Charge the Line

Part 5: The Art of Leadership - Ruin

By Josh Fowler

When the higher officers are angry and insubordinate, and on meeting the enemy give battle on their own account from a feeling of resentment, before the commander-in-chief can tell whether or not he is in a position to fight, the result is ruin.

There is so much information that can be gleaned from this calamity, so we will address the points in the same order as the original author. First, we see the demeanor and countenance of the higher officers: They have anger issues and are insubordinate (the second calamity). If there’s one thing my kids (those at home and at the firehouse) have heard me say time and time again, it’s, “Your actions do not just affect you. Your actions affect everyone around you.” Your officers (and upper level management) must keep their emotions in check. If they can’t or won’t, this will pose bigger issues later at the station/organization and on the fireground/day-to-day operations. Officers/managers must:

  • remain calm under pressure
  • maintain a positive attitude
  • support the upper levels of command
  • support their subordinates below them

Second, when officers/managers begin to formulate their own strategy on the fireground or in the workplace without the incident commander’s order or approval, they have essentially gone rogue. We in the fire service call this freelancing. The actions of one or some have now affected everyone. The original strategy, action, or intent of the incident commander may now be in danger of failure. This can lead to the next calamity–Disorganization.