Monday, November 29, 2010

"If You Don't, Who Will?"

“Everyone can exercise leadership by being an individual contributor at any level of an organization. What does that mean? Ultimately it comes down to looking for opportunities to make the world a better place. That sounds grand, but when people apply that idea to their work situations, it means having a vision of how your unit, or you as an individual, can be more effective and creative, go beyond day-to-day requirements, and energize others around that vision.” ~ Helen Handfield-Jones

If you follow this blog, you know that I believe every person at every level of the organization can be a leader, that leaders are made, not born, and that each one us is responsible for our personal leadership development. Knowledge at Wharton’s and The McKinsey Quarterly’s report called “Why Everyone in an Enterprise Can—and Should—Be a Leader” on the University of Pennsylvania’s Knowledge at Wharton’s Leadership and Change website supports my position as well as provides other great information about leadership at all levels. (I suggest you read the entire report.)

In a culture of decreasing budgets, slashed programs, and a wave of retirements within the federal workforce, no better time exists than now to develop your leadership skills. Leadership capabilities are valuable and transferable. If you are finding that your organization lacks the funds to invest in you, invest in yourself.

What can the organization do in a time of financial constraint? To adapt content from the report, organizations can help managers and employees become leaders in a variety of ways.”

“Organizations can also mentor people and help them discover, in their own way, how they can improve. Perhaps the most important thing organizations can do is encourage people to get out of their “comfort zones” and take on new tasks and challenges.”

My husband and I saw a sign recently that we have used in various discussions to spur others to action: “If you don’t do it, who will?” You hold the key to your leadership destiny.

Monday, November 22, 2010

On June 17, 2010, I posted an entry titled “Stories from the Fireline.” As I sifted through the Knowledge at Wharton's Leadership and Change archive, I found an article with Peter Guber a fitting follow-up to my previous blog entry. An audio download accompanies the article titled "Peter Guber on Sharing Stories, not Just Information, to Communicate Effectively."

Here are a few highlights that I would like to share with you from Peter’s interview:

  • Storytelling is the way our society works.
  • Every great leader is a storyteller.
  • Storytelling is a tool.
  • Narrative ignites—or it’s a kindling instrument.
  • The idea is to move people’s hearts and emotions before you move their feet or tongue.
  • You can’t depend upon changing everybody’s heart and mind and wallet at the same moment with a single story. You hope that it has this viral quality that when you relinquish control lets it be told and retold, and other people reach other people in different experiential ways.

Guber’s MAGIC of Storytelling

  • Motivate: Make sure you are motivated because they will see if you’re not authentic.
  • Audience: Think of it not as me, but we. Think of it as that connection.
  • Goal: All storytelling narrative is goal oriented.
  • Interactive: All storytelling is interactive.
  • Content: Have good content. It’s got to move your heart and then make you think.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Effective Leadership after a Disappointing Loss

On November 6, 2010, The Washington Post, ran an article titled "Advice for Obama on His Next Move" in which six leadership experts were asked what they thought Obama should do to be effective the next two years. I suggest you read the entire article, but here are some direct and paraphrased quotes I found applicable to wildland fire leadership:
  • Focus on "What were we trying to accomplish, and why?" (Charles D. Allen is a retired Army colonel and a professor of cultural science at the U.S. Army War College)
  • Strategic level planning should be tied to our values and principles. (Allen)
  • Think beyond the present; focus on the next generation. (Max Nardini, Coros Fellow engaged in a graduate-level leadership training program)
  • "The best response is candor." (Carol Kinsey Goman, executive coach, author and speaker)
  • "Good leaders seek new answers--and for those answers they might not like, they figure out both why they don't like them and why they're being said." (Susan Peters, vice president of executive development and the chief learning officer at GE)
  • "There is no better avenue for swift strenghtening of one's leadership than to uncompromisingly review the immediate past." (Michael Useem, professor of management and the director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Useem benchmarked our organization in his response.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

2010 Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award

Each year the NWCG Leadership Committee provides an opportunity for exceptional leaders to be recognized through the Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award.

The award was established to remember the contributions to the wildland fire service by Paul Gleason and his many achievements that established the foundation of being a student of fire and set the stage for the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program to provide students of leadership tools, training and guidance in development of leadership skills.

Information about the award and how to nominate a person or group can be found at the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program at

Nominations are open until December 31, 2010.

When making a nomination, provide a detailed description of why the nominee deserves the award. Short statements may or may not do justice to a nominee's worthiness of the award.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Teamwork - Virtue or Choice?

I came across a video clip of various snippets of Patrick Lencioni speaking about his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. I found this quote worthy of discussion: "Teamwork is not a virtue. Teamwork is a choice we have to make; however, it's a choice that has a cost." Patrick refers to teams that come together in crisis and are often disappointed with their results.

Have you been a member of a dysfunctional team? Our Incident Command System is designed to handle such situations. How does your team function in a crisis situation? Does your team function well as part of the larger organization?

In one of the clips Patrick asks the crowd which team--the team at the top of the organization or the team that the individual leads (a department or crew)--is more important. Most answer that it is the team the individual leads; however, Patrick claims the leadership team of the organization is most important. We do a great job with local level leadership, but how well do we do when we come together as a larger team?

The leaders of wildland fire organizations set the example for those below them. They have the opportunity to make a difference in the future of wildland fire service. Investment in the Wildland Fire Leadership Program, albeit expensive, prepares the organization for the future and helps all come together more efficiently and effectively in times of crisis and in our day-to-day operations.

Monday, November 1, 2010

"A Culture of Sharing"

I was captivated this week by a video I found on The Washington Post's On Leadership website. The interview titled "Leadership in the Age of Social Media" supports the efforts behind this blog.

Charlene Li, Altimeter Group, spoke about a change in communication that has occured over the last couple of years--a change that is unlikely to reverse course. Introduction and use of social media was that change. Fire leaders and managers must address how the next generation firefighter commuicates with what Charlene calls an it's-okay-to-share attitude with an infinite capacity to share. This mere sentiment is sure to invoke fear in our leaders causing them to reply, "TMI" (too much information).

In the early discussions of this blog, leaders expressed concern over comments that may be submitted by our readers. The result of that discussion was a comment-moderated blog with tight guidelines for sharing. I believe, although I don't know for sure, those fears have subsided as the blog gained credibility, prestige, and has allowed us to come together with our global wildland fire partners such as Australia and New Zealand.

I'm excited to see where we, government agencies, head as barriers to social media use are minimized and the communication needs of the next generation firefighter are met.