(Appeared in print as "There’s no ‘I’ in leader")
Last month, I attended the Labor-Management Initiative (LMI) conference in Phoenix. The diverse perspectives from more than 500 union leaders and fire chiefs from around the U.S. and Canada fueled thought-provoking discussions on the many dimensions of fire-service leadership.
When we speak of leadership, it is important to understand that a leader is not just a manager who works harder than everyone else. If that was the case, we would simply be over-managed and under-led organizations, which is the wrong formula in this fast-moving and ever-changing world.
The difference between a manager and a leader is this: the manager administers; the leader innovates. The manager is like a copy; and the leader is an original. Leadership is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities and successfully exploiting those opportunities for those within the organization.
Some people think we should replace management with leadership, but I disagree. The manager and the leader are both important and serve different, yet essential, functions. Leadership fails if there are not those who share the vision and are empowered to produce positive change. Leaders draw the map to where organizations need to be; managers are the engineers who build the road.
Cooperation and empowerment — between organizations, ranks and department types — is crucial to our mission. Regardless if you are a chief or company officer, or a union official, the path of leadership is not an easy one. But I know that our load can be lightened when we work together toward our common objectives of a successful fire department, public and responder safety, and a positive work environment.
Having served as both a fire chief and a union president, I fully understand the importance of an effective labor-management relationship and how much effort it takes to build and maintain it. In this regard, we must be both leader and manager — creating a vision for cooperation and our common success, but also taking a hands-on role in making the vision a reality each day.
The economy has continued to test the fire and emergency service in so many ways. I truly believe that we can survive these tough times, but only if we work together to support the common cause. That work must start at the leadership level. We must define the success we hope to achieve and serve as an example to those we lead.
I am proud to say thatand IAFF are partners on the national and international level, and I challenge all of you to work together at the state and local level. It may seem overwhelming, but you are not alone.
The energy at the LMI conference was amazing, and I contribute that to each individual in the room — so many people eager to work on building something new, so many leaders willing to help others achieve success.
If we each take joint action now, we not only will get through today’s challenges, but we will end up building a stronger fire and emergency service tomorrow. You can start building your vision by visiting the IAFC and IAFF joint Labor Management Initiative program at www.iafc.org/lmi/.