Leadership Resources for ARFF Professionals [Being Chief]

Being Chief: Leadership Principles for the ARFF Professional, is the first book of its kind, dedicated solely to leadership in the aircraft rescue and firefighting field. More than thirty ARFF chiefs and leaders were interviewed for this book. Read more about the book in this post and this post.

One of the questions asked was what is a book or resource that they would recommend for continued leadership development. There were a lot of similar answers. The books below were the most frequently cited by these ARFF leaders. These are their recommendations for continued education and professional development.

Holy Bible - The CSB Heroes Bibles feature the highly reliable, highly readable text of the Christian Standard Bible (CSB), which stays as literal as possible to the Bible’s original meaning without sacrificing clarity. The CSB’s optimal blend of accuracy and readability makes Scripture more moving, more memorable, and more motivating to read it today and share it always.

First In, Last Out, John Salka - What does it take to lead people into a burning building? How do the leaders of the New York City Fire Department develop so much loyalty, trust, and grace under pressure that their subordinates will risk their very lives for them? As a high-ranking officer of the FDNY, John Salka is an expert at both practicing and teaching high-stakes leadership. He explains the department’s unique strategies and how they can be adopted by leaders in any field

It’s Your Ship, Michael Abrashoff- When Captain Abrashoff took over as commander of USS Benfold, it was like a business that had all the latest technology but only some of the productivity. Knowing that responsibility for improving performance rested with him, he realized he had to improve his own leadership skills before he could improve his ship. Within months, he created a crew of confident and inspired problem-solvers eager to take the initiative and responsibility for their actions. The slogan on board became "It's your ship," and Benfold was soon recognized far and wide as a model of naval efficiency. Abrashoff shares his secrets of successful management

Pride and Ownership, Rick Lasky - Chief Rick Lasky gives an upfront and honest criticism about the need to reignite the love of the job on every level, from chiefs and on down. Learn what you can do to drive your members to take pride in their job and assume ownership. 


Essentials of Fire Department Customer Service, Alan Brunacini - This text explains the application of common-sense customer service concepts to the fire service. Written in a humorous conversational style, Chief Alan Brunacini of the Phoenix Fire Department provides the reader with an enjoyable reading experience and vital information on how we can better serve our customers.

From Buddy to Boss, Chase Sargent - Whether you're a new officer or in need of a mentor, From Buddy to Boss: Effective Fire Service Leadership, is a must-have management book you'll turn to over and over again. Fire service veteran Chase Sargent has taken his popular course and written a no-holds-barred leadership book for the fire service in a conversational and easy-to-read style. He tells you how to accept and survive politics, deal with the fringe employees, and keep your cool -- tricks of the trade that usually take years to acquire

The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge - Senge describes how companies can rid themselves of the learning blocks that threaten their productivity and success by adopting the strategies of learning organizations, in which new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, collective aspiration is set free, and people are continually learning how to create the results they truly desire.

Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink - Detailing the mind-set and principles that enable SEAL units to accomplish the most difficult missions in combat, Extreme Ownership shows how to apply them to any team, family or organization. Each chapter focuses on a specific topic such as Cover and Move, Decentralized Command, and Leading Up the Chain, explaining what they are, why they are important, and how to implement them in any leadership environment.

The Dichotomy of Leadership, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin - Jocko and Leif dive even deeper into the uncharted and complex waters of a concept first introduced in Extreme Ownership: finding balance between the opposing forces that pull every leader in different directions. Here, Willink and Babin get granular in the nuances that every successful leader must navigate. Mastering the Dichotomy of Leadership requires understanding when to lead and when to follow; when to aggressively maneuver and when to pause and let things develop; when to detach and let the team run and when to dive into the details and micromanage.

Qualities for ARFF Leadership Success [Being Chief]

Being Chief: Leadership Principles for the ARFF Professional, is the first book of its kind, dedicated solely to leadership in the aircraft rescue and firefighting field. More than thirty ARFF chiefs and leaders were interviewed for this book. Through the process of compiling the information from these discussions, a pattern for success emerged. Similar topics were discussed, and certain traits rose to the top. These came through these four questions:
  1. What is your advice for the newly promoted chief officer?
  2. What actions, behaviors, or thought patterns lead to leadership failure?
  3. What is the top trait or characteristic that you believe every chief officer must possess?
  4. What have been the key factors to your success and why?

