The career that I chose at 18 was amazing, exciting and fun. It simply was the best job in the world. There is no doubt in my mind that many firefighters and paramedics feel the same way. There is great job satisfaction in driving away from a hospital knowing that you saved a life while it is heartbreaking to be a witness to death and destruction. In addition, fighting fires is an adrenaline filledtime of many small decisions that is aimed at saving lives and property. It was an amazing occupation. After my career of over 20 years, I walked away with an education limited to the very few people that work in public safety.
The following is a list of some things that I learned. There may be others that read this and disagree, but this is strictly from my perspective.
- All men are created equal
- Okay, I realize that this has been said before, but we all emerge the same (I learned this after delivering 10 babies) and nobody dies a more glamourous death than another. We may become self-important and even hold a job of great influence, but it is important to remain grounded, humble and loving. Our greatest gift after our death is that our legacy is one of loving others and not one of destruction. The term "edify" comes from the Greek word for "house builder". Let us build up and protect others. They are our equal.
- There are two sides to every story
- It seems that every drunk laying on the sidewalk that wanted to go to the hospital had drank only had "two beers". Yes, this was either a partial truth because they drank a fifth of something else with it or it was a just a flat lie. What we would often see is a smelly human being that had urinated on themselves, but these people had family and friends that cared for them. I would never know what caused them to reach toward a bottle and begin the path to hopelessness, but they are humans and should be treated with respect. Plus, when you talk to them, they can be entertaining.
- Communication goes far to fix problems
- When operating on a fire or a medical emergency, it is essential to communicate. The lack of communication can cause the loss of life. Therefore, we carried portable radios to give instructions and respond to commands. It eliminated any doubt about what needed to be done or what was expected. "Radio silence" can be deadly. If you hold a leadership position, do not shut people out, but communicate with them. This will build trust so that two way commuincations can be effective.
- Work to fix problems at a local level
- Many problems are made bigger than they have to be because leaders are unable to deal with problems at a local level. All problems that could be fixed within the four walls of a firehouse should stay there. There are certain issues that need to be taken care of at a higher level, but this should be done as a last resort. Basically, keep the problem solving as simple as possible unless absolutely necessary. If you are a leader, "man-up" (or woman-up) and deal with a problem rather than punting it to someone else unless somene's life is in danger or it is criminal.
This list is not comprehensive, but they are leadership lessons that I learned in a firetruck and ambulance. Look around and learn from your situation.