Great leaders work most of their careers to become who they are and to get where they are, either as the fire chief or a company officer. But why once at top do so many fail? Is it because they become comfortable in their roles? They become complacent?
Complacency within the fire service is extremely dangerous, not only for your career, but for your followers—those you're leading. You also put them at risk.
More than ever, leadership has become a competition, a survival of the fittest mentality. If you become complacent, you won't survive. According to Glenn Llopis, contributor to Forbes Online, these warning signs can help you avoid complacent leadership.
Fear Settles In
When leaders being to fear what's ahead—usually change—they tend to become complacent. When they begin to fear making a decision, or of making a wrong decision, they tend to not want to be the leader out front with their crews. They tend to want to stay out of the spotlight and just do the minimum to get by.
The more complacent you are as a leader, the more unpredictable the environment becomes and your ability to control and lead in it.
Attention to Detail Fades
When the pressures mount, details fade. This is an early warning sign that complacency is starting to settle in.
Maintaining focus on details is critical to leaders staying aware of the moving parts around them. Attention to detail is one of the most import aspects of the fire service, at all levels. When leaders let details slide in the fire service, accidents happen and people get hurt.
Tension Unknowingly Begins to Mount
When performance starts to slip and attention to detail fades, leaders unknowingly create tension with others. When this happens, they lose the respect of others and their reputations as leaders begin to fade. Leaders lose executive presence at this point and complacency not only affects them, but also starts to reverberate throughout the rest of the organization.
Leaders are expected to be proactive in their approach to leading and making decisions. When they grow complacent, they become slower in decision-making and develop reactive habits. If this approach goes on for some time, bad habits develop that hinder them as leaders.
Complacency can reach a point where leaders develop into followers instead of leading. Over time, they start to play things safe and become fearful of leaving their comfort zone. Before you know it, respect, trust and loyalty from members within the organization are gone.
When this happens, leaders begin to lose confidence in themselves, second-guessing their decisions. At this point, they become managers instead of leaders in their organizations. This often marks the end of a leader's reign.
Complacency in the fire service is truly a dangerous method of operation. It opens you up as a leader and opens individuals who are following you to the many hazards the job may present. The warning signs above can help your avoid complacency.
One of the best ways to cure complacency is to find a mentor. A mentor can keep you on track and inspire you to lead and to chase your dreams. The company officer mentorship program is a great place to start; check it out at IAFC.org/Mentoring.