You have a perfect resume with dozens of certificates listed, your tactical skills are well refined, but can you lead a team of people whose lives depend on your orders? Leadership is a major factor to think about as you make the decision to take the firefighter promotional exam and begin your firefighter promotional exam prep.
Leadership skills are critical to any firefighter that is considering promoting. If you feel you do not have the leadership skills necessary to lead a team into the hot zone, you may want to reconsider promotion until you get them. It is never too late to learn and leadership is a learned skill.
I am not talking about suitcases here, I am talking about emotional baggage. Baggage that may cause you to second guess yourself, or have a temper. Things that will get in the way of effectively leading your team, or even passing your fire department promotion test in the first place. Everyone has personal struggles due to family and home life, or even conflicts that take place at work. A good leader is able to check that baggage at the fire station door and not let anything stop them from making the right decisions that will keep their team safe and working efficiently.
A good leader has to be able to earn the respect and trust of those they are leading. Respect is so important because if you do not have the respect of your team, you will not be able to empower and encourage them. It is your job to boost morale and get your team to run into action when they may be nervous or unsure. Your team needs to trust your orders in order to follow them.
A good leader, especially in the fire service, is able to empathize with his team and his community members. You never know who you will come upon when you are going to a call. Whether it be a homeless person or a police officer who is injured in the line of duty, you need to give each person you come into contact with the same respect you would give anyone.
A true leader must be able to communicate, not just on a call but always. You must be able to praise your team members for a job well done, but also be critical of them and encourage improvement without breaking morale. You also need to be able to effectively communicate with superiors respectfully, but also critically. It is your job to protect your team, sometimes that means making the hard decisions and communicating them.
Being calm under pressure is especially important for any firefighter moving up the ranks. These are high stress positions and you often have an audience when you are doing your job. You must be able to keep your cool at all times.
A good leader is able to listen to those around them, not just their equals or superiors, but everyone. From community members, to supervisors, to students. There should be no one who is “too small” to listen to or acknowledge as you move up the ranks in the fire service.
A good leader in the fire service must be able to adapt in any situation. Whether you are required to use a new technology or you are in an unusual situation and the normal way of handling it won’t work. A good leader is able to make split second decisions to make sure their team is safe.
The lives of the people you are leading depend on your skills and ability to act under pressure. All of these skills are very much intertwined, you can’t just have a few. You can’t be a great leader if you are adaptable but closed-minded. As you begin your firefighter promotion process remember lives will be in your hand so do what you need now to make sure you have the leadership skills necessary to handle that responsibility. Don’t promote just to get a raise, do it because you want to be a great leader.