Firefighting, Leadership, Volunteer Fire Service

Transitioning Leadership

Issue 8 and Volume 170.

By JOHN M. BUCKMAN III When a leadership transition occurs in a fire department, a battalion, or a company, how the outgoing leader acts and reacts and how the new leader decides to lead are critical. Things will be different. Agree to accept and embrace these differences. Very few organizations fail because of one individual; if one does, it wasn’t a strong organization in the first place. It’s like a one-man band: When he gets tired, the music stops. Fire departments are steeped in tradition, which can sometimes create unnecessary challenges and additional difficulties for transitioning leadership. The fire service’s tradition can block progress when the subordinates insist that “the way we used to do things” will always be the “right way.” Change is most often uncomfortable for most of us; the only one who likes change is a baby with a wet diaper. Leadership change can be even more…

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