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March 4, 2013
By Les Karpluk

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March 4, 2013, Prince Albert, Sask. – The opportunity to blog for Fire Fighting in Canada is not something I take for granted, and I really do look forward to each opportunity to share my thoughts on leadership and our profession.

March 4, 2013, Prince Albert, Sask. – The opportunity to blog for Fire Fighting in Canada is not something I take for granted, and I really do look forward to each opportunity to share my thoughts on leadership and our profession.

You may have noticed that I end each blog with the phrase “lead from within and grow”. That phrase is a take-away from a conversation with Dr. Rich Gasaway during the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs conference in St. John’s, N.L. in September. This wasn’t a line Gasaway spoke, but it was the way he spoke that led me to formulate that phrase and take it to heart. Let me clarify.

I have met people who talk the talk, but do not walk the walk. Who hasn’t, right? But for 90 minutes in St. John’s I had the privilege of exchanging ideas with a man who leads from within. Leading from within can only come from those individuals who have truly examined themselves and understand that the desire to lead is the most important factor in becoming a leader. In other words, truly examining yourself is exercising your self-awareness. Let me explain further.

Self-awareness (what I prefer to call leading from within) is an understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, personality, values and emotions. Try this self-awareness exercise and ask yourself the following questions:

•    What do I stand for? (You have to be really honest here.)
•    Why do I want to become a department leader? (Again, being honest will reveal your true motivation).
•    What do I want to accomplish during my time as a leader? (Having no goals equals no growth and no success).
•    What subjects push my hot button? (Answering this question will prevent you from hitting that nuke button during emotional events).
•    Am I willing to dedicate myself and pay the price in the pursuit of becoming the best leader I possibly can be? (Better determine this up front, otherwise you are setting yourself up for failure).

The answers to these questions will be determining factors in your success as a leader. The numerous conversations and email exchanges I have had with other leaders in Canada and the United States clearly point out that our profession is in an era when leadership is clearly valued and a necessary component for the future of our profession.

Whether we want to admit it or not, the theoretical aspects of leadership are significantly different than reality – it’s not unlike participating in a leadership program at which you take notes, highlight with your trusted yellow highlighter, then go home and two days later forget most of what you wrote down: you grasped the theory but never did apply it.

After reading a book on Steve Jobs, I truly grasp what he meant when he said, “The only way to do good work is to love what you do.”

Understanding leadership theories is central for the growth and development of a leader, but leading from within is what separates the theoretical from the practical.

Until next time, lead from 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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