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Transitioning to a First-Level or Higher-Level Leadership Position

Making the transition to company or chief officer is a monumental leap—it is often filled with high levels of trepidation, excitement, knowns, and unknowns. As a company officer, you are now responsible for a crew, a fire station, one or more pieces of apparatus, and a response district comprised of many structure types. In some communities across the United States, the above resources can easily exceed a billion dollars in valuation. The transition to a chief officer position includes all of the above times five or six (depending on the number of stations in a given battalion). 

How does one seamlessly transition to an officer position with as few setbacks as possible? The resources that can and will lead to success are endless. Becoming an active participant, and user of the many resources offered by the IAFC is one ideal solution for the 21st-century company or chief officer.  
Why the IAFC? The IAFC is comprised of individuals who have a shared interest in fostering development, innovation, and best practices that are essential to the mission of the international fire service community. Technology has bridged the gap to allow for reliable communication between individuals who work and reside in different parts of the world. As valued individuals within the IAFC community, members can easily network with others who possess a myriad of experiences and knowledge about many given areas associated with our profession.  
Most recently, a group of IAFC members created a document, "Firefighter to Supervisory Fire Officer Transition Plan," highlighting essential steps to take when preparing for a leadership position at the company officer level. Many of the suggestions outlined in the document are also applicable to the individual moving to the chief officer position. This document provides an overview of behavioral dimensions needed for success in the position; educational endeavors to satisfy the skill sets outlined in NFPA 1021 Fire Officer I/II, and available resources to help refine those essential behavioral and performance dimensions for long term success. 
It is not foreign to say that the leadership and managerial skills needed for the future high performing fire officer exceed those from yesteryears. The ever-intensifying complexities of the profession warrant officers who are true lifelong students of the profession. As collective members of the IAFC, we promote the concept, “lead, educate, and serve.” The activities that bound this concept are accomplishable—we as current and future leaders in the profession must be strategic and maintain an insatiable desire to achieve high levels of greatness. 
In the book Future Shock, Alvin Toffler posits, “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn. If you don’t have a strategy, you are part of someone else’s strategy.” Our success as leaders in the fire station, the battalion, and within the hazard zone require a cogent strategy. 


Captain Simmons is a California State Fire Training Master Instructor; IFSTA Validation Committee member; IAFC/Company Officer Adjunct Member; and an adjunct instructor at the OFD Academy.


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