Morale is a word that is often used to gauge the health of an organization. As such, it is closely tied to leadership because it measures the positive (or negative) influence on a group. It is a fluid concept with ebbs and flows; leaders have to monitor progress over time. Chief officers know there are aspects of morale that can be directly influenced within a fire department. There are other aspects, such as pay, benefits, and overall budget, that can be influenced, but are not in a chief's direct control to arbitrarily change. For membership of the department, these issues are often difficult to differentiate and can result in the department's leadership group being dehumanized within the organization. As a department moves forward, the concept of morale must be balanced with the concept of change management. There are definite timelines involved with trying to change an organization and a cognizant leader recognizes that we all operate within certain timelines and limitations related to change. These can certainly alter with different circumstances; however, change generally takes longer to accomplish than people want, if they are open to the change at all. These factors have to be weighed as a leader looks to position his/her department for present and future success. This session is about the topic of morale and how leaders can best have a positive, long-term influence on the organization. This is accomplished by looking for “wins” that are within control of the department's leadership team, trying to positively influence those things not within the leader's direct control, and paying close attention to the “human” side of being both a leader and a follower in the organization.
David Griffin - Assistant Chief, Charleston Fire Department