position of authority with little to no training on how to do thier new job. They may ask firefighters to take care of a simple task, and when it doesnt get done correctly (or at all), they get angry and handle the situation poorly. Yes, some of the blame of an ineffectlve leader may fall upon the shoulders of the people he or she is leading. Some firefighters decide early on that they are not going to respect someone who has risen to a high rank sooner than others have. This doesnt make it okay for an officer to display some of the characteristics listed above. The simple truth is, just like a firefighter has to learn how to fight a fire, a fire officer must learn how to lead others under his or her command.

For that reason, we at have created an ‘Officer Development’ page where you will find tips on how to become a more effective leader. Feel free to print out the articles on leadership skills and our practice scenarios and use them to help you improve in those areas where you feel you need growth. If you are honest with yourself, you will admit that in todays climate of ‘fewer doing more’, we all have a lot to learn.

Hopefully you will find what you are looking for on this page:

Illustration by Paul Combs:

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