Monday, May 4, 2015

DUTY: Be proficient in your job, both technically and as a leader.

Respect Know your subordinates and look out for their well-being. - Put the safety of your subordinates above all other objectives. - Take care of your subordinate’s needs. - Resolve conflicts between individuals on the team.
  • Take charge when in charge.
  • Adhere to professional standard operating procedures.
  • Develop a plan to accomplish given objectives.
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Friday, May 1, 2015

The Art of Leadership

Art supplies
(Photo credit: Comstock)
Art of Leadership

Leaders deeply affect people and organizations, both positively and negatively. Accidental leaders, who have little interest or enthusiasm for leadership responsibilities or self-improvement, can inhibit people’s growth and reduce the effectiveness of their organizations. 

Conversely, committed leaders, avid pupils of the art of leadership, can inspire others and make an enormous difference in people’s lives, on the results of the team, and in the progress of the organization. 

Leonardo da Vinci
(Photo credit: Photos.com)
The art of leadership requires a constant interchange of theory and application. The art also includes being able to view the larger picture—discerning how to turn a weakness into a strength, gauging what is and is not within our control. Leaders constantly balance the known and unknown as well as danger and opportunity to find ways to gain the advantage. 

Balancing wood blocks
(Photo credit: Phil Ashley)

Ultimately, the art of leadership requires successfully balancing many factors in the real world, based on the situation at hand, to achieve a successful outcome. 

Occasionally, leaders may be required to provide authoritative, autocratic, tightly controlled direction that requires immediate obedience. But most of the time, leaders inspire, guide, and support their subordinates, gaining their commitment to the vision and mission and encouraging them, within established limits, to perform creatively.


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Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge
  • Ask yourself the following questions:
    • Do you have the interest and enthusiasm for leadership responsibilities?
    • Are you making a difference in the lives of your people?
    • Are you a student of fire and leadership?
    • Can you turn a weakness into a strength?
    • Do you have the fortitude to be authoritative, autocratic or provide tightly controlled direction when needed?
    • Can you inspire, guide, and support your people?
  • Learn more about the art of leadership by immersing into Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Other resources include:

Thursday, April 30, 2015

IGNITE: Respect = Value

Respect is how we value our co-workers. –Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, page 58

 Respect is how we value our co-workers. – Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, page 58
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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Texas A&M Honored at George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, College Station, TX
(George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, College Station, TX. Note the fire tower to the right and the dozer and engine to the left.)
The Texas A&M Forest Service is being recognized for 100 years of service with an exhibit at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas. The exhibit demonstrates the progression of fire suppression tools and tactics from the early days when fire patrols were conducted on horseback to the current techniques employed today.

Kiosk with values and principles

Included in the exhibit is a kiosk that presents the Wildland Fire Leadership Values and Principles

Kiosk with values and principles

Kiosk with values and principles

Also on display, is the Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award that was presented to TFS in 2006.
 Lead by Example award presented in 2006

Texas A&M Forest Service logo
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Thanks to Mark Stanford, Fire Chief for Texas A&M Forest Service and agency representative on the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee for this contribution. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

IGNITE - Leadership is Developed Daily

Leadership is developed daily, not in a day. –John C. Maxwell


Leadership is developed daily, not in a day. – John C. Maxwell


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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Follow Along with the Dude Fire Staff Ride

Dude Fire Staff Ride collage

On April 29, 2015, students of fire and leadership will be participating in the Dude Fire Staff Ride. The Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center (LLC) staff will be sharing their experience as they move through the various stands. The LLC issued the following challenge to those unable to attend:
When: April 29, Starting at 0800 MST
Where: Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center Facebook Page
What: Follow along as we walk through the Dude Fire Staff Ride. Get full descriptions at each stand, see real time photos, and PARTICIPATE in the discussion!
To prepare for participation, students of fire are encouraged to watch the Dude Fire Fatality Case Study video and refer to information found within the Staff Ride Library.



Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center logo



Friday, April 24, 2015

Command Philosophy

Command Philosophy: Our philosophy of command supports the way we manage incidents. To generate effective decision making and to cope with the unpredictable nature of incidents, fire leaders decentralize command. That is, we empower subordinate leaders to make decisions based on their understanding of their leader’s vision for success.

Command Philosophy

Our philosophy of command supports the way we manage incidents. To generate effective decision making and to cope with the unpredictable nature of incidents, fire leaders decentralize command. That is, we empower subordinate leaders to make decisions based on their understanding of their leader’s vision for success.



Command Based on Intent
Translating vision into clear leader’s intent is at the heart of our command philosophy. Describing the task, purpose, and end state is the prerequisite for empowering our people to exercise individual initiative and take appropriate risks and actions as the situation requires.

This philosophy is based on the understanding that competent subordinate leaders who are at the scene of action understand the current situation better than does a senior commander some distance removed. This does not imply, however, that our actions are not coordinated. Fire leaders continually work to achieve coordination and cooperation among all forces toward a commonly understood objective.




Unity of Effort
Our leaders subscribe to unity of effort as a second key component our command philosophy. In a high-risk environment, mixed messages or countermanding directives add to the potential for friction, danger, and uncertainty.

Many times at all levels of the wildland fire service, leaders find themselves in gray areas where jurisdictional lines blur and overlap. No matter the challenges at hand, fire leaders work together to find common ground and act in the best interests of those responding to the incident, the public, and our natural resources.

