Fighting Fires Part I

“Fire tests gold, suffering tests brave men.”

Wildfires are raging across the west in the United States, and on the heels of a harrowing fire season in Australia, the team at LEADon® reflected on the firestorms that we have survived in southern California during the past two decades.  Thousands were displaced and countless   families were evacuated on several different occasions, leaving everything behind in minutes at the orders of officials who feared for the safety of people rather than possessions.  Fortunately, all of our neighbors and Corporate Family® members were able to return to intact homes, thanks to the heroic efforts of firefighters—those brave men and women who battle the blazing forces of nature that send most of us running in the opposite direction. Sadly, others did not. Many homes and businesses in our community were burned to ashes. During these kinds of disasters which happen in communities around the globe, first responders put themselves and family aside to serve the rest of us courageously each and every time these catastrophes occur.

Such fearless frontline efforts have tremendous application to those of us trying to survive the physical and fiscal firestorm created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Pre-2020, most of us considered the term “putting out fires” to entail dealing with distractions in our personal and professional lives.  Today many of us feel we are fighting fires on every front, struggling to maintain some sense of normalcy in our lives.  Indeed, we can relate to the ancient Roman philosopher and statesmen Seneca, each of us being tested by various degrees of suffering in these unprecedented times. Yet we can also glean a great deal of insight about how to address the battlefronts we face by taking a closer look at our  first responders.   Consider how these facts about fighting fires might apply to your life:

  1. Establish a Control Line:  When battling wildfires, firefighters strive to establish boundaries to control how and where the fire spreads.  A similar strategy can be employed by leaders as they assess where the greatest “hot spot” is in their organization  and/or current business practices.  In other words, you must determine which problem must be addressed first in order to develop a path forward for successful outcomes.
  2. Consider Every Angle:  “For a wildfire small enough to be snuffed out using a direct attack, firefighters may begin their assault on the blaze from behind” (  Such an approach is called “flanking”—but firefighters also utilize multiple fronts to battle a blaze, including aerial attacks.  The point here is that you and your team must consider the challenge(s) to be addressed from every angle possible as you devise a plan to confront and conquer each dilemma.
  3. Enlist Help:  Firefighters not only help one another in their work, but they also encourage civilians to do the same when they face unexpected fires:  “If possible, use a ‘buddy system’ to have someone back you up or call for help if something goes wrong” ( For leaders, this tip can be a lifeline, both personally and professionally. Seek advice and support from colleagues, consultants, and mentors.  Work together as a team since life isn’t a solitary endeavor and  there is strength in numbers.  Do not be shy in sharing what you’re learning with others who may need your support too.
  4. Be watchful:  Firefighters understand that, even though they’ve battled boldly, certain ‘hot spots’ can reignite.  As a leader, you’ve no doubt noted this fact in your personal and professional life.  Just because a problem seems resolved doesn’t mean it won’t need attending to again.  The great news is that, once you’ve honed your “firefighting” skill sets, you will be able to quickly address any flareups as you continue to not only strive but also thrive in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

The professionals who serve as first responders in our lives offer us help and hope in a world that desperately needs both.  Numerous lessons can be learned by observing their techniques and understanding the personal attributes that define exceptional firefighters.  The latter topic will be addressed by the LEADon® team soon, so be on the lookout for that edition of The LEADing Blog.  In the meantime, if you need assistance as you confront “fires” in your personal and professional life, please contact LEADon® directly at 858.592.0700 or We’re here to help and ready to serve.