Lead from the front or lead from the back? It doesn’t matter as long as there’s a leader

In today’s world, there is a strong need for leaders to emerge. Some will go to work and do their usual 9 to 5, go home, go to sleep and do it all over again wondering if their manager will ever recognize their strengths and honor their accomplishments. Unfortunately that isn’t the case when we speak about managers. Managers will be there to oversee work and make sure the work gets completed but that’s as far as it goes. Why? Because that’s their job and that’s what they are paid to do. They are results driven based on objectives and don’t have time or take the risks to go beyond that. This goes for all professions across the board. Not all professions have leaders in managerial roles and they aren’t expected to because that’s not what managers are there for. This is part of the reason the fire service has been as strong as it has been since its inception in the United States by a great man known as Benjamin Franklin.
It has been known for many decades that the two things that resonate deep in the fire service is family and respect for our fellow firefighters and our customers; in this case the residents of the community we are sworn to protect. Firefighters want leaders to lead them when the bell goes off and the same goes for those outside of the fire service but how does this happen? 


Be your own leader. 

We can all have a manager driving us each day to produce the results they want for their company because in the end all companies have a goal they need to complete. For us in the fire service it’s saving lives and protecting property. For those in the corporate world, it’s producing the numbers to make a profit and working long hours away from family to produce those numbers is what a manger will push their subordinates to do in order to meet those deadlines. 

So why do I say be your own leader? I say this because if you can’t lead yourself you’ll never lead anyone else or go beyond your limits of expectation. It shouldn’t matter where you are in the organization, from the newbie to the most experienced, a leader knows how to build a following regardless of title. The following are my 4 traits to being an effective in and out of the firehouse.

1.    Be Honest. Nothing says leadership than honesty. Building a solid foundation based on honesty not only builds trust between you and those you work with but also keeps them inspired to want to work with you. 

2.    Inspire Others. In order to do this you, yourself must be inspired to excel in your role. If you’re not enthused about what you do others won’t be either. This is another way of leading by example.

3.    Stay Positive. There will be times things will be tough and throwing your hands in the air swearing sometimes natural happens. That’s ok, stay calm and stay positive. The more positive you look the better off everyone around you is during chaotic times. The best chiefs are the ones who remain calm on the radio despite all the chaos around them. Listen to radio transmissions of other departments and take notes on how each officer speaks on the radio. Take the calm ones and keep them in memory to try and emulate their calmness. Also, do the same for the ones who are frantically screaming and tell yourself to try and avoid that as much as possible. This will all come with experience and many years of practice for most.

4.    Be Committed. Be committed to yourself first. Then be committed to your job and your crew. This starts with training. Keeping your skill fresh and sharpened says a lot about you as a person as it does as a leader. People tend to flock to those who are committed to the job and take pride and excellence in it. You don’t need to be the officer to the guy who starts a training session. We are all in this together. 

There they are. My four traits to being a leader. Take these and use them in your life to grow and inspire those to work with and meet on a daily basis. 

Being a manager comes from a title promotion. Being a leader comes from within.

Until next time; work hard, stay safe and live inspired.  

About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 14 years of service all within departments in Piscataway, NJ. Nick has held the ranks of Lieutenant and Captain as well as being a township elected District Fire Commissioner for 1 term (3 years) in Piscataway, NJ. He is also a NJ State certified level 2 fire instructor. He holds a B.S. in Accounting from Kean University working in Corporate Taxation and is the founder/contributor of the Firehouse Tribune website.