What is your advice for the newly promoted chief officer?

  1. Listen, to those above and below.
  2. Learn, from others, from past successes and mistakes, commit to continual education.
  3. Be with your people, they are the priority.
  4. Remember where you came from, and how you got here.
  5. Be consistent, always show up.

What actions, behaviors, or thought patterns lead to leadership failure?

  1. Lack of respect for people.

    1. Failure to recognize and adjust to different personality types.

    2. Poor treatment, demeaning, unfair, unequitable.

    3. Not ‘learning’ your people, or knowing who they are.

    4. Failure to provide discipline and clear direction.

    5. Not trusting your people.

  2. Lack of integrity.

    1. Not being true to your word.

    2. Being inconsistent.

    3. Non-committed to department, people, direction, or vision.

    4. Self-serving.

  3. Poor communication.

    1. Not listening.

    2. Unable to commit to decisions, lack of clarity in decision making.

    3. Unclear vision and prioritizing personal agendas.

What is the top trait or characteristic that you believe every chief officer must possess?

  1. Trust

  2. Honesty

  3. Integrity

  4. Humility (approachable, listen, learn)

What have been the key factors to your success and why?

  1. Knowing the job.

    1. Commit to continual learning.

    2. Stay relevant by listening to others.

    3. Network with other chiefs, organizations, and departments.

  2. Consistency.

    1. Persevere.

    2. Show up everyday at 100%.

    3. Build experience.

  3. Faith.

  4. Family.

    1. Support of...

    2. Succeed for…

Being Chief takes a deep dive into each of these areas and topics, and lets you hear from the leaders themselves, in their own words through their own experiences.

Being Chief: Leadership Principles for the ARFF Professional


Today, I announce the launch of my new book, Being Chief: Leadership Principles for the ARFF Professional. This is the first, and only, book dedicated to leadership for the aircraft rescue firefighter.

Why did I write this book?

As the leaders and the experienced in our profession age out, we are forever losing their wisdom and shared knowledge. Private industry realizes this and tries to capture that knowledge through, what is referred to as, “knowledge management”.

Knowledge management can be simply defined as, “the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge.”  Knowledge management is taking advantage of what is known to maximize an organization’s value, or a department’s value to the community. Of knowledge, there are two types, explicit and implicit. Explicit knowledge is data, facts, and captured documentation. Implicit is the knowledge that exists in the heads of people and is only acquired over time through education and experience. This implicit knowledge becomes codified when it is shared through discussions or documentation.

Being Chief is a best effort to jump start a formal knowledge management process in the ARFF industry. For this book, interviews, surveys, and follow-up conversations were conducted from more than thirty ARFF chiefs and leaders. 

The book is divided into three parts:

Part 1: Leadership Lessons. Common themes, advice, lessons learned from these conversations are compiled and shared in this section.

Part 2: “In their own words…”. This section includes the full interview, survey responses, and personal stories from these leaders.

Part 3: Leading On. This section identifies mentors that have gone before, the value of mentoring, and provides recommended resources for leadership development.


What can you learn from reading this book?

There are many books on fire service leadership, and many more on leadership in general, however, this is the only book that focuses on leadership within the unique niche industry of the  aircraft rescue and firefighting environment.  

Being Chief will prepare the ARFF professional for a leadership role by enabling them to:

  • Know the most valuable traits an ARFF chief or leader must possess

  • Understand the five actions an ARFF leader must apply for maximum leadership impact

  • Hear directly from the voice of experience of those who have excelled in the industry

  • Prepare for a major aircraft incident response and post-incident effects

Being Chief
is a tool for the ambitious and forward-thinking ARFF professional. This is a tool to be used for gaining the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to achieve their leadership goals. By reading and learning from the years of experience shared here, the gap to achieving a leadership mindset can be decreased.

