Beyond Change

“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”
—Shakespeare

Change. The word can evoke feelings of defensiveness, frustration and even fear. We frequently talk about change—usually in the negative. Additionally, much of what we do is aimed toward enhancing leadership. The problem: We usually fail to put the pieces together. As leaders, our goal should not be change just for the sake of change, but true evolution toward a new state of being.

 

Positive Changes

This year the IAFC has seen a level of change that takes the organization to a new level. The evidence is all around us: the most new members of the board of directors in decades, a new executive director, new membership initiatives, new programs and unprecedented partnerships with other associations, the government and the private sector.

These changes did not happen overnight and are not the accomplishments of any one person; they are a process of long-term planning, strategic thinking and relationship building. Take for example, the IAFC’s National Programs Department. The department was established to bring together the growing collection of grant-funded programs; it’s now the home of 15 national-level programs that have enhanced our collaboration with other public-safety organizations and the government, and, most importantly, have a direct impact on local fire departments. To meet this growth, the IAFC created a new organizational structure for programs. This new structure enables further growth, including the Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Fusion Center, an ambitious new project with the U.S. Department of Transportation that can change how we work collaboratively to develop and use the best technologies and practices in this increasingly critical field.

As the IAFC’s programs grow, we must grow as an organization. As mentioned, we’ve had more changes to the IAFC board of directors this year than at any other time in recent history. We also selected a new executive director. While many organizations may have faltered in such circumstances, the IAFC has thrived. We are able to welcome new ideas and perspectives as well as celebrate new opportunities for our former leaders because we are structured in a way that cultivates the education and leadership skills of our members and staff.

If the fire and emergency service is going to meet the growing challenges of the 21st century, it’s imperative that those who come up behind us have all the tools they need to meet those challenges confidently and effectively.

This type of evolution doesn’t occur without applied purpose and direction, nor does it happen only at the level of the board of directors. It requires that all members of the fire and emergency service have a vision and a focus on where the fire and emergency service is moving and how it’s best going to get there. It’s because of the community’s willingness to contribute to programs, embrace new concepts like the affiliate membership program, and reach out across the fire and emergency services and the public-safety community that we are able to achieve more than ever before.

 

Look to the Future

Effective leadership must extend beyond the current chief—or president; a good leader builds a platform on which his successor can build even higher. As we think about what lies ahead in 2008 for both the IAFC and our departments, I urge you to consider what lies beyond the immediate changes we face—and how we can take all that we do to the next level.

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