If You Want to Succeed as a Company Officer in the Fire Service You Must Possess This Leadership Skill

There are so many leadership skills you must possess if you want to succeed after you complete firefighter promotion. One of the most important, but probably least thought of, is emotional intelligence. Keep reading to find out what it is and why it matters. 

Emotional Intelligence Explained

Emotional intelligence is defined as, “the ability to perceive, interpret, demonstrate, control, and use emotions to communicate with and relate to others effectively and constructively.” Being emotionally intelligent can help you build relationships with members of your crew and help you avoid conflict both in the fire stations and out on calls. Let’s find out why, and how to gain some more emotional intelligence before you get promoted in the fire service. 

How to Gain Emotional Intelligence 

  1. Learn to Identify Your Own Emotions and Talk About Them

The first step to gaining emotional intelligence is to be able to identify your own emotions. This seems like an easy task but it may be harder than you realize. Sure almost everyone knows the major emotions like anger, sadness and happiness but there are so many more you may be feeling but not identifying. So in order to build that emotional intelligence when you are feeling something other than angry, happy or sad take a moment to think about what that might be. Are you feeling amused or maybe inferior or distant. Say the emotion out loud. Then take a moment to dig deep and see what you are feeling and identify why or what caused the feeling. Sometimes figuring out why you are feeling a certain way can help resolve the feeling if it is one you don’t like or even increase it if it’s a good one. You also can’t be afraid to talk about your feelings, all of your feelings. Sure you can say “I’m so happy my shifts over I can go home to my family”. Don’t be afraid to add in, I am feeling a little ashamed because when I get home I am just going to want to take a nap because the shift was rough and I just need a break from everyone, even my family even though I haven’t seen them in a couple days. Emotions can be a touchy subject but if you want to be an emotionally intelligent leader it is time to dive in head first and feel and identify those feelings and share them. 

  1. Manage Your Emotions

Managing your own emotions is key to being emotionally intelligent. This can be so hard. As you learn to identify your emotions and even what causes them you will get better at managing and controlling your own emotions. Practicing counting to 30 before reacting to something, if it is an urgent thing. If not urgent, sleep on it. Allow yourself time to calm your body before doing anything, especially with emotions like anger. On the job you may not be able to walk away from a situation to regulate yourself but you can always take a deep breath. Even with good things this is good practice. Sometimes something sounds like a great idea so you agree to it but hours later you regret saying yes before actually giving yourself time to think about it. When you are able to pause, take a breath or take a night before acting on your emotions. 

  1. Identify the Emotions of Others

After mastering your own emotions, next you need to be able to read other people's emotions, especially in the heat of the moment. If you cannot identify other people's emotions you are not emotionally intelligent. One way is to check body language: are they smiling, crying, or scowling. Are they crossing their arms or in a relaxed position? Even more important than body language when gauging the emotions of others is just to listen. What are they saying? They may even tell you they are mad or sad or happy. Even further, what is their tone of voice, are they having a hard time speaking, they may be nervous or scared and so on. Once you begin to learn and understand your own emotions you will get better at learning others. 

  1. Be Curious & Kind & Empathetic

One way to build emotional intelligence is to become curious of why an emotion is happening in a person, whether it be yourself or someone you are interacting with and have empathy. Empathy is, “the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person's situation.” To become empathetic start by becoming curious. Ask yourself why this person may be acting like this, instead of just thinking they are crazy or a psycho. Hold off judgment of a person's behavior and never jump to conclusions because you never know what someone is going through.

  1. Move On

Not everyone is perfect and you will make mistakes when it comes to emotional intelligence, just like with everything else in life. It is important that you reflect on those mistakes, learn from them, and move on. The key is acknowledging your mistakes and holding yourself accountable. 

The Takeaway

Emotional intelligence is a skill every leader must possess if they are set on building their career in the fire service. It will make you a better leader to your team and a better leader to your community. It will reduce conflict, reduce overreactions, and allow you to build stronger, more valuable connections.