I combed through various online dictionaries looking for a definition of leadership that completely fit the fire service. I admit I failed. Maybe there is a definition of leadership on the world wide web that fits, but I couldn’t find it. When I think about leadership in the fire service I think about men and women from the highest of position to the lowest.
I think of the person wearing the white helmet with the weight of the world on their shoulders. The one who sends his crews into situations, but only the ones he would go into. This is the person who must draw from years upon years of training and real experience in a matter of seconds to find the best over all course of action to take.
But leadership isn’t reserved to be practiced by those with white helmets, or those with bugles.
The most honest and over looked form of leadership comes from the lowest man on the totem pole.
This definition of leadership is shown by the men and women making the push through the door on the hose line, from the ones searching for the missing family member, and from the ones opening the roof. It is these elite few who cherish the fire service, who what to leave it better than they found it.
These are the men and women who spend countless hours traveling to take classes. The ones who struggle, sweat, and bleed in the gym and on the training ground. These few do not consider their job complete until every tool is clean, every cylinder full, every hose load perfect, and every ladder clean and inspected.
To me, these are the ones who define what leadership really means in the fire service.