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October 21, 2013
By Les Karpluk

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Oct. 21, 2013, Prince Albert, Sask. – I recently had the honor to present my Ignite Your Leadership seminar at the Manitoba Emergency Services conference in Brandon. It’s a great feeling, being in a room with firefighters and officers who want to exchange ideas on leadership. Even though I am the one at the front of the room, the presentation is really an exchange of ideas between the audience and me.

Oct. 21, 2013, Prince Albert, Sask. – I recently had the honor to present my Ignite Your Leadership seminar at the Manitoba Emergency Services conference in Brandon. It’s a great feeling, being in a room with firefighters and officers who want to exchange ideas on leadership. Even though I am the one at the front of the room, the presentation is really an exchange of ideas between the audience and me.

In his book The Greatness Guide, Robin Sharma says, “One of the most important of all personal leadership skills is self awareness.” During the seven-hour drive to Brandon I was thinking of ways to emphasize that one of the key factors of authentic leadership is knowing yourself. I believe that authentic leaders are those who truly know what they stand for, who lead from the heart, dream big dreams, and are visionaries and soul searchers. And, to keep things interesting, authentic leaders are often viewed as unrealistic dreamers (in other words, a little bit crazy).

Authentic leaders are those who have passion flowing through their veins; I fully appreciate that some readers may disagree with me and advocate that successful leadership is about possessing the appropriate knowledge, skills and abilities. I agree, to a point; let me clarify.

Many in our profession are good leaders and possess the appropriate knowledge, skills and abilities, but I am talking about authentic leadership, and not just leadership. What’s the difference? Let’s examine some layers of authentic leaders.

• Authentic leaders know what they stand for – they have strong belief systems that are founded on the intrinsic desire to maintain standards of honesty and integrity. These values are so strong for authentic leaders that they will not compromise on any account; things are black or white for them. It’s also about understanding the truth that Albert Einstein stated, “that man is here for the sake of other men.” Authentic leaders live and breathe this truth through servant leadership and will not shift their beliefs even when facing ridicule.

• Authentic leaders lead from the heart – leading from the heart is about truly believing in and having faith in yourself; it’s about knowing that how you feel on the inside is how you will act on the outside. A life of energy and vitality is achieved when authentic leaders love themselves and are comfortable and confident following their hearts and leading with passion.

• Authentic leaders dream big dreams – of a better future, better station, better community, better profession, better . . . get the picture? The power of big dreams pushes people to excellence. If you don’t believe me, just read the story of how President John F. Kennedy motivated a nation in 1961 to not only land a man on the moon, but also to get him back to Earth safely. At the time, this was more than a big dream; it was viewed as an impossible task.

• Authentic leaders are visionaries – they strive to make not only the profession better, but also to make the world a better place. This is the ideal future and is about taking the profession to the next level of greatness and making our world a better place in which to live. This becomes the channel for energy to flow in the direction created from the vision.

• Authentic leaders are soul searchers ¬– they seek serenity and harmony in life. Without taking the time to find inner peace – to dig deeply into our souls – it is next to impossible to be an authentic leader. These individuals are fully aware of the fact that their energy, words and actions impact those around them and know that when seeking change in life, you must first change yourself.

Who really cares if some people think you are unrealistic and a dreamer? Leadership is complex and knowing yourself is one of the fundamental truths about authentic leadership. I can live with that.

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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