Courage Under Fire Leadership

Steve Prziborowski
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Courage Under Fire Leadership

By: Steve Prziborowski

Courage under fire leadership is having the guts to do the right thing. 

Fire service veteran and instructor Steve Prziborowski’s Courage Under Fire Leadership offers a comprehensive guide to fire service leadership lessons applicable to the firehouse, the emergency scene, and day-to-day operations of a fire department. Prziborowski truly thinks there is a leadership crisis in the fire service and the world in general. Many are quick to point out the flaws of their leaders, but few are willing and able to step up to take a shot at doing a better job. This book will explore how you provide the best possible service to those we are fortunate to lead, serve, and work for, as well as those we work alongsideRegardless of rank, you can benefit from this book with applicable insights for your career. 



Table of Contents





Section 1 — Personal Leadership 

  • Prompt for Success 
  • Learn From the Good and the Not-So-Good of Others 
  • Always Prepare to Be the Best 
  • You Must Continuously Grow (Personally and Professionally) 
  • Don’t Forget Where You Came From 
  • Get out of Your Office and into the Field! 
  • Always Prepare Yourself for at Least One Position ahead of Your Current Position 
  • Don’t Forget That You’re Constantly Being Watched, Tested, and Evaluated 
  • Be Honest with People; Have Integrity 
  • Learn Time Management Skills to Balance All of Your Duties and Responsibilities 
  • Learn to Manage Stress, Keep Your Composure 
  • Demonstrate Commitment 
  • Lead by Example 
  • Learn the Art of Communication 
  • Become a Better Listener 
  • Patience Is a Virtue 
  • Yes, We All Want to Be Liked; Instead, Strive for Respect and Credibility 
  • Sometimes You Have to Step Back to Step Forward  
  • Sometimes You Have to Step Sideways to Step Forward  
  • Always Attempt to Obtain Little Victories 
  • Leave the Fire Service and Community Better Than You Found Them! 
  • Service above Self 
  • Learn to Be a Great Follower 
  • Key Points about Mistakes 
  • Stay on Top of What Is Going on in the Fire Service 
  • Be Aware of Politics 
  • Embrace Technology (But Don’t Forget It Sometimes Causes More Problems) 
  • Learn the Names and Situations of as Many Fire Service Line-Of-Duty Deaths as You Can 
  • Like It or Not, You’ll Have to Pay Your Dues 
  • Be Aware of the Tone of Your Message 
  • Don’t Provide the Spark for the Gasoline Container Next to the Base of a Bridge You Cross 
  • Take Responsibility for What Happens and Does Not Happen 
  • Be Humble 
  • Be Dependable and Consistent 
  • Have a Sense of Humor and Have Fun! 
  • Ask Lots of Questions  
  • If There Was Ever a Time to Be Calm, Cool, and Collected in Everything You Do, Now Is It! 
  • One Wrong Word (or Words) Can Doom Your Career or Reputation 
  • Be the One Who Believes the Glass Is Always Half Full (Remain Optimistic) 
  • Opportunity Knocks When You Least Expect It; Be Prepared to Take Advantage of It 
  • This Isn’t a Competition 
  • Enjoy the Journey 
  • Realize There Are Numerous Leadership Styles  
  • Remember Everything You Say Is Gospel, Especially the Higher up the Chain of Command You Go 
  • Be Respectful of Others, Especially Your Predecessors 
  • Have a Vision 
  • Be Aware of Your New Liability, Commitment, and Responsibility  
  • If You Never Fail, You Never Give Yourself the Opportunity to Succeed! 
  • You Don’t Support Fire Sprinklers; Does That Mean You Don’t Care about Firefighters or Civilians? 
  • Put Together a To-Do List as a Checklist to Evaluate Your Performance on a Regular Basis 
  • Have a 100-Day Plan 
  • Immediately Take Ownership and Assume Command of Your New Position 
  • Don’t Get Too Involved or Overcommit Too Soon While You’re Still Learning Your Job 
  • You Can’t Please Everyone, So Remember the 50.1% Rule 
  • Be Passionately Loyal about the Fire Service, Your Department, Your Personnel, and Your Family 
  • Be an Expert in Something 
  • Realize You’re More in the Spotlight Now Than You Ever Were 
  • True Leaders Always Take the High Road! 
  • Strive to Always Be a Part of the Solution, Not the Problem 
  • Remember You May Win the Battle but Lose the War 
  • Don’t Worry about the Haters 
  • Don’t Sell Your Soul to the Devil 
  • Know When You’ve Exceeded Your Shelf Life 
  • Morale 

