Leadership Credibility: Do you have it?

Credibility refers to the objective and subjective components of the believability of a source. In the modern fire service credibility has two critical components that cannot be really faked; trustworthiness and expertise. Both of these are easily faked for a short period of time but they become transparent if you are faking them.

Leadership credibility grows when you and your crew (team) are productive. The productivity of leadership credibility is when you are able to help others meet their goals and your are truly able to mentor them. When you as a team in the fire service are productive you are generally viewed a winners or what I often hear people say, “Pipe Swingers”.

It is important to understand that as a fire officer you are a leader of the organization you must understand and teach that no individual is greater than the team. Babe Ruth stated, ” The way a team plays as a whole determines its success.  You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they do not play well together, the team won’t be worth a dime.” I am completely convinced that the team working together is the essential component of the fire service. Unfortunately we often see individuals who think the department revolves around them or they are the “Negative Nellies” who can find fault in the fact you handed them a million dollar check because they had to go to the bank to cash it. They want to be individual superstars not a superstar team!

Just like any relationship it has to be worked at. Often when we analyze where we are in a relationship we find you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; regroup and start doing the works you did at first. Another words, refuel the passion for the job!

However, having talented personnel or team members does not automatically guarantee success. The difference is when you as a leader develop them into a team. But to develop a team you have to be followed as the leader, thus your credibility.  A successful leader must have a well-defined vision of where the organization is going. Often times you can measure vision as it is in direct proportion to accomplishment. As we begin to develop the future generation of fire service personnel we must navigate that road with vision. Vision is like a navigational system guiding you precisely from point “A” to point “B”. With vision we must be focused on the mission as well. Like vision, the mission gives a successful leader a sense of direction and purpose. This same mission gives personnel and future leaders the same sense of direction and purpose. People will follow you if they trust you.

Trustworthiness is a critical characteristic leaders need.  Trust is an increasingly scarce trait in which we see the fire service leaders and, now more than ever, lire service leaders who develop high trust relationships within their “team” and organizations outshine the competition. Leaders, aka officers, whose team members praise the high levels of trust within their team are, in fact, among the highest performers.  Bottom line as a leader to have credibility people, team members and the organization must have a profound trust you.
When you’re an expert at something, you show expertise “or an exceptional knowledge of the subject.” Expertise has obvious roots in the word expert. Just about any interest or field has a place for experts and the fire service is no different. Just as one leader may has expertise in engine company operations, another may have expertise in truck company operations. Working hard or immersing yourself in a specialty leads to expertise, and it comes through both study and hands-on experience.  As leaders you must show expertise in many areas but the most important is  servant leadership.

True leadership begins with serving. No role, position, job, task or calling of leadership in Emergency Services can be effective unless there is first a willingness to serve by the individual. Many want successful positions, ranks and roles in leadership, but not everyone wants to serve. Proper serving in leadership begins with a proper attitude.

History’s greatest achievements have been made by individuals who excelled only slightly over the masses of other individuals in their respective fields. I am reminded of this when you look at athletes. Most have significant levels of talent. The same is true for the fire service. Most of our personnel have strong predicated skills, abilities and knowledge. So what puts the people excelling in front of the others? Most times that small difference is attitude.

Remember this: If you aren’t a proven producer, you will not attract or keep others as you do not have expertise and credibility.  That is why it is so important that you lead by true example.