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April 2, 2013
By Les Karpluk

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April 2, 2013, Prince Albert, Sask. – There is little doubt that the success of any fire department is dependent upon the attitude of its leaders. Whether a career, combination or volunteer department, the attitude that prevails is quickly observable in the way staff conduct themselves.

April 2, 2013, Prince Albert, Sask. – There is little doubt that the success of any fire department is dependent upon the attitude of its leaders. Whether a career, combination or volunteer department, the attitude that prevails is quickly observable in the way staff conduct themselves.

While waiting in out-patients in December for treatment for back spasms, I bumped into a childhood friend. He had been in and out of the hospital as doctors tried to determine what was wrong with him. A couple of weeks after seeing him in the hospital, I heard he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. This news came as a shock because this gentlemen didn’t smoke and has been athletic his entire life.

While attending a local hockey game last week, a gentleman came up to me and started talking. I was not sure who I was talking to, and after looking at the man for a few seconds, I realized it was the same childhood friend I had seen in out-patients a few months earlier. Even though the man’s physical appearance had changed somewhat from his cancer treatments, in the few minutes that we chatted, I was simply amazed to see the gleam in his eyes and hear the energy in his voice.

The positive attitude this gentleman emitted was clearly evident. As strange as this may sound, I could feel the positive energy emitting from him while he spoke about his treatments and his current health. He was excited to be talking about how he was facing his battle with cancer.

The best thing about attitude is that it is within our control; it is our choice, and each individual must accept responsibility for the attitude he or she chooses. One of my favorite quotes from Norman Vincent Peale – who wrote The Power of Positive Thinking, is, “When you get up in the morning, you have two choices – either to be happy or to be unhappy. Just choose to be happy.”

Whether from the rank and file or from the chief officers, attitude has a significant impact on the culture and morale in the fire department. The attitude of the formal and informal leadership sets the tone for the department and plays a key role in its success or failure.

If whining, complaining and the what’s-in-it-for-me attitude is prevalent, then the department is in trouble. Can a leader with a negative attitude expect to inspire and motivate followers? The answer to this question is blatantly obvious. But the reality is that naysayers in any department will have a small following, as some people are just attracted to negativity. Observe these people and their choices and you will see that they tend to be miserable and discouraged.

Conversely, when leadership formed on positivity goes the extra mile, staff will follow suit. Understanding that a positive attitude is contagious is the first step in taking a department to the next level. When a department has leaders demonstrating their positive attitude daily, it quickly becomes evident to those in the department and, more importantly, to those they serve.

Another one of my favorite authors, Zig Ziglar, said that, “Positive thinking will not help you do anything, but it will help you do everything better than negative thinking will.”

My friend with lung cancer has consciously chosen a positive attitude. Each of us is solely responsible for the attitude we choose. Choose well.

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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