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Company Officer Leadership: Reverse-Engineering Succession Management to Grow Your Career

Much has been written about the needs for succession management in the fire and emergency service. But what is succession management?

It’s staff development that aligns with the organization’s defined positions so hiring, evaluation and promotion processes ensure the best possible success for staff members in their current positions and builds the organization’s bench strength to fill future needs.

To date, very few departments have successfully implemented a succession-management program.

This means that to have the greatest success related to promotions and job performance, aspiring chiefs and company officers must understand how to reverse-engineer succession management.

How do you do this?

Understand the KSAs

The most important part of success in any job is possessing the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) listed in the job description. These can also be referred to as job-performance requirements.

Essentially, KSAs are all the important things to learn and master in order to succeed in the job. If you desire a promotion to a specific position, look at the KSAs listed for that job and analyze your current abilities against them.

Sometimes there’s not a specific class or education session that will help, but knowing what each KSA is allows you to focus your time and education in the correct areas.

Education is the Foundation, but Experience is King

When fire service leaders were surveyed by the Company Officers Section for the creation of Succession Management for the Fire-Rescue Service – Understanding and Applying the Process, education was listed in the key areas of preparation that equate to success in a position.

However, many other aspects were listed higher, including many that were tied to experience in the position or experience completing tasks similar to those done in the position.

This is why it’s critical to be involved both inside your organization and outside it. If committees exist within your organization, get involved. Get involved with organizations such as the IAFC. Being a member is a good start, but pursuing opportunities to serve on boards, committees and task forces is where real connections are made and you can begin to make acquaintances that may already hold the position you desire.

Mentoring is Key

The best advice to those who want to promote is to get a mentor. A mentor can work with you and provide feedback and, most importantly, has experience in the position you desire.

While working with a mentor within your department is great, finding an external mentor is even better; there are many ways to be successful in a position and an external mentor can show you variety. If your organization wants change, knowing only how to do the job in the way it’s currently done may not benefit you.

Start Now

All of this advice is great but completely useless until you act on it. Look up the KSAs for the position you aspire to and continue your education. Become involved in committees and national initiatives. And best yet, make that mentoring connection.

The public deserves the best you can offer, so begin to be the best now.


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