Regardless of your personal faith or affiliation, this axiom has obvious application to fire and emergency services. I believe the IAFC’s mission to Lead, Educate and Serve is appropriate and well stated; for the purposes of this article, I’d like to exercise a bit of privilege and put “Serve” first.
Serve with Humility
The very essence of being a servant is recognizing that the needs of others are more important than our own. Humility isn’t so much a practice as it is a character trait.
Most of us have taken an oath to protect and serve those in our communities who allow us to work in this profession. More and more often these days, we see firefighters who hedge on that oath: their level of service is commensurate to their level of compensation and benefits.
This is one area where those in our volunteer ranks teach us the real meaning of selflessness. I’m not sure there’s any more important quality we as leaders can instill in others than humility.
Serve with Purpose
Willingness to serve is certainly commendable, but the willingness coupled with a clear understanding of the goal to be accomplished is even more powerful.
Serving with purpose obviously requires a high degree of dedication. But just as importantly, it requires a great deal of thought in terms of where our talent, skill and experience best serve the organization.
None of us are experts at everything. Leaders sometimes get into a pattern of making every decision or being overly involved in every operation. A continual, honest self-assessment is one of the best practices to guide us to where we can make the most beneficial difference.
Serve with Compassion
Most of us in leadership positions have developed into left-brain thinkers, believing we need to be more logical and analytical in our decision-making processes. Some of us also let ourselves believe that being more intuitive or thoughtful right-brain thinkers made us weaker leaders.
The leaders many of us admire and emulate have never forgotten they have a heart. They even aren’t afraid to let their heart lead them in their decision-making at times. When it comes to serving others, how much we truly care can’t be feigned. Whether it’s from the public or members of our organizations, the level of respect and support we receive is directly related to how much they believe we care and empathize with them.
Finally, I wish to express my sincere thanks for the opportunity of serving you as president of the IAFC. It has been my pleasure and honor to be among so many great and inspirational people, especially over the course of this past year. This has been the experience of a lifetime and I am so very grateful.
There are so many people to thank that I couldn’t possibly name every individual. So let me simply say thank you to the wonderful staff of the IAFC, the dedicated board of directors, you the members, the leadership of Oklahoma City and the fantastic men and women of our department, my many friends and mentors in the fire service, my loving family and especially God for blessing my life so richly.
G. Keith Bryant
President and Chairman of the Board