What makes someone a great leader?

In leadership, we see examples (good and bad) of those who hold positions of great influence. If we were to break down the leaders we admire; what is it about them that makes us want to follow their example?

Here are my thoughts on those traits that define a significant leader:

#1) A solid moral foundation: It all begins with Integrity.
I believe that to be a successful and significant Leader that our motivations and mindset have to be pure. An intelligent leader who doesn’t have a solid moral foundation will ultimately fail the organization personally and or professionally. They will be manning the life boats alone while the entire organization goes down with the ship.

Consider this:

Anyone can learn to be competent in their profession but to be exemplary is to be the one standing up for truth, caring for others, and leading by example.

History has taught us that anyone who is placed in a position of authority but doesn’t have a solid moral foundation will ultimately compromise their principles, integrity, and values for money, power, and or fear. Don’t merely believe me; Take a look back at our history before we look forward.

#2) Servanthood:
In the fire service, our inner desire to serve others shows that we have a servant heart. As we step into the role of a leader, one must have a self-less focus where he or she is constantly about the business of knowing, caring for, and empowering those in their sphere of influence.

In order to lead, someone has to follow; therefore one has to command more than their respect. The greater the amount of passion and energy that a Leader pours into his/her people it has a direct correlation in how effective the crew will be.

#3) Setting the example (Consistency):
We must lead by example. Our consistent application of our values, work ethic, and our dedication to our crew is what sets us apart. This goes deeper than education. A Leader who has high expectations of his/her crew must first have the same expectations of themselves.

This position requires that we are pursuing the next level of excellence. There is never a point where one should be comfortable with their knowledge, skills, and abilities. If one has reached this point of complacency then it’s time to move on to another profession such as retirement.

#4) Humility:

Some of the greatest leaders that have impacted my life the ones that have admitted openly when they made a mistake. They made no excuse, they took responsibility for their actions, and they held themselves accountable. Those under a leader’s supervision will not believe in their leader if the leader does not hold himself/herself accountable as well.

#5) Mentoring:

In my opinion, one of the greatest disservices we do to our veteran leaders in the fire service is when they retire. We throw them a party and say goodbye. They have invaluable experience that has been forged by a lifetime of adversity, experience, and education. We should not let their priceless wisdom merely fade away; we should seek them out and learn from them.

As a Leader, you are ultimately responsible for what the future of the fire service will look like. Your goal should be to leave a mark on the organization and not just a memory. This can be only accomplished by “training your replacement”.

We should all be concerned about developing the next generation of leaders. One day they could be responding to our call for help. Are we equipping those around us for the future? Are we investing in those around us to ensure a brighter future?

Let’s consider these five traits and reflect upon there meaning in our own life. Are we investing in the future or merely impressing others for the moment?

God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries


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