A couple of days ago the Boston Globe wrote a lengthy article about the exodus of the most recent Boston Fire Chief, Steve Abraira. Chief Abraira recently resigned under withering public criticism of his management and leadership style by his senior management team. While they leveled several accusations, the one charge garnering the most attention alleged Abraira refused to automatically assume command of EMS and fire operations in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.
The Globe article states; “The deputies also criticized Abraira’s changes to the command structure at fires and other emergencies. Under previous policies, the chief, upon arriving at the scene, was required to announce his presence and take command. But under Abraira’s new rule, the chief could elect to leave command in the hands of the next ranking officer, a practice recommended by the National Fire Protection Association and that is used by many departments across the country. The deputies were livid. “If his job is not to show leadership, then why did he become fire chief?’’ (Interim Chief John) Hasson said.”
My response? B&%((s&&It!
Demonstrating leadership on the fireground has nothing to do with whether or not the “white hat” stands at the command post wearing the vest and holding a microphone. Rather, strong fireground leadership is demonstrated by those in key command positions who artfully and efficiently oversee their respective operations consistent with current incident command system tenants and progressive operational strategies and tactics, regardless of their formal rank. Some of the most well respected chiefs I ever had the privilege of interacting with rarely assumed command of a large incident, and if they did it was because the circumstances of the specific incident warranted it; not because of some antiquated notion or obsolete policy.
The Marine Corps has eleven leadership principles. Principle 9 is; “Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates. Show your Marines you are interested in their welfare by giving them the opportunity for professional development. Assigning tasks and delegating authority promotes mutual confidence and respect between the leader and the team.” The funny thing is Chief Hasson is a Marine Veteran.
A true leader does everything in their power to make sure subordinates are well trained and prepared to lead, and most importantly have the confidence in allowing them to lead in critical situations. A true leader is a supporter, mentor, advocate, disciplinarian, experimenter, and teacher. They don’t make command vests for those positions do they?