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Feb 11, 2013, Prince Albert, Sask. – If you want to kill a couple hours with your peers, ask them if leaders are made or born; throw in a few beers and spicy chicken wings and the conversation is sure to get interesting.

February 11, 2013
By Les Karpluk

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Feb 11, 2013, Prince Albert, Sask. – If you want to kill a couple hours with your peers, ask them if leaders are made or born; throw in a few beers and spicy chicken wings and the conversation is sure to get interesting.

I hope the consensus is that leaders are made, not born. Some people say there are natural-born leaders – those who have charisma and the gift to lead in any situation. I agree that some people have a natural ability to rally the troops and lead, but I have yet to read or hear anything that identifies that innate leadership gene. Leadership is learned, taught and passed on to others, and believing anything else is nonsense.

Leadership isn’t easy, just as being a doctor, an architect, or musician isn’t easy. Frankly, being an authentic leader requires hard work, and the desire to lead is a critical requirement in the art of leadership. Leadership is an art? It is my belief that successful leaders are successful because they understand how important it is to express themselves and to communicate their values with emotion and passion. Isn’t that what artists do? Through their art, artists communicate to us and deliver a passionate message.

A great coffee shop here in Prince Albert provides local artists the opportunity to display their art. This summer, while enjoying my favorite coffee at this shop, I caught a glimpse of a unique piece of art; it grabbed my attention and now hangs on my dining room wall. Why? Because the artist was able to express and communicate her emotions and passion through her art. Her art is an expression of herself – she was leading from within, which is not unlike successful leaders who lead from within and express their visions and goals for their fire departments.

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I am sure that artists take stock of themselves to discover who they are. Leaders also need to take stock of themselves. By this, I mean digging deeply to understand who you are as a leader. What do you value? What is it that motivates you to lead? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Answering these questions allows you to tune into the real you. The result is a better artist, a better leader.

Without understanding yourself – really understanding what makes you tick, you cannot lead to your potential. Conducting a self-analysis isn’t going to be easy because you may learn something about yourself that you don’t like, and once you discover an idiosyncrasy, it must be dealt with. Now, this is the crossroads: you either take steps to change or you wimp out and do nothing. Authentic leaders understand this, while wannabe leaders would be thinking of the changes others should make.

I suspect that all fire stations in this country have leaders who truly make a difference in the community, in the profession and in the lives of their co-workers. When you talk to these leaders you will discover that they possess a sense of self-awareness and they understand their personalities, emotions and beliefs. They know who they are, what they stand for, and are intimately aware of what makes them tick. These individuals are the authentic leaders who have intentionally examined their strengths and weaknesses in their quest for leadership.

As a leader in the department it is your responsibility to understand who you are. Learn how to become yourself, express yourself, manage your emotions and to communicate in a way that inspires people to follow you. Leadership is an art, it takes hard work and it is something that we should never take for granted.

Until next time, lead within and grow.

Les Karpluk is fire chief of the Prince Albert Fire Department in Saskatchewan. He is a graduate of the Lakeland College Bachelor of Business in Emergency Services program and Dalhousie University’s Fire Administration program. Follow Les on Twitter at @GenesisLes


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