Wildland Fire Leadership is blog where students of fire and leadership come together to discuss, debate and exchange leadership development concepts, experience, and thoughts with an intent to promote cultural change in the workforce and strengthen the wildland fire service and the communities they serve.
"Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, whose the fairest of them all?"
How much influence do you have over your people? Where do you fall on the charisma spectrum? Most importantly, do you consider yourself the "fairest" leader of them all? There are many paradoxes that face leaders as they grow and develop. Whether or not we choose to be good or great, we have to be motivated to get better. One character trait that can become an affliction for a leader is charisma. Some leaders are very charismatic—people are drawn to them like a magnets. Others, however, may have a more ordinary appeal or charm.
Charisma in itself is not a bad thing for one's command presence. However, when one becomes fixated on one's self like the evil queen in the story of Snow White, the leader has a serious problem.
Like most all things, leaders needs to be fairly balanced in their relational traits. Polar ends of any spectrum tend to be areas to avoid.
Command Presence More than anything else, the leader’s command presence sets the tone for the command climate. Command presence is how we present ourselves to others, the myriad of personal attributes and behaviors that communicates to others that we are worthy of their trust and respect.
Character is the foundation of command presence. All people reveal their character in every interaction, and character shapes and permeates a leader’s command presence.
Another component of command presence—demeanor—speaks volumes to others. Poise and self-assurance play a large part in shaping the image projected. Effective leaders project an image that is calm, organized, and focused on success.
Fire leaders take charge when in charge; we lead from the front and act decisively. In times of crisis, a leader’s command presence can be the critical factor in determining whether a team succumbs to pressures and dangers or stays focused to seize an opportunity to overcome and succeed. We inspire confidence among team members by demonstrating a strong and effective command presence.
Solicit feedback (consider 360°) from those around you—superiors, peers, and followers.
Discuss the difference between being confident and arrogant.
About the Author: Pam McDonald is a writer/editor for BLM Wildland Fire Training and Workforce Development and member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee. The expressions are those of the author.
Wouldn't if be great if our teams could function like a flock of starlings during a murmuration? Imagine what we could do and where we could go.
Wild Balkans - Dance of the starlings(part) - YouTube
Now, I am going to be transparent. I am not fond of the bird itself. They are, in my humble opinion, a very loud, dirty bird, and annoying bird. However, I didn't really know much about murmurations until a project I am involved with recently adopted the starling and their murmurations as a way for various groups with similar missions to come together as a whole.
How do half a million to a million starlings fly together as a mass, creating a beautiful display of team cohesion?
According to this National Geographic "How do starling birds flock? - Life in the Air: Episode 3" video on YouTube video, all members of the flock must abide by three simple rules:
As you fly, steer towards each other.
If any of your seven neighbors turn, then you turn.
Don't crowd each other.
How do starling birds flock? - Life in the Air: Episode 3 Preview - BBC One - YouTube
Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge - Digging a Little Deeper
Discuss the three rules starlings must follow in order to come together as a whole.
Rule 1: As you fly, steer towards each other.
Does it matter who leads or who follows? If not, what matters?
What is the importance of the leader in our starling example?
What is the importance of the follower in our starling example?
How important is it for group members to keep track of one another?
What are you doing to ensure your team members are doing okay during the season and outside the fire season?
Rule 2: If any of your seven neighbors turn, then you turn.
What is the purpose of knowing what your seven neighbors are doing?
Why not know what the whole group is doing?
Given an example of how we use this concept within the wildland fire service.
What happens when one member of the group fails to follow the rules?
Rule 3: Don't crowd each other.
How important is it for group members to give each other space?
How do you maintain your individual values when they conflict with that of the team?
Fire assignments and seasons can be long. How does your team handle the space issue?
What happens when a member of the group gives a little too much space? What happens to crew cohesion?
Ethos n. The distinguishing charter, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a person, group or institution. (Merriam-Webster)
Ethos defines how crew members embody the values of the mission-driven culture within the leadership environment. This ethos represents a professional code of conduct clarifying expectations for member behavior and forming the foundation for relationships. A team committed to exemplify these values stand the best chance of building synergy and successfully achieving their mission. Examples include:
Service for the common good
High trust state
Pursuit of truth
Form function defined by the end state
What Defines Us as a Wildland Fire Service
The following values and principles define the wildland fire service:
Be proficient in your job, both technically and as a leader.
Make sound and timely decisions.
Ensure that tasks are understood, supervised, accomplished.
Develop your subordinates for the future.
Know your subordinates and look out for their well-being.
Keep your subordinates informed.
Build the team.
Employ your subordinates in accordance with their capabilities.
Know yourself and seek improvement.
Seek responsibility and accept responsibility for your actions.
Set the example.
For the complete list and downloads visit our website.
IHCs acknowledge their responsibility to sponsor agencies and to the wildland fire community as a whole. IHCs subscribe to a Code of Ethics to guide them in their practice as wildland fire professionals. IHCs will:
Perform only services they are qualified, trained, and equipped in which can be accomplished safely. Continue to educate themselves in order to improve their qualifications and performance. Give earnest effort and provide their best professional advice in the performance of their duties.
Build their professional reputations based on the leadership values of duty, respect, integrity. Ensure the quality and cost effectiveness of our programs. Be accountable to host unit supervisors, incident management teams, other IHCs and to any hosting unit as a safe, productive and professional resource.
Conduct themselves and their programs in accordance with the Standards for Interagency Hotshot Crew Operations, relevant Agency, State and Federal policies and all required operational and safety procedures.
Ensure the civil rights of constituents and employees by treating every person with respect. Hazing, harassment of any kind, verbal abuse or physical abuse by any employee toward any other person will not be tolerated. Professional behavior will be exhibited at all times.
Endeavor to enhance public knowledge and promote understanding of the functions and achievements of the wildland fire community.
Benchmarking Another Organization
Click here to see how Wiss & Company, an East Coast accounting firm, created a clever way to present their ethos.