Contributors, Leadership

Professionalism Above All Else

In and of itself, the word professionalism sets certain expectations. Perhaps the most prominent of these expectancies is how we choose to live our lives and how we treat others, in the course of that, at times, very challenging journey. When the fire service becomes our calling, we are actually held to a higher standard in this regard. And, while there are many influences, both personal and professional, that proclaim to set such expectation, the greatest challenge we face falls squarely within our own selves. You see, we must be bigger on the inside than on the outside.

This does not in any way assert that we are to be perfect. Let’s face it, none of us are. We all make mistakes now and again. Truth be told, our misjudgments, and those of others, often leads to positive learning experiences. So, while we try our best to make sound decisions, the inevitability of miscalculation looms. We cannot, however, allow these circumstances to change our behavior in a way that brings into question our very own professionalism. After all, our character and credibility are weighing in the balance. 

As with any para-military structure, in the fire service, we know that with rank comes greater responsibility. We must also be aware that, regardless of our promotional prowess, every one of us is a leader. Once we have an appreciation for these realities, we come to realize how much we can either positively or negatively affect our organization. The choice is ours to make. For example, talking negatively about your organization or members thereto, may seem relatively harmless, but ultimately it brings into question one’s credibility. When this becomes part of your routine, your ability to lead effectively wanes significantly. 

Instead of tarnishing our character, why not try to achieve moral authority. John Maxwell describes this as the highest level of leadership authority one can hope to achieve. Moral Authority is not something you promote to, no your successes alone won’t get you there; it isn’t an entitlement, either. Instead, Moral Authority is something that is bestowed upon us by others, because of who we are on the inside. Those who are looked at in this high regard are of good character; they know how to treat people; they value people and do their best to bring out the best in others. And, yes, their credibility matters to them.

So where are we on the spectrum of professionalism? How do we treat others? Do we lift up the members of our organization, and, in turn add value to the department’s mission? Even in disagreement, can we stay professional, while agreeing to disagree? Are we willing to help others achieve success? Can we put aside our differences for the betterment of all? These are the qualities of a good leader, one who is respected by the masses. Join me, and together let’s do our very best to meet and exceed these leadership expectations. Let us strive to become bigger on the inside. In the end, we will serve the members of the fire service well, and we will continue to promote a positive and long established culture of excellence. 


John R. Luca is a career firefighter who has put his heart and soul into serving the public for the past 27 years. John is the currently the Assistant Chief of Planning for Boca Raton Fire Rescue Services.

John’s union leadership tenure spanned 21 years, with 6 years as vice-president and ten years as president of Firefighters of Boca Raton, Local 1560, where he holds the distinction of President Emeritus. John is a recent graduate of John Maxwell’s leadership certification program. John holds a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership from St. Thomas University, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude, and a Master’s Degree in Emergency Planning and Administration from Lynn University.

Finally, John is the President of Values Matter Consulting Services, LLC, a start-up business. This endeavor led John to develop Leadership, An Introspective Analysis, a leadership program determined to add value to firefighters at every level and tenure of their professional career.