Fire Fighting in Canada

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Cornerstone: February 2010

Through my years in emergency services I have had the pleasure of working with some of the most interesting and challenging people with whom anyone could hope to be associated.

February 17, 2010 
By Lyle Quan

Through my years in emergency services I have had the pleasure of working with some of the most interesting and challenging people with whom anyone could hope to be associated. No matter what their position was within the organization, the key thing that made these people stand out was how they motivated and inspired those with whom they worked. So what was their secret talent? The secret was that there was no secret; it was all about being who they were and having a passion for what they did. And that’s what we’ll discuss here – how to naturally inspire and motivate others.

One book that touches on how to lead with passion is Inspire (2004), by Lance Secretan. This publication is available on CD format and I would recommend buying the CD version because you will find that it is worth listening to over and over. Secretan’s message about inspiring others is timeless in its content and I’m sure you will find it personally uplifting during those times when you are feeling somewhat challenged in your role as a leader.

Secretan starts by defining the difference between motivating people and inspiring them. He notes that motivation is more about receiving something tangible, such as a raise or a promotion. The individual or group is motivated because there is a prize or reward at the end of a project. Inspiring others, however, is about appealing to a deeper need and desire for personal and emotional satisfaction. People are inspired because they feel a personal level of satisfaction and commitment toward the organization and its leader. Both are very important in our careers and personal lives. As a leader/manager it is crucial to understand the difference between the two concepts and how they can affect the level of commitment and the outcome of your team’s success.

The author explains to readers (or listeners) how to define their destiny, their cause and their calling. These three points can be explained this way:

  • Destiny – why am I here?
  • Cause – how will I be what I stand for?
  • Calling – what will I do?

Understanding these points helps readers focus on who they are and their purpose in life. Even if you presently feel somewhat aimless in relation to your calling, you will find that the author will help you realize what it is that you want or were meant to do.

Secretan also touches on a topic that is near and dear to me, which is leadership; but not just any style of leadership – servant leadership. To me, the servant leaders are the ideal leaders because they focus on how they can best serve their people and the organization for which they work. I have never been a supporter of some of the other leadership styles that create a “me-boss, you-not” working environment.

As Secretan notes, we all progress through stages of “student, practitioner and leader”, and it is how we participate in each of these stages that determines how effective we are in the practitioner stage and how well we inspire others when we reach the leader phase.

Another book, Igniting the Leader Within (1998) by Michael Staley, is inspirational simply because of the true story that inspired Staley to write the book. In 1990, while working as a firefighter-paramedic at the Daytona International Speedway, Staley was attending to an accident on the track and was hit by another race car. He received numerous life-threatening injuries. Staley overcame his injuries and went on to speak and teach about this life-altering incident.

Staley’s book covers such topics as climbing the ladder of success, motivating and evaluating people and becoming a born leader. To support his concept of leadership, Staley designed a four-leaf clover logo that has become his trademark and is worth noting. Each leaf reflects a philosophy he developed during his transformation:

  • 1. Life is too long if you don’t enjoy every breath of it;
  • 2. Commitment is loyalty to oneself;
  • 3. We use the attitude we choose;
  • 4. Choice, not chance, determines destiny.

As readers progress through each chapter, they are presented with personal study exercises that I found to be quite beneficial. These exercises help you put the lessons learned into practical application.

Much like Secretan’s book, Staley’s book supports the concept that “you’ll never be promoted to leadership” because being a leader is more about a consensus among you and those who choose to follow you. We can be promoted to a position of authority but it is only when your team chooses to support you that you become a true leader.

Whether you are trying to motivate or inspire others or even if you are looking for ways to evaluate and inspire yourself, I have no doubt that you will find these two books to be great additions to your leadership library.

Both books can be obtained through Amazon and Chapters.

  • Inspire by Lance Secretan. (2004), published by John Wiley & Sons.
  • Igniting the Leader Within. (1998), published by PennWell and also available through the Fire Fighting in Canada bookstore at

Lyle Quan is a deputy fire chief with the Guelph Fire Department in Ontario. He has a business degree in emergency services from Lakeland College and a degree in education from Brock University. Lyle is a graduate of Dalhousie University’s Fire Service Leadership and Administration Programs and is an associate instructor for the Ontario Fire College, Lakeland College and Dalhousie University.  E-mail:

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