21 June 2023

Encouraging Leadership: Guiding The Next Generation

We have some absolutely incredible people working in the emergency services, especially those who have stepped up to lead. However, they won’t be there forever and preparing the next generation of firefighters, police officers, and paramedics means encouraging leadership and ensuring there are people ready to take charge.

It takes more than just giving orders to be a good leader, but thankfully, there are more than a few ways to encourage people to step up.

Recognize Self-Selection

The first thing you’re going to want to do is make sure you’re identifying people who show leadership capabilities. Everyone has different strengths they bring to the table and leaders will often show signs of it well before they actually step into a position of power. 

This goes hand in hand with recognizing when leadership isn’t a good fit. There’s nothing wrong with that either, it’s a specific set of skills and some just have other tools in their arsenal. Giving your team the best chance at success means making sure all the pieces fit exactly where they should.

Start To Share

It’s a universal truth that the best teacher is experience, so don’t be afraid to toss your soon-to-be leaders right into the deep end (under your supervision, of course)! Give them more responsibilities and let them in on some important decisions. The key thing here is to show trust. If they are the leaders you think they are, they will take these things seriously.

Plan With Them

There are many (many, many) different leadership roles that need to be filled. Spending the time to figure out what career path they want to be on goes a long way in encouraging the next generation of leaders. Give them special assignments, check in on their progress, and provide them with new opportunities when they arise.

Expand Your Thinking

Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. There are leaders from all walks of life and sex, ethnicity, age, creed, or disability plays no factor in whether or not someone has the capability to lead. On top of that, the next generation values inclusivity, so showing that the organization values it too means they will be much more excited to step into a leadership role.

Encourage The Wins

Positive feedback is a powerful thing. Grooming leaders isn’t a case of handing out responsibilities and just hoping for the best. As we said before, trust is important, but make sure to recognize when people bring solutions to the table and perform well. It’s not just about going above and beyond either (though, be extra sure to recognize that), solid and consistent work should be praised as much as bursts of hard-work.

Give Room To Fail

Success isn’t a straight line. We challenge anyone to find a case where someone made every correct decision in every possible scenario.

The opportunities, responsibilities, and decisions you’re encouraging new leaders to make should come with a bit of slack. If the new things on their plate are all “do or die” scenarios, it can scare away leaders before they even have the chance to learn. Let them try, fail, and grow. The more experience they acquire, the more you can tighten up that slack and eventually, they won’t need any.

Want to learn more about leadership? The latest episode of Conquering Chaos and Mayhem has got you covered! (We also highly recommend reading this book)

Join host Darryl Culley as he speaks with Les Karpluk, a fire chief with over 40 years of experience. The two talk recruitment, retention, and how fire services can do their best to groom the next generation of leaders. “Who doesn’t want to come back to a team where you’re learning, having fun, and respected. I think it’s a pretty simple formula.”

Whether you want to shepherd the next group of fire chiefs, or you want to become a stronger leader yourself, you don’t want to miss this episode!