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Choose Your Next Officer with These Key Evaluation Areas

Great leaders surround themselves with like-minded people. Great ones who lead take it to the next level and seek opportunities to expand their circles and bring outsiders in. The essence of true leadership lies within this concept.

They also seek out those who fit a common, shared vision. Whether it’s personal, professional or both, a great leader recognizes the need to find that ideal, professional development-driven person who adds substantial value to the organization.

All fire-service organizations have a vision and mission statement that states where they are and where they want to be. One key factor to ensuring a successful and highly reliable organization is finding those who are committed to excellence and embody the epitome of the organization’s vision.

Candidates must:

  • Have a passion that drives them
  • Be students of the fire service, constantly sharpening their skills and focusing on self-betterment
  • Demonstrate commitment to education and community service

Ideal officers driven by personal and professional development should be evaluated on their entire bodies of work performed throughout their careers.

The ideal officer would be dedicated to proficiency and delivery of all-hazards services. Their overall body of work measures superior skills, knowledge and leadership abilities and validates personal and professional growth and development.

When measuring an officer’s overall body of work, evaluate these assets:

  • Education – They demonstrate a life-long, measurable commitment to higher education and continuous learning in the form of a professional degree.
  • Experience – They have progressive experience and responsibilities that include promotional advancements in all organizational ranks and structure.
  • Training – They participate in and develop and implement training to add value to others and themselves. They have the ability to transform and articulate cognitive learning into practical, hands-on applications at high levels of performance.
  • Certification – They possess multiple areas and levels of expertise that validate education and training through cognitive and psychomotor evaluation.
  • Professional designations – They are credentialed through the Center for Public Safety Excellence, National Fire Academy and other local, state and national organizations that look at the whole officer.
  • Professional contributions – They share knowledge and contribute to the fire service through writing articles, presenting at conferences and introducing innovative concepts that enrich and advance the fire service.
  • Professional memberships – They maintain active membership and participation in local, state, national and international organizations with initiatives to advance their members.
  • Community service – They give back to the community through volunteerism, relationship building and servant leadership with a service-above-self mentality.

Perhaps the most important things to look for are the intangibles that a person possesses. Measuring someone’s tangible assets is easy, but the intangibles require a true relationship building and taking a vested interest in that person to discover what lies at the core.

I’ve developed an oral-interview assessment technique as part of the hiring process that helps discover who the person really is. While it’s not an all-inclusive process and can be tailored to fit your organizational needs, it does represent a starting point.

In the interview process, I ask a series of questions related to leadership:

  • How would you describe your leadership style, and what situations was this applied in? What I look for here are key words or concepts. Those who are truly passionate about leadership should know what styles and theories fit them and how to apply them in any given situation without hesitation. These key concepts indicate a person has studied leadership and is a student of its theory and application.
  • What is your definition of leadership? Here, the key words or concepts should be those that describe true leadership attributes, such as the ability to inspire, motivate, empower, influence, cultivate and forge relationships, as well as being able to push people past their performance envelopes to achieve greater success. Those who understand the foundational components will on a daily basis enrich, fulfill and add purpose to the lives of others above themselves without question or hesitation.
  • If you were asked to create a personal vision and values statement, what would it be? This question is one that really engages candidtes and requires deep thought into who they really are. Here, you should be looking for key indicators that drive a person, such as passion, heart and conviction, as well as such personal values as pride, professionalism and integrity. True leaders possess special attributes that make them who they are. It’s important to remember that the answers here are internally driven, but they should be spoken instantaneously when asked.

The possession of tangible assets is easily measured, but the intangibles are special characteristics that can’t be measured. When leaders have passion, heart and conviction, it’s undeniable and easily recognizable, like the brightest of stars.


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