Leader’s Problem Solving Model, LPSM, is what the LAFD Leadership Academy is all about. LPSM is a framework to take your knowledge and experience and use them to organize your thoughts to work through your personnel problems. Within the framework of LPSM, there are behavioral theories and leadership strategies that will guide you to accomplish this goal.
LPSM comes down to three things: the motivation, satisfaction, and performance of the people you lead; however, the most important aspect of being a leader comes down to self-reflection. Self-reflection is not just a buzz term, but something you have to actively do. All theories go back to this, and it should always be your starting point. Ask yourself: What responsibility do I have? Did I contribute to the problem? What part am I responsible for?
LAFD has traditionally been amazing at tactics and strategies; however, depending on your station and the leader in charge, you may have good or bad leadership. Usually, at the station level there is no formal leadership training, and if there is, it is geared towards tactical strategies with no behavioral or true leadership training. As a leader you need to know how to face real time events and decisions, not just for fireground operations, but to also to navigate through personnel challenges and oversee your team.
“Trust is a two-way street between
the subordinate and superior.”
Most problems within an organization can be avoided if the leader engages with their people. Typically, these problems have been boiling for months, to a year, and no one put a stop to it. This generally occurs when the person in the “leadership” role buries his or her head in the sand. Have the courage to act, and that might be the simple act of communicating with your people and getting to know them.
When moving on to be a supervisor, your responsibility to your crew is just like that for your kids. You would stop your kids from doing something wrong and tell them the repercussions before it happens, so why wouldn’t you do that for your subordinates? You would tell your kids not to run onto the road when cars are coming, so why not have that conversation with your crew and build that relationship? If you’re worried about being a micromanager, that’s not what this is, it is communicating not assuming.
When Bill Belichick hired Nick Saban as defensive coordinator, Belichick was the first leader to set out clear expectations for Saban, despite his previous success. When someone has been around the business for a while, we assume they know what we want from them, that we are on the same page, or that they know what they’re doing, but that may not be the case. As a leader, you must set out clear expectations for your people. This is communicating and not assuming with your personnel.
Part of communicating is also getting to know your people. Easier said than done, because sometimes you may have nothing in common with them. It’s should, however, be a commitment to get to know your people, so if things go south you can recognize it quicker. It isn’t your job as their superior to fix their marriage or personal life, but it is your job to give them the means to navigate through their problems. You need to earn your personnel’s respect for your people to open up to you. First responders are the toughest ones to crack, and you may never know what your people are struggling with unless you make the effort.
Strive to be the person that people go to when they need help, and be that kind of leader you have to be to earn their trust. Trust is a two-way street between the subordinate and superior. As a leader you don’t just need things from your subordinates, they need things from you too. Check your ego at the door, and self-reflect on your role as a leader and then ask yourself how far you’re willing to go for your people.