This past weekend I attended another firefighter training class called "Axioms of Leadership." Usually, I attend and observe. This time I was a participant. The program originated with Scott Milsap, an amazing firefighter who dedicated his life to developing competent leaders in the fire service. Scott died of cancer on September 23, 2002, but his presence loomed large at Axioms.
Axioms is hands-on-training (H.O.T.), which incorporates a combination of classroom training and team-based experiential training. The classroom training focuses on the styles of leadership, characteristics of effective leaders, and the importance of having a core set of values by which to live one's life. The class is very reflective (from a personal perspective), but it is also outward-focused in that each team is instructed to identify its collective set of core values.
I won't elaborate on the experiential training portion. That would be a spoiler to future students. However, I will say that this is the portion that, for me, was the game changer. It is PHYSICAL. I was terrified because I have no upper body strength. When Moe Baxter, who runs the program, invited me to attend the training, I told him I didn't think I could do it because of the physical aspects. He told me I didn't have to be strong; I just had to be able to think. What I found was I had to be able to TRUST! (I'll go into this in my next blog.)
I have been a loner my whole life. I understand the concept of teams and work well on them. I have also led teams through many projects and initiatives to successful completion. But it is a whole different thing to entrust your physical well-being to people you do not know. The Axioms team I was in congealed in a matter of minutes. Everyone had a voice; everyone's ideas--including mine--were honored and considered. There was no age or gender bias. The experience was empowering for everyone.
After each axiom, the team reflected on its core values and how they came into play with the exercise. We talked about how we had to adjust the original plan and what we could have done better. This teaches a way of improving without blaming or beating ourselves up for failing.
The "Axioms of Leadership" class showed us how strong we can be when we trust ourselves and others to do good work. My firefighters continue to inspire me at a level for which I have no words. Axioms served to help me identify and commit to what I now know is my life's work: To articulate the example of the exemplars of the fire service and their way of being with the hope of passing along their inspirational model to the non-firefighting world.
Whatever It Takes!!!
(Thank you, Moe and Eddie!)