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Feb. 25, 2014, Kamloops, B.C. – My recent trip to Kamloops was certainly a challenge. My West Jet flight from Saskatoon was delayed and then a twist occurred when it turned out I would be staying overnight in Calgary and arriving in Kamloops on Sunday, Feb. 23. This wasn’t going to work as I was to present my Grow Your Leadership seminar for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) fire departments first thing Sunday morning. Luckily for me, I got a seat on an Air Canada flight to Kamloops; arriving late was better than not making it at all.

February 25, 2014
By Les Karpluk

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Feb. 25, 2014, Kamloops, B.C. – My recent trip to Kamloops was certainly a challenge. My West Jet flight from Saskatoon was delayed and then a twist occurred when it turned out I would be staying overnight in Calgary and arriving in Kamloops on Sunday, Feb. 23. This wasn’t going to work as I was to present my Grow Your Leadership seminar for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) fire departments first thing Sunday morning. Luckily for me, I got a seat on an Air Canada flight to Kamloops; arriving late was better than not making it at all.

On Sunday morning, fire chiefs and chief officers from 16 departments attended my seminar. A seminar can only be successful if those in attendance are willing to participate and engage, and the CSRD attendees were actively engaged in every aspect of the seminar, contributing their thoughts and learning from each other.

What I admire the most about paid on-call fire officers is their passion for the profession. I’m lucky and am living the dream as a career fire chief, but the paid on-call folks have other jobs to pay their bills, and one can only admire their professionalism and dedication.

Here are some takeaways from the weekend:

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• Leaders set the example: If you are leading in your department remember that you set the example for others to follow. Leadership is determined by your ability to show up every day with the attitude to lead and to be a positive example in your department.

• Lead with ethics and morals: If the leader isn’t leading with ethics and morals, then the leader is going to fail. An authentic leader understands that right is right and wrong is wrong. This isn’t a grey area – its black and white and is a simple philosophy to follow.

• We are all in this together: We will all have bumpy roads and detours in our leadership journey. Stay the course, but more importantly understand that you are not alone and others are available for support, feedback, and guidance. Far too often those in leadership positions are afraid to seek help or guidance from others, and fear that they may be deemed incapable of solving their own problems. This is a misguided mindset; courageous leaders understand that it is necessary to seek support and guidance: the ego gets left behind and seeking counsel from others is a necessary component for successful leadership.

• Leadership can be lonely: Recognition for being a leader in the fire service is far and few between. Making tough decisions, standing up for what is right, dealing with conflict, mentoring and counselling individuals can take its toll. It’s all a part of leadership and the great leaders in our profession understand this and balance their passion for the fire service with their personal lives.

• Responsibility and accountability increases with the number of bars on your shoulders: If you are not prepared to accept the increase in responsibility and accountability, then it is best that you do not accept the position. The more bars on your shoulders, the greater the expectations that are placed upon you. When times are tough, lonely takes on a new role and those aspiring to have the officer title must be prepared to accept all of the responsibilities and expectations of that title.

There is no doubt that CSRD Fire Service Co-ordinator Kenn Mount is building his team and increased the leadership capacity of team members by holding an officer weekend retreat. It was a pleasure being with a group of professionals who unselfishly give of themselves to better their communities and their fire departments.

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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