10 Leadership Lessons from the Fireground
- It’s the smoke not the fire that injures and kills most people.
- No two fires are alike.
- Effective ventilation makes it easier to see what’s going on so you can attack the fire safely.
- A direct attack puts the fire out, but an indirect approach cools things down and makes the job safer and easier; use both.
- Prepare for the unexpected and the unwanted, and keep reviewing your definitions of both conditions.
- Don’t forget the exposures.
- It’s not what you don’t know but rather what you think you know that usually gets you in trouble.
- Most of the time, bystanders and critics don’t know whether you’re doing a good job or a bad job.
- Be your own worst critic, but don’t forget to look at the things that worked well.
- When people criticize you, it’s usually because of how not what you did.
Each of these lessons has a literal and metaphorical meaning. Firefighting is a dangerous and technically demanding occupation. But it is also places its practitioners at the center of compelling human dramas that feature ambiguity, complexity, and high-stakes adaptive challenges. These features also characterize many of the other activities and services performed by government and its agents.