Are You a Firefighter or a Leader?

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If you find yourself putting out fires daily…Read this and put your hose away! 

I was listening to an audiobook on Leadership by Steve Chandler when I heard an analogy that so reminds me of how easy it is for business owners to get caught up with the daily fires and not be the leader they need to be. He raised that many managers are ineffective leaders because they always fight fires. So absolutely true! I know, because I used to be one of those “firefighters” and in those years I didn’t have time to lead my team because I was always knee-deep in the trenches. It sucked. 

Some days it would seem like every hour a new issue would come up in the office, and there never seemed enough time to get to the most significant projects that could move the business forward. Instead, fires were erupting everywhere, and I could barely come up for air.

The fire is whatever problem erupts, and soon those fires can rule a business owner’s life. We become blind to opportunities because we are consumed with fighting fires. Even when there is no fire, we can get so caught up that we redefine a minor problem into a fire, so we have something to put out. 

Leaders, on the other hand, choose to ignore the little daily fires and look at the bigger picture. Granted, you need to have some team to help you take care of the little things, but this is key to the growth of a business. 

So how do you get out of this grind? 

  1. Be a leader by addressing the fire once and determining how best to resolve it (i.e. evaluate the cause that created that effect and how it can be fixed), 
  2. Instruct your team on a plan for addressing that fire in the future, 
  3. Have that plan documented into policies and procedures, and 
  4. Move on and never go back to fighting that fire. 

Follow those steps, and you will have time to be the leader you want to be so you can make next year better than the last. 

Ask yourself: 

  • How many “fires” did you put out that you shouldn’t have had to touch? 
  • What systems can you put in place right now to ensure next year will be better? 
  • Where can you get your team to help you streamline processes, so you don’t get sucked back into firefighting? 

Now take action. Grab some time on your calendar, share your goals with your team to create more streamlined processes, and get their feedback on how you can reduce the number of fires each week in the business. 

So, put down your firefighting hose and shift to being a leader that helps orchestrate the handling of those daily fires. It doesn’t happen overnight, but by being aware and building systems, you can transition from a firefighter to a leader!  

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