Fire Fighting in Canada

Leadership Forum: The need for grit has never been greater

March 22, 2024 
By Chris Harrow, Director of Fire Services, Town of Minto and Township of Wellington North

Perseverance is defined in the Webster dictionary as the “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.” This term has become vital to the success of any leader in the world we live in, which can be extremely stressful and taxing on an individual trying to do the right thing, once one is able to find out what the right thing is. 

With the prevalence of fake news and many different beliefs amongst peers and friends, it can be extremely difficult to figure out what the right thing is. We have never been so divided as a society on a plethora of issues and ideals. The purpose of the article is not to begin a moral debate, but to shed light on how difficult it is becoming for leaders to stay the course and persevere through work that is changing the way we do things in the fire service.

Current experience shows us we are working in a society defaulting to a negative opinion when confronted with change or different methods of thinking. The backlash leaders are facing is more severe than it normally was in the past. All of this is requiring leaders to grow even “thicker” skin. 

In recent conversations with many peers, hesitancy or flat-out refusal to change is not occurring in silos. The trust they have had as leaders in the past is not at the same level currently in the industry they work in. More is required to convince co-workers that the proposed change is good for the organization and even necessary to survive moving forward. Leaders must continually persevere to implement change they know is good and necessary.


Routine decisions that are not so simple anymore can add new stress to a leader by lengthening their day and the work needed to be completed for normal day-to-day activities. All of this adds to the backlog of work needed to be completed with even less time available. Frustration can easily creep in and hamper your ability to persevere through adversity. Leaders need to keep striving for what is best for their organizations. Nothing satisfies naysayers more than seeing a process slow down or even forgotten about. 

Social media makes it easier than ever to be able to disagree with an opinion. It’s simple to quickly type a negative message or a disagreement in social media without much recourse. It is also easy to find information that backs up your opinion no matter how far-fetched it may be. All of this adds to the hurdles a leader must jump through to achieve the outcome they are looking for. It also tests a leader’s fortitude to stick to their opinion and know what they are trying to accomplish is the right thing to do. Persevere through the noise to push the right change to the finish line.

Many techniques are available to help a leader drown out the noise and continue to persevere through the negativity. Meditation, breathing techniques or other calming methods to help clear your mind to assist in pushing on. There are other simpler techniques like perspective. Looking at a situation and convincing yourself that there are many other people in worse situations or comparing it to the reality that you have your health and at the end of the day, it is only work. It will always be there tomorrow and you can continue to deal with the situation then.

Whatever works for you, find the technique that helps you persevere. I try all the time to find perspective and convince myself it is only a job and at the end of the day, I still get to go home to a fantastic family. Take some time and allow yourself an opportunity to gain that perspective you need in your life so you can be at your best as often as possible. The one known is that you are going to face adversity each day. It seems it is much easier to complain than to throw a compliment the way of those you work with.

The current era is the perfect storm. Fire departments, because of the significant increases in costs for equipment, trucks and all else Fire, is requiring its leaders to change the way things are done. Changes to services provided, and altering equipment or trucks purchased all are necessary to manage the budget money available. Couple this with how easy it is for co-workers to disagree or erect roadblocks when that change is proposed, and being a leader has never been harder.

Persevering through the adversity is important for leaders because we, as leaders, know where we have to go and what is needed for our industry to thrive. There is nothing more exciting and rewarding then seeing the success of a project or a group you work with. Remember that feeling and have those around you remember what it feels like to accomplish their goals. Eventually surrounding yourself with enough people who push to persevere and believe in your abilities will push past those who choose to not believe. You will earn your well-deserved stripes for accomplishing what you believe in. 

Chris Harrow is the director of fire services for the Town of Minto and Township of Wellington North in Ontario. He can be reached at

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