This is the sixth article in a series about the fourteen leadership traits taught by the U.S. Marine Corps.
Simply stated, initiative is “Taking action in the absence of orders.1”
BOLO is a term used by our colleagues in law enforcement meaning be on the lookout. In the fire service, the BOLO for initiative begins with the initial job interviews. I oversaw our departments recruiting program for three years, and interviewing candidates to determine if they are the right fit can be a grueling process.
One of the characteristics that fire departments look for is initiative. Even when asking a candidate thought provoking questions, the ability to determine initiative can be elusive at this stage of the process. Let’s face it, there are individuals lacking character who appear before interview panels across the country, and they have perfected their answers. Unfortunately, those people can impress and wow everyone on the panels, and then end up getting hired.
True Character Revealed
It does not take long for the true character of the professional interviewer to be revealed. For those who are less polished in their deceptive techniques, the character issues begin to show in the academy when the recruit does not pull their weight in training, hides out when it is time to clean up, and does not show any initiative. The professional deceiver hides this lack of character until after they have completed probation. Then the true person shows up.
On the other hand, there are individuals who possess strong character and have a conscience. They are the ones who do not wait around to be told to do something. They are the people acting in the absence of orders.
By the way, there is a major difference between showing initiative and freelancing. Taking action in the absence of orders is operating under the commander or leader’s intent. People who freelance go off and do what they want regardless of what the commander intends.
I frequently hear fire officers complain about the current generation of firefighters and how they appear to be more interested in what is on their phones than getting work done. Granted, these are snapshot perspectives, but how do you address a lack of initiative with firefighters on your crew or shift? Are you properly trained and equipped to handle this type of challenge?
Prepare yourself for these challenges by joining Tailboard Talks, an online community of like-minded professionals. This is a membership environment where you build and reinforce your leadership skills and abilities through bi-weekly coaching and mentorship calls. You also gain access to leadership tips and material assisting your development as a world class fire officer. Go to Officer Development – Fire Officer Leadership Academy, join Tailboard Talks, and begin your journey to excellence today.