Section 2 — Personnel Leadership 

  • Want to Make All Happy, Don’t Be a Leader! If Already a Leader, Don’t Focus on Happy! 
  • Being Responsible Sometimes Means Pissing People Off 
  • Remember That Not Everyone Wants to Dance; They Just Want to Be Asked to Dance 
  • Make Everyone Feel Like a Valued Team Member 
  • Give Others the Benefit of the Doubt 
  • Don’t Jump to Conclusions; Your First Impression May Not Be Correct 
  • Meet with Those under Your Command in a Reasonable Timeframe to Discuss and Share Expectations 
  • Get to Know the Strengths and Weaknesses of Your Personnel ASAP 
  • Sometimes Peer Pressure Can Be the Best Fix to a Problem 
  • Everyone Has an Ego; at Times You May Have to Cater to It 
  • Don’t Assume a Veteran Firefighter Is Dialed In 
  • Be Prepared to Filter Information Provided to You to Get to the Real Problem 
  • 99.5% of Your Personnel Will Not Need to be Constantly Watched  
  • Be Extremely Creative When It Comes to Providing Training, Education, and Mentoring for Your Personnel 
  • Constantly Provide Training, Education, and Mentoring Opportunities for Your Personnel 
  • Always Try to Give Credit Where Credit Is Due 
  • Utilize the Headline Test When Making Ethical Decisions 
  • Be the Designated Adult 
  • Don’t Allow Personnel to Come to You with Problems without Having Thought of at Least Two Solutions 
  • Learn to Determine the Difference between Technical and Behavioral Problems 
  • Everyone Has an Agenda 
  • Trust but Verify 
  • Trust Others until They Have Burned You More Than Once 
  • Be Open to Feedback, Suggestions, and Constructive Criticism from All Around 
  • Consider This 
  • When Someone Doesn’t Live up to Your Expectations, Does Something Inappropriate, or Is Just Plain Stupid, Before Jumping Down Their Throat, Consider Three Things 
  • Encourage Risk 
  • Delegate When Appropriate 
  • Praise in Public, Coach and Counsel in Private 
  • Morale Leadership 
  • Practice Management by Rationality as Opposed to Management by Emotions 
  • The Toes You Step on Today May Be Connected to the Butt You Have to Kiss Tomorrow! 
  • Focus on Your High-Performers 
  • Don’t Throw Your Retired Members under the Bus 
  • Don’t Think Your Problems Are Unique 

Section 3 — Fireground or Emergency Scene Leadership 

  • Before Requesting Additional Resources, Be Quite Sure You Need Them 
  • Before Canceling (Or Downgrading) Incoming or Additional Resources, Be Quite Sure You Don’t Need Them 
  • CHAOS Doesn’t Stand for Captain or Chief Has Arrived on Scene! 
  • Do the Best You Can with What You Have to Work With 
  • Radio Etiquette 
  • Fire Officer Command Tips 
  • Questions to Ask Yourself before Managing an Incident 
  • How Many People Are Enough to Support the Incident Commander at the Command Post? 
  • Know Where You’re Going before Leaving the Firehouse 

Section 4 — Firehouse Leadership 

  • Practice Management by Walking Around 
  • Inspect Your Firehouses, Apparatus, Equipment, and Personnel on a Regular Basis 
  • Start Every Shift with a Roll Call or Meeting 
  • Do a Transfer of Command Briefing at the End of the Shift 
  • Attempt to Provide Face Time to Your Personnel Daily 
  • Accept Input from as Many as You Can Prior to Coming to a Final Decision 
  • You Can Agree to Disagree, but before Coming to That Decision, Make Sure You Know Where the Other Person or Group Is Coming From 
  • Take Care of Your Personnel 

Section 5 — Administrative Leadership 

  • What Problem Are We Trying to Solve? 
  • Remember That Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day 
  • Be Extremely Familiar with All Department-Related Manuals and Information 
  • Before Attempting to Change the World, Learn as Much History about the Issues as You Can 
  • Be Loyal to Those above, below, and around You, Including the Customers We Serve 
  • This Is Not Your Parents’ or Grandparents’ Fire Service 
  • Keep Your Supervisor Informed and Have a Great Working Relationship 
  • The 168 Rule 
  • Balance Administrative Duties with Personnel Time 
  • Leadership Is Having Others Come to the Same Final Decision, but Them Thinking They Came to the Decision on Their Own and without You Having Shoved It down Their Throat 
  • Let Unimportant Controversies Die a Natural Death 
  • A Couple Items Regarding Change 
  • The Customer Is not Always Right (but They Are Still the Customer)! 
  • Always Think Worst Case Scenario, but Don’t Necessarily Predict Worst Case Scenario 
  • Remember That Perception Is Reality 
  • Maybe Consider Sweating the Small Stuff 
  • Hire or Promote for Character, Train for Skills 
  • Decisions Made Above 
  • Understand and Practice Followership 
  • Learn to Zoom Out 10 Clicks 
  • Everything Is Done for a Reason 
  • Lead People, Manage Projects 
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished 
  • If Leadership Was Easy, All Would Be Doing It 
  • Meet with Your Boss to Discuss Expectations as Soon as Possible 
  • Get to Know Your Boss (More Than You Already Know) 
  • Change Agent versus Caretaker 
  • Grants Are Okay, but They Have Strings and Can’t Be Considered a Long-Term Solution 
  • Handle Things at the Lowest Level but Keep Your Boss Informed 
  • Upon Promotion to Company Officer, You’re No Longer “One of the Guys or Gals” 
  • Your Job Is Not to Selectively Enforce the Rules and Regulations 
  • Strive for Consistency 
  • Finish What You Started before Starting New Projects or Programs 
  • Idea Fairies 
  • When in Doubt, Remember the Following 
  • It’s Not “Us versus Them” Anymore 

Section 6 —
Leadership Lessons from Others

  • Jeremy Gephart 
  • Jill Hitchman 
  • Thomas Dunne 
  • AJ Jaramillo 
  • Bill Weisgerber 
  • John Lightly  



About the Author 

Number of Pages:
Published Date:
April 2024