In these situations, leaders must employ multiple leadership skills to influence decisions, forge effective relationships, facilitate cooperative efforts, and ensure that objectives are achieved.

The longer it takes to develop a unified effort, the greater the vacuum of leadership. Delays increase confusion, which in turn magnify the risk to our people and increase the likelihood that people will take unproductive or independent action without understanding the larger intent.

A unified leadership team sends a powerful message: when all leaders follow the same priorities and reinforce leader’s intent through consistent actions and words, our people develop a strong sense of trust for their leaders. It dispels the propensity to second-guess command decisions as subordinates recognize that the leadership team moves as one and is solidly in charge.

[Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 15]

Thursday, April 23, 2015

IGNITE: Mind, Body, Spirit

The wildland fire service approach to taking care of people encompasses mind, body, and spirit. –Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, page 45
The wildland fire service approach to taking care of people encompasses mind, body, and spirit. – Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, page 45
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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

‘Staff Ride’ of Santa Barbara Front Country Helps Prepare Local Agencies for Wildfire

By Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer 

Participants stop at a handful of locations along the South Coast, discussing previous blazes and how to react in similar situations

Santa Barbara County Fire Battalion Chief Steve Oak and Montecito Fire Division Chief Kevin Taylor talk about the Painted Cave Fire in 1990 and decisions made during the incident. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)
Santa Barbara County Fire Battalion Chief Steve Oak and Montecito Fire Division Chief Kevin Taylor talk about the Painted Cave Fire in 1990 and decisions made during the incident. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)
Standing on a road surrounded by waist-high brittle grass, dozens of emergency personnel from around Santa Barbara County got together to strategize how they'll react in the next wildfire and also to relive and analyze decisions made in past fires.

It was part of a "staff ride" of the Santa Barbara front country, and the event was spearheaded by Los Padres National Forest Division Chief Mark vonTillow.

VonTillow was part of a Los Padres Forest Service contingent that was sent to training at Quantico in 2001, where he witnessed U.S Marines conducting a similar exercise.

"We immediately saw the value," he said, adding that "this has been rolling around in my brain for years," but Thursday was the first time they've been able to do such a large-scale event.

Staffers from the city and county of Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Police Department, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department, the California Highway Patrol as well multiple fire agencies from the South Coast area were part of the group.

The event created a caravan of about 60 people who stopped at a handful of locations on the South Coast to talk about major fires in the area, and was meant to have attendees ask how they would react to decision making in a similar situation.

"What do you do when you've lost an entire community of 600 homes?" vonTillow asked.

The day began at Fire Station 18 in Gaviota, where the group discussed the Gaviota Fire in 2004, when the decision had to be made to shut down Highway 101.

The next stop was a bridge that crosses Highway 101 near the San Marcos Foothills Preserve, where Los Padres fire officials explained the area had been a hub for the Gap, Painted Cave and Jesusita fires, right at the edge of the urban interface.

A map shows the edges of each fire that have raged through the Santa Barbara County front country over the years.
A handful of groups were formed around fire and law enforcement officials, who talked about how decisions were made in several historic front country fires, including the Painted Cave Fire in 1990.

Here, the groups discussed strategic decision making and how evacuations were ordered.

Montecito Fire Division Chief Kevin Taylor held up a map showing where mandatory evacuations were required during the Painted Cave Fire, and a red zone showing those evacuations butted right up the north side of Highway 101.

That fire doubled in size every 10 minutes as it raged down from the Painted Cave area, driven rapidly by sundowner winds that pushed the flames closer to homes and neighborhoods.

"If something is moving that quickly, how does that affect your community?" he asked a group of about 10 people, which included staff from county supervisorial offices, local boards and city staff.

The group talked about issuing a reverse 9-1-1 call, and Taylor asked what they would do about residents who didn't want to leave, even in the face of a mandatory evacuation.

"They're on their own," someone replied, and Taylor confirmed that California law says that residents cannot be forced to leave their homes.

Santa Barbara County Fire Battalion Chief Steve Oaks was also in the group, and recalled being there during the fire.

Reverse 9-1-1 had yet to be implemented, so Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputies were driving through the neighborhoods with loudspeakers, warning people to get out.

The fire came so near to the Santa Barbara County Jail that the inmates had to be evacuated, and were led across the highway to San Marcos High School to wait out the danger.

The county's dispatch center was also at the County Jail at that time, and had to be evacuated as well.

"The last thing we heard from them over the radio was, 'Good luck, you're on your own,'" Oaks recalled. "It was very fast moving."

The immediate danger of each fire was discussed, as well as the years, and sometimes decades, of rebuilding that each group was asked to consider.

After each fire, city and county officials were deluged with new permits to rebuild.

VonTillow said he hopes that after Thursday's event, each agency will be better able to work together in the next fire event.

"It's important that when the next one does happen, we're ready," he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at lcooper@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.
 
Los Padres National Forest Battalion Chief Jay Enns presenting Stand #2 to Santa Barbara Front Staff Ride particpants.
[Photo credit: Mark vonTillow; not featured in the Noozhawk article]
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Thank you to Lara Cooper and Noozhawk for allowing us to reprint this article.

Monday, April 20, 2015

IGNITE: It's About What You Do

Leadership is not about who you are; it’s about what you do. –Kouzes & Posner, The Leadership Challenge
Leadership is not about who you are; it’s about what you do. – Kouzes & Posner, The Leadership Challenge
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