Leading the Learning

This post originally appeared on the Wildland Fire Leadership Blog as part of their 20th anniversary campaign.

20th anniversary and campaign logo and the LLC logo

By Kelly Woods – Director, Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center

Most of us have read Leading in the Wildland Fire Service. It’s the yellow book you receive whenever you attend a wildland fire leadership course. If you have not read it cover to cover, you should – remember leaders are readers. We all undoubtedly are familiar with the contents of this book even if we have not read it numerous times. Within its pages, the core values of our business – duty, respect, and integrity are defined. The principles which guide leaders in support of these values are revealed. Together these words provide a leadership framework for wildland firefighters in all phases of their service.  Essentially, this book is where we find out what it means to be a leader in wildland fire.

Did you know there is a book like this for learning? Guess what it’s called: Learning in the Wildland Fire Service.

Have you read it? Again, if you haven’t, you should.

Learning in the Wildland Fire Service is designed to be a companion effort to Leading in the Wildland Fire Service. While the first of these two foundational publications outlines the core values of leading in the wildland fire service, the second describes why and how continual learning is essential to fully realize the core values of being a leader in the wildland fire service.

As we learned in our trusty yellow book, one of the principles of duty is to “be proficient” in our jobs. Another is to “develop subordinates for the future”. How can you do that without actively promoting learning in your work environment?

One of the principles of integrity is to “seek improvement.” How can you do that if you don’t actively approach unintended outcomes with a bias for learning?

Learning is an action. Each one of us is responsible to engage actively and deliberately in our individual and organizational learning. Learning in the Wildland Fire Service serves as a guide for this process. Specifically noted in the book:

“This publication discusses and analyzes the fundamental learning concepts specific to the wildland fire service. It outlines the pillars, tenets, and framework that guide the wildland fire service across a broad range of missions.”

Cool stuff, right?

Leaders have the responsibility to create an atmosphere in which learning is at the center of the mission. Inquiry, opportunity, and dialogue as outlined in Learning in the Wildland Fire Service should be part of the daily routine resulting in an environment where we can effectively apply the lessons learned from each shift to the next assignment.

Learning is not always easy. In fact, sometimes it is hard. We know that the wildland fire service has specific cultural values and some unique challenges that influence how we go about learning. This publication addresses all of that. The learning that follows is up to you.

One thought on “Leading the Learning

  1. I always enjoy returning to the LLC, it helps me refocus, be mindful, to be a leader and a learner. Too often we can get sucked into complacency, fall down the hero hole and also to not forget where we came from. Learning is not always easy, however it is always essential. It is integral to being a high reliance organization. It is too easy to throw that stick/stone, to pass that judgement and to armchair quarterback.

    Thank you for your contributions to our collective organization. Reminder that we can always be better firefighters, better leaders and better learners.

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