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On the subject of leadership...

By: Patrick O'Brien

  11.00 AM 6 December, 2012

Views: 2646

Recent experiences at three Loddon Mallee region (LMR) leadership courses have led me to reflect both on the subject of leadership in CFA and, in general, the calibre of members we have.

I am routinely inspired and motivated by all the participants in our various LMR teamwork and leadership courses. The range of skills and life experiences of our volunteers and staff is extraordinarily broad, valuable and always instructive.

These courses have taught me that the leader, in any circumstance, really has two principal responsibilities: to achieve the mission (in operational situations) or objective (in day-to-day situations), and to look after the well-being of the team.

The mission shouldn't be achieved at the expense of the team. In a very few cases, probably confined to an armed conflict situation, the leader might have to ask the team, or some of its members, to be prepared to sacrifice themselves in order to achieve the mission. For us in CFA that situation should never arise. Anyway, from a simple self-interest perspective it's not very smart for the leader to place at risk the means by which the mission is going to be achieved. Put simply, no team, no mission achievement (either current or future).

In terms of the leader's responsibility to look after the team, the leader's actions, or inaction, shouldn't place at risk aspects of the team's well-being, such as its goodwill, self-respect, mental and physical health, cohesion, opportunity for self-fulfilment, growth, and the contribution of individual members. Without constant attention, it's easy to become so mission focused that the team slips out of focus and starts to be taken for granted.

I strongly believe that two related characteristics of a good leader are the capacity for introspection and reflection. When talking introspection, I mean in the sense of our ability to be self-aware, to see ourselves as others might. Reflection involves the ability to understand and learn from our experiences. Good Leaders observe their effect on the team and adjust their behaviour as required.

During an interview, I recently heard Reverend Tim Costello offer the following profound insight:  "Relationships and living out our values are what make us profoundly happy in life."

A great leader is going to pay as much attention to the well-being of the team as to achieving the mission. Both must be informed by CFA's Fire Service Star Virtues which are the values underpinning our CFA culture.

Last Updated: 10 December 2015