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January 6, 2014
By Les Karpluk

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Jan. 6, 2014, Prince Albert, Sask. – I have quickly become a fan of Canadian motivational author and speaker Robin Sharma. I was speaking at the Fire Chief’s Association of B.C. conference in Penticton last summer and a former Saskatchewan fire chief, Dale Kronebusch, took me out for supper; it didn’t take long for us to start talking about fire-service leadership.

Jan. 6, 2014, Prince Albert, Sask. – I have quickly become a fan of Canadian motivational author and speaker Robin Sharma. I was speaking at the Fire Chief’s Association of B.C. conference in Penticton last summer and a former Saskatchewan fire chief, Dale Kronebusch, took me out for supper; it didn’t take long for us to start talking about fire-service leadership.

In all honesty I really wasn’t too excited to read a book called The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, but my curiosity got the best of me so I ordered two of Sharma’s books. Needless to say, I’m glad I did.

I am going to use some of Sharma’s thoughts from The Greatness Guide as a personal reflection tool for 2013 and incorporate his thoughts into resolutions for 2014.

Reflection No. 1: If you want to lead, you really need to read
I generally read a dozen leadership books a year and buy at least twice as many. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I do have some great books that are collecting dust in my home. As I look back on 2013 I feel good about reading those books, but its time to blow the dust off my other books and read them. So, resolution No. 1 is to read two leadership books a month . . . and I’m still giving myself permission to maintain my 2:1 purchase-to-reading ratio.

Reflection No. 2: Greatness arrives for those who are never satisfied with what is, no matter how nice it looks
Robin Sharma is a big fan of the band U2 (what a coincidence . . . so am I) and admires leader singer Bono for stating that the “band feels like its coming, never that its arrived.” The essence of Sharma’s message is that great leaders have an essence deep within themselves and they want to do something special during their lives.

In 2013 I was fortunate to have met numerous fire service leaders (career, volunteer and industrial) from across Canada and the United States. These leaders projected a hunger for learning and they would be the first to admit that they have not arrived at their leadership destinations. What is apparent in each of these leaders is their appetite and passion for being great at what they do. Resolution No. 2 is to do my best to surround myself with more leaders who understand that greatness arrives for those who are never satisfied with what is, no matter how nice it looks.

Reflection No. 3: Personal and organizational greatness is not about revolution but about evolution
Wow, did this hit home for me. I had set some personal and career goals for 2013 and when I didn’t achieve all of my goals I was somewhat disappointed in myself (a subtle understatement here) and actually felt that I had let down others and myself. What I forgot to add into my plan was the fact that life happens and I should have expected some detours along the way. Success comes in the tiny victories that we accumulate and before we know it, we have achieved our goals, so resolution No. 3 is to continue to plan for personal and organizational greatness, but make sure that I evolve into the plan rather than revolve around the plan.

Reflection No. 4: Leadership isn’t a popularity contest
No surprises here! This doesn’t mean that being in a formal leadership position (fire chief, deputy chief, union president, captain) doesn’t come with its rewards, because it does. But the fact remains that when you have bars on your shoulder you are expected to make the tough decisions, to say no when necessary and to speak to individuals when they are underperforming. Resolution No. 4: Take the time to coach others to victory, tell people when they do a great job and never take their good performance for granted.

Reflection No. 5: If you want to be a leader, just keep innovating
One of my personal goals for 2013 was to connect to individuals who I viewed as innovative, not afraid to challenge the norm and strong enough to make themselves vulnerable in their leadership positions. I am very grateful to have accomplished this goal and now have several new and close friendships with fire service leaders from across Canada and the United States. It really is a small world and I learn from each of them everytime we talk. Resolution No. 5: Follow Sharma’s advice and go to work each day and refuse to do the same thing I did yesterday just because it was what I did yesterday. Learn to innovate more.

It’s strange that I have never really taken the time to reflect in this manner and I truly found this refreshing. It’s only fitting that I conclude with a quote from Robin Sharma.

“Stop being a prisoner of your past and become an architect of your future. And remember, it’s never too late to become the person you have always dreamed of being.”

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 and Fire Service Leadership programs. Follow Les on Twitter at @GenesisLes


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