Affecting Change Through Codes and Standards

There are currently more than 200 companies developing air taxis and electric vertical take-off and lift aircraft for the urban air mobility space. Robots pick, package, and ship our online orders. Specific to fire protection we have new revolutionary fire extinguisher designs, electronically activated fire sprinkler heads, artificial intelligence for fire and building codes and standards, fire protection systems that don’t require any type of agent, specialized tools to move the industry forward.  We are rapidly moving into a real future only seen in sci-fi movies, and closing in on a “Jetson’s like” existence. 

The innovative fire protection solutions for these emerging technologies will be driven by the codes and standards that regulate them.  As an innovative entrepreneur, manufacturer, or developer you understand your product and the unique problem that it solves. You know your fire protection solution is better than what already exists. Even though this is true, without a code or standard that permits the use and implementation of the solution, it will not be approved for use by local fire code officials, or the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). This brief guide, Affecting Change Through Codes and Standards, will:

  • Provide an introduction to code making bodies
  • Outline the code development process
  • Reveal how to avoid a denied code change proposal
  • Demonstrate a plan for monitoring and tracking these codes and standards

Download your FREE copy here

Industry Affairs for Fire Protection - more important now than ever


“Industry affairs” is all about relationships.

It's all about building relationships, strengthening relationships, and maintaining relationships. Most importantly, as in any relationship, it's letting people know who you are, what you represent, and that you want to have a relationship with them. The industry affairs team is responsible for connecting you and your solution with all of the necessary stakeholders. This is primarily accomplished through the vehicle of communication.

Communication with stakeholders must be clear, concise, and adaptable. This communication must be effective in creating and working through compromise, competing interests, and conflict. The industry affairs leader must serve the role of “futurist”, having the ability to look ahead and respond accordingly.This communication component plays three important roles in industry affairs - awareness, education, implementation.

  • Awareness - this is your introduction to the relationship. It identifies the problem and your unique solution. 
  • Education - the relationship is becoming more intimate. This encompasses training and conversations that go in-depth on the solution so that stakeholders have a strong grasp on the concept. 
  • Implementation - these are those deep relational bonds, a marriage even, or complete immersion. All the stakeholders are on board, both parties in the relationship are operating from the same position, and are all headed in the same direction. 
There is no field in which this is more critical, than in fire protection codes and standards. Building and fire code change cycles occur every three to five years, and are a consensus based process. As such, this means that the technology, your innovative fire protection solution, will outpace the codes and standards that will regulate it. Having an industry affairs leader on your team ensures that you are equipped with the most current and correct information, enabling you to create and implement plans and directions for your fire protection solution or technology. Me and my team specialize in working with clients who present innovative solutions to fire protection challenges. 

What my team can do for you and your organization?

  • Identify issues, develop positions, and gather industry intelligence
  • Quickly and accurately show the benefits or consequence of regulatory proposals
  • Provide consistent, coherent, and proactive communication in support of your solutions and technology
  • Understand how to address and respond to regulatory issues

How can we accomplish this?

  • Monitor codes, standards, and industry developments
  • Represent your interests at meetings and committees (NFPA, ICC, other as necessary)
  • Draft and submit code change proposals
  • Coordinate with other internal divisions and external interests 
  • Ensure a rapid and accurate response to all inquiries
  • Provide regular updates on all industry activities

Examples of our work

  • Emerging technology. Work to bring stakeholders together, analyze risks and code compliance gaps, and draft and develop fire protection requirements for these industries (eVTOL, Hyperloop, and robotic systems).
  • Aviation industry. Work to educate on alternative means and methods for hangar fire protection, develop codes and standards to support these methods, and work collaboratively to gain compliance through a performance-based design process.
  • Passive fire protection industry. Work to raise awareness of what they do, and what the current code requirements are. Educate code officials, architects, and engineers, on code compliance and proper use of the particular solution. Draft and implement new code change proposals.
  • Fire suppression industry. Work to educate users, installers, and code officials on products, services, and code compliant installations and maintenance. Represent companies and services on committees and to external stakeholders.
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