Last month I was out of state teaching incident command, hazmat response tactics, and decision-making to a group consisting of firefighters, county health employees, and a police officer. I had made a connection with several in the class which led to in-depth conversations about leadership.
I do not want to become a battalion chief
During one of my conversations with a captain from a regional fire agency, I asked if he had desires to become a battalion chief. Half smiling, he shook his head back and forth and said, “No. I have no interest in being a BC.”
As a former battalion chief, I asked him, “Why don’t you want to become a BC?”
He went on to explain that he doesn’t like what he sees in most of the battalion chiefs from his agency. The captain said he understands there is a change when a person is promoted, but the changes he has seen are more negative than positive.
Top three complaints
Certainly, this is one perspective from one captain. However, I have heard similar comments from captains working in other agencies. What negative aspects do they see in the battalion chiefs they speak of? Below is a list of the top three complaints I hear about:
- Failure to listen
- An authoritarian approach using open or veiled threats
- Technical and tactical incompetence
Top three compliments
The top three compliments I hear about good battalion chiefs are:
- They listen
- They know how to lead people
- They are technically and tactically competent
A poor reputation
Last year I read an online article from Fast Company, Inc. titled Why no one on your team wants to be a manager anymore – and how to change that1. The article cites a survey from CareerBuilder “of over 3,600 workers” claiming that “most people don’t want to be managers.”
I agree with the author’s assessment that managers have “a very poor reputation.” Why is that? I contend that it starts with interchanging the word manager with leader. There is a distinct difference between the two. A manager is someone who manages resources, and a leader is someone who exerts influence on people.
Where do we go from here?
I will answer that question next week. In the meantime, here are three questions I asked the captain during our conversation:
- What prevents you from being a good battalion chief?
- As a battalion chief, what kind of positive influence could you have over the company officers and firefighters in your command?
- As a technically and tactically competent battalion chief, what impact does that have on the personnel operating at the scene of an emergency that you are in command of?
I also asked him, “What happens when the good captains do not want to become battalion chiefs because of what they see in the bad ones?” My newfound friend said, “We continue to promote bad battalion chiefs.” Bingo!
I can help
After spending fifteen-years as a battalion chief, I have the command and leadership background, experience, and resources to provide meaningful and relevant training to equip you to become a battalion chief that is a leader of firefighters.