News & Media

Leadership lessons with the Chief

By: Lachlan Gales

Category: People, Training & Recruitment

  5.11 PM 2 December, 2013

Location: District 23 News, General

Views: 2788

I was fortunate to be one of 20 volunteers who travelled from around Victoria to attend the first residential session of the Chief Officer’s Leadership Development program. Here is my take on the weekend and what I personally took out of it.

With members coming from almost every CFA district, the first challenge was relating the state’s geography with each District location. Suffice to say that if you were previously vague about which District was where, this was a clear opportunity to improve on that knowledge!

Even though it was difficult to have an image in our minds about how the first session would unfold, everyone arriving at Yellingbo was enthusiastic and friendly, and clearly pleased to have a position in the program.

Personally my only real expectation in participating was that spending time with the Chief would be to spend time with someone well versed in the principles of leadership and importantly, the application of those same principles. From that perspective I was not at all disappointed. We were privileged indeed to have the benefit of Euan Ferguson’s thoughts on Leadership and to share his insights and experience in an innovative and collegiate way.

A key point that anchored much of the discussion was that our strength as leaders is determined largely by our own emotional, intellectual, spiritual & physical strengths. Personal development in these areas is essential to developing as a leader on the fireground, in brigades and in our communities. How to maintain that focus on self-development in the midst of the busy lives we live in the modern era is the real challenge for all of us that aspire to leadership. So taking time to reflect is an important practice we can all undertake.

The importance of values in leadership was another strong thread to the conversation. Through the course of our discussions we worked up an extensive list of what attributes were important in a leader. The virtue of humility was not only discussed but also ably demonstrated by the Chief.  Certainly we all learned greatly from observing how he goes about his role as he displayed many of the same values we defined throughout the session.

The wisdom of great leaders extending throughout human history was considered and discussed in an informal forum that encouraged everyone to contribute.  It was at times a masterclass in inspirational messages relating to the principles of leadership. Those messages had real meaning for the broad range of people at the table, members with a shared interest in how to best lead their peers.

Certainly the experience around the table was as considerable as it was varied. I had some great conversations that left me slightly in awe of the diversity of the brigades that comprise CFA as well as the mix of personalities and motivations of my colleagues.

I think there’s a lot to learn from being part of a group drawn from all over the State. Although I’ve been a member for 27 years, time spent with my peers helps me realise my perceptions of our organisation are still relatively narrow and based very much on my experience in the North East.

I’ve been very fortunate in my CFA career to undertake other courses that have helped me develop as a leader, but this one offers a rare chance to maintain an extended focus on how we can improve ourselves. To that end this will be very important for all the participants. For some it will be life changing.

I’m already thinking through some personal goals to set myself and that in itself is significant. I’ve also come up with a couple of concepts regarding how I can share the lessons learned from the weekend locally at Group and Brigade level. The challenge for me is to make it real.

John Rockefeller said “Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of exceptional people”. I believe the Chief Officers Leadership Development Program has the potential to do exactly that.

I’d like to thank Craig Ferguson of Operational Training & Volunteerism (responsible for the initial concept) who was ably supported by Sian Jepson and Leanna Wilson of the Volunteer Support Program.  Their careful and complete planning made for a very well presented and staged course.

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Last Updated: 03 December 2013