Informal Leadership

Informal Leadership… Simple definition: leading without rank or title. Having influence amongst the crew that leads them in the right direction without a bugle. I mean honestly, I wish I could change “Jump Seat Leadership” to “Jump Seat Influence.” It just doesn’t sound as good. Leading without rank is not a new message. Having a positive of influence with others around you is also not new! It is however a message that I have inadvertently lived throughout my fire service and military career. If you do it right, it can be effective on many levels. 

When I came up in the fire service, it was clear. Not all the leaders around me were wearing bugles. They were not officers. They were men and women who had been on the job for a little while and people followed them. Why? I don’t know. Why do you follow any leader? I guess each individual has their reasons. For me, I saw where these guys/girls were going and I wanted to go with them. They were here for the community and their brothers and sisters. All I know is I learned early on that rank and leadership do not go hand in hand.

In fact, there are many officers in leadership positions that are not leaders/influencers. Great supervisors and managers, just not great leaders. This doesn’t make them bad people. A good manager partnered with a good leader, rank or no rank can make a great team. You don’t think your officer is a good leader and you think you are? Great, team up with them. Help them succeed at the position they’re in. Don’t just talk shit and let them drown while you sit there thinking you could do better. Have an unreceptive officer who who doesn’t wanna hear it? Find a way to lead the crew anyway. Someone has to lead them. They won’t let you? It’s worth fighting for. Lack of leadership/influence is dangerous. A crew without a leader at any level isn’t going anywhere good. 

If you are at the firefighter level, you have the ability to lead right where you are. From the jump seat. Take the initiate to be a positive influence for your crew and make sure they are all getting where they need to go. Just got hired? Ok, it might be time to listen for a few years and look to a senior informal leader with some time in before you take over. Just my two cents. It’s not that new people are capable, it’s just that they may not have enough job knowledge to be capable in the fire service just yet. Give it some time.

Josh Chase 

Published by Joshua S. Chase

My mission is to strengthen, encourage, and empower others.

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