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June 13, 2013
By Les Karpluk

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June 13, 2013, Prince Albert, Sask. - I had the honour to keynote my seven guiding principles presentation at the Manitoba Association of Fire Chiefs conference held recently in Virden. It was certainly a privilege and an honour to network with my peers in Manitoba and to exchange ideas about leadership.

June 13, 2013, Prince Albert, Sask. – I had the honour to keynote my
seven guiding principles presentation at the Manitoba Association of
Fire Chiefs conference held recently in Virden. It was certainly a
privilege and an honour to network with my peers in Manitoba and to
exchange ideas about leadership.

With the requests received from recent speaking engagements (British Columbia Association of Fire Chiefs and the Manitoba Association of Fire Chiefs) for more information on my seven guiding principles, I decided to write about the principles that have impacted my life, and which I believe will help fire service leaders increase their leadership impact. Obviously, the seven guiding principles cannot be covered in one blog, so over a series of blogs, I will cover all seven guiding principles and have fun in the process.

I would like to believe that as human beings we all value trust, and the first principle on my list is trust. Trust is fragile and it is the most difficult thing to earn, yet it is the easiest thing to lose. It isn’t something we are entitled to or can demand from another person. It is our responsibility to earn it-every day. Somewhat similar to Benjamin Franklin’s a-penny-saved-is-a-penny-earned statement, authentic and successful leaders build up their trust account by depositing one good deed at a time.

This is why fire-service leaders must work every day at gaining trust among their peers and subordinates. Without trust in the environment, a leader’s effectiveness and potential simply isn’t going to occur. When we trust others, we really take a step of faith and become vulnerable, with the hope that we will not be taken advantage of.

Have you ever wondered why you experience  a wide range of emotions when you feel your trust has been betrayed? It’s because trust is such a vital component of a healthy relationship that we automatically kick into that fight or fight syndrome. Yeah, you read it right.

In a recent conversation with other fire-service leaders, the comment was made that when you lose trust you never get it back. I disagree. Let’s be honest; when we feel our trust has been betrayed it hurts, and yes, rebuilding that trust requires a significant amount of work, but it can be done. One of my favourite Nelson Mandela quotes is, “It always seems impossible until it is done.” I would like to think that Mandela’s belief is applicable to rebuilding a trusting relationship within any team and that rebuilding trust can be done if –  and only if – egos are left behind.

Follow these three simple steps to increase your trust account:
    •    Always follow through on what you say and always be truthful. Tell the truth even when you know the message isn’t going to be well received. These types of messages are palatable when they are communicated within a trusting relationship.
    •    Make sure your actions align with your values. Nothing bankrupts the trust account faster than a leader preaching a value and demonstrating the opposite.

    •    Always do the right thing and make your decision based upon what is right for the department. You can’t be faulted for doing what is right for your department.

Remember, building trust is about making small deposits into the trust account every day and over a period of time. In some cases, it can take over 27 years to build, but those authentic leaders who live and breathe their vision and passion fully understand that it takes time for good things to happen. Make it happen – you will never regret it.

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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