So let's talk about..what it means to Embrace The Resistance
I spent much of my early career frustrated with the lack of training, coaching, engagement, and mentoring my current officer was providing me. I couldn't stand how little he seemed to care about this job and the people on our team. I watched as he ignored performance issues with others, afraid to have what might prove a difficult conversation.
I promised myself that when my leadership opportunity came I'd do things differently than my first boss. This job demands a high standard, and the citizens expect nothing less than an A-performance from everyone on every run. Eventually, I got my wish, and with my shiny new badge pinned on my officer's shirt, I got to work fixing problems and challenging the status quo.
I quickly learned that I would spend less time giving orders on the fireground and way more effort towards sorting through people's problems and excuses. As a new officer, I learned early and often that just because your badge says leader on it doesn't mean that people will line up to follow you. I also quickly realized that many of my peers were not as passionate about the opportunity to lead as I was. Instead of providing me support while I figured my new role out, I watched as other leaders did their best to sabotage our momentum for fear it might raise the standard for all.
It turns out that the celebrity of leadership is greatly overrated, and that the reality of leadership in the fire service is that it deals way more with putting fires out in people than buildings.
Leadership can be hard. Honestly, it can be really hard. Life is messy, and people's problems at home--such as marriage, finances, or a sick loved one--will follow them to the fire station, even when we do our best to keep it from doing so. People don't always react rationally to challenges, which is only exacerbated that much more by the lack of sleep, stress, and traumatic experiences that come with this profession. At times we also struggle to disengage from what's happening at work, failing to reconnect and be present with our families once we leave the firehouse. It's as if our minds won't let us focus on just the family or the fire service, even though we're told to check our feelings at the door-- and it's because our brains don't work that way.
Leading involves moments spent coaching and counseling, as much as it does training and running calls. It's celebrating when the team's performance is excellent but not letting our egos hide from dealing with the mistakes that will inevitably happen--especially our own. Yesterday's leadership training is only concerned with producing a stable availability of people who think they are ready to take on the next leadership position. But, in reality, it does little to prepare them to work through the many, often complicated interpersonal issues laying in store for them. In order to lead through the problems facing today's fire service, our training must include a firm understanding of how power is derived through building relationships, displaying empathy, and service to one another. No longer is a shiny badge and the ability to yell, Because I Said So the only requisite to lead.
At Embrace The Resistance (ETR) we understand that a leader's actions, even for the right reasons, will encounter plenty of reactions from critics.
This back pressure to our decisions is similar to the nozzle reaction of a hoseline, and it can throw us for a loop if we don’t have the techniques and experience to know how to absorb and displace it. Rather than allowing water to haphazardly exit the hoseline to no further benefit, the nozzle has the ability to act as a force multiplier shaping water to have an impact and reach on our firegrounds.
The opportunity to lead offers us the same opportunity to have an impact and reach with people.
If leaders won’t make the right decisions in our firehouses then the fire continues to burn in our people until it flashes and can hurt or even end a person’s career. Unfortunately, many leaders have grown weary of the negative reactions from others, and instead of giving up their rank, they chose to shut down as leaders because it’s more comfortable for them. In their minds, refusing to make the right decision means not having to deal with peoples’ reactions.
This is no different than being given a charged hoseline and the order to go inside to put the fire out, but they won’t. They will sit on the line while everything gets worse around them, and the same is true for when leaders won’t make decisions in the firehouse.
Instead of giving up, we chose to Embrace the Resistance—to learn from our mistakes and the reactions of others so that we find better iterations of our leadership capabilities.
On our website, you'll find plenty of information, including videos, podcasts, training opportunities, and encouragement designed to help you prepare to maximize your potential leadership influence. We don't waste our time or your's pontificating about leadership theory and what might work. Instead, we've chosen to share our own mistakes over the last 20 years in public safety, blending it with the ongoing revelations now available regarding the effects of social and cognitive psychology on leadership. Make sure to get over and like our Facebook Page to stay up to date as in-person classes and workshops roll out in your area.