Report date
July 2021
Learning Log

What stands out to me the most about my leadership development journey is the quality of people I have met and had the opportunity to interact with because of the Bush Fellowship. The classes at Harvard, especially the Senior Executives in State and Local Government: Building Resilient Communities, have been incredibly helpful in terms of understanding policy formulation and successful implementation. Promoting Racial Equity in the Workplace, given local, state, and national events, was obviously a timely HKSEE class. I have found that my own leadership is strengthened when collaborating with others who share the same desire in building up the fire service as an equitable place which serves the community. Lessons learned in these advanced educational experiences have empowered me to reinforce existing connections with colleagues in the tribal communities our service interacts with. We have collaboratively worked together to further develop a culturally competent Community EMT curriculum for introduction next year into selected areas. I have been very fortunate to appear as a panelist on several occasions including an International Fire Service Leadership Roundtable forum. In a Virtual EMS Summit I presented to EMS leaders from across the country on the topic of "Inclusive Organizational Growth", in which I noted that the communities we serve in EMS continue to become more diverse in their culture, languages spoken, and norms. The workforce of many emergency medical service agencies no longer reflects the people they serve. A workforce demographic that mirrors the community make-up helps to build trust with the community and promotes a better understanding by the agency. Many EMS departments across the country are now working with underrepresented groups to prepare them for the rigorous testing processes. If EMS hopes to attract the right workforce to deliver the services conducted, then changes in culture and current perceptions are necessary to achieve more representative service. It is vital that emergency medical services make it an organizational priority to recruit, select, and promote members who reflect the demographic makeup of the community they serve. Some the strategies which can be employed to accomplish this include removing economic and social barriers to candidates desiring to participate in EMS. It is also important that non-validated physical ability barriers for candidates desiring to participate in EMS are removed. Planning and the establishing a realistic agency goal for the optimal demographic make-up of the agency takes thoughtful and purposeful movement as it is important to understand the community characteristics, culture, and diversity that exist while determining the most appropriate way to serve and interact with all community members. I have learned that I enjoy providing opportunities for employees to engage with various community groups. Street fairs, Veterans and Memorial Day parades, Lions, Kiwanis, Farmers Market, Scouts, mental health advocacy organization meetings all provide for employee and community interaction opportunities. My leadership style continues to evolve as I have learned the importance of active listening and repeating back key points of conversation to allow the full weight of the speaker’s words to sink in. I have been encouraged by hearing the accounts of other fire service and public safety leaders regarding the highly political environments which they successfully navigated. There are some very important lessons as relayed to me regarding knowing when to speak and when to wait for the issue to ripen before addressing it. My impact continues to develop in the sense that I realize how important allies are and how valuable they can be in blunting an attack from a group who prefers that progress does not occur. Travel has been very important for me and my ability to build my leadership. Communication with others who may not even be in my line of work or share the same interests initially has proven invaluable. I am now communication with a commissioner from the Belize National Police regarding restorative justice concepts and how their pilot program is working in Belize. We both share the same goals of assistance and capacity building for Belizeans, and I am now reviewing a proposal for expanding the current program. I have learned my leadership is adaptive when it needs to be but uncompromising in principle. The impact I can have reaches outside my local community and service area on both a professional and a personal level, yet the most rewarding is on a personal level in the sharing of tactics, techniques, and practices in leadership and leadership development of new officers. Practices which have helped to sustain my leadership continue to be travel and interaction with others of diverse backgrounds and cultures. It is both rewarding and invigorating to hear from others facing similar challenges as they work to develop a better fire and emergency medical service. Taking a tactical pause from the day-to-day activities of work and checking out for a week or two is a purposeful way for me to sustain my leadership. Successful organizations have leaders who are visible and clear in their purpose for the organization. Successful leaders also have naysayers and detractors who attempt to undermine the goals of equity and fairness by directly attacking the individual through character attacks, innuendo, or attempting to silence their voice. I have been impressed again this past month that when one examines all successful change agents of progressive policy or human and civil rights, it has been controversial. No true leader has foregone being maligned, marginalized, or mischaracterized. These types of responses are normal from those who would prefer the quite comfort of status quo in which they are the primary beneficiaries of an oftentimes structurally inequitable power balance. Recognizing that this adversity is part of what comes with true leadership and then accepting that when you step up and advocate for unpopular, yet necessary changes is necessary for continued effective personal and organizational direction. There is a level of satisfaction which is felt when you see others whom you have mentored also do the right thing rather than taking an easier and "safer" route. I have learned that being challenged is one of the best things that can happen to you as a leader. An untested leader is an unproven leader. I am reminded of a saying which states, “Every ship is safe in its harbor, but that is not what ships were built for.” Rather than avoiding potential conflict when it comes to a clash in values for a leader, these experiences should be valued, learned from, and then the lessons learned applied for the next challenge. I have learned to be comfortable with challenges as a leader because this is the only way to further develop the leadership levels aspired to. It is reassuring when the motives of parties involved in a conflict can be examined with the resulting conclusion that your motives as a leader serve the greater good and are rooted in equality of representation rather than a self-serving, and parochial system which is the status quo. The mere presence of a conflict is not the measure of individual or organizational success. The cause of the conflict when examined is more revealing regarding ethics, values, and motivation than the often-negative connotation of discord resulting from divergent value systems. I have learned that my impact will continue to evolve both in my emergency service organization and in my non-profit organizations where I serve on the board of directors as communication issues and value alignment of all members continue to need to be addressed. The book Multipliers by Liz Wiseman, which is a deep dive on how successful leaders can bring out the best qualities and build capacity in the people they work with, is the most influential book I have read this year. I was able to see the root causes regarding several conflict areas I have either been party to or have witnessed. Leadership is much like education, I believe, in that it is never complete. The more you learn about leadership the more you realize you have yet to learn. Leadership, much like education, is a lifelong learning process and should be a lifelong commitment to improvement. Leadership can be compared to the human body in that it is best fit when it is exercised. The exercise of this leadership does cause pain at times just like physical exercise causes the human body discomfort. Sometimes this discomfort can take the form of recalcitrance or reticence of others to do the right thing because it is a change from how things have been done in the past. I have learned that my impact will continue to develop not just locally and regionally, but on a global scale with opportunities in developing countries.