What is in a title? A title defined by the dictionary is; a descriptive or distinctive appellation, especially one belonging to a person by right of rank, office, attainment. It’s something that can give a person power and authority or it can mean you have achieved the most elite status in a sport profession. In all instances the word title holds a lot of power!
In the fire service, a title represents rank from lieutenants to captains to chief officers. Once you have achieved a title it sticks with you for the rest of your career and people no longer address you by your name while you’re on duty, but by your rank. This practice establishes respect among fire service personnel. Some people believe titles are entitled, while others work their entire career to achieve a new title or rank. Those people who are entitled to it are easy to pick out on a department just like the ones who work their asses off are just as easily picked out, however they are two very stark contrasts from one another. The entitled persons of rank no one wants to work for, they are arrogant lazy and impossible to please. The people who have worked tirelessly throughout their career to achieve the goal they have set forth are humble, down in the trenches kind of people. They work as hard or harder as everyone else. Which one are you?
Throw in the word promotion with the word title and you have the recipe for a very volatile situation. Maybe even one that could require hazardous materials response! Obviously in the fire service, promotions are used to work your way up the career. With that new title usually comes different or more responsibility. Usually a leadership role is achieved and even more people will rely on you for decisions. Years of classes and training may or may not prepare you for this step. In most situations a lot of on the job training and mistakes will mold a person into their next title. Through the promotional process a lot of heads are lost and a lot of feelings are hurt. The inner warrior in people shines through and some will stop at nothing to achieve what they feel is rightfully theirs. Regardless of whether or not they have truly stopped to think about what a new title will mean their eyes are fixed on a set of shiny new bars. So I ask “what’s in a title?”
What if a new title is unwanted? What if the idea of a new title is not awe striking to a person but repulsive? Is there something wrong with them? Can that even be possible!? There are times in a career where being happy far outweighs a title. Coming to work with the best crew possible in a station that feels like home, for anyone in the fire service that is the ultimate dream! Well that and 3 working fires a day, but let’s not be greedy. Learning the job title you possess and being a master of your craft is something we all should strive for. Why is it some people are willing to sacrifice all the above for a new title that will strip all of that away it doesn’t make sense! There is nothing at all wrong with furthering yourself in your career or bettering yourself, however if that means sacrificing your true happiness is a title or new title really worth it? That is a question that can only be answered internally.
There is only one title that I believe we should ALL strive for no matter who you are in the fire service. From the rookie, to the 5 year man, to the salty seasoned 30 year on the job firefighter. Sometime throughout our career we should all strive to hear a title given to us by our peers is; LEADER. Setting yourself up to be a leader isn’t easy. Sometimes it’s even unpopular and unsatisfying. Leading, whether it’s your title or whether it’s how you go about your everyday routine, should be a goal of everyone on the job. The behind the scenes leaders are the ones I have benefitted the most from. Quietly watching their every move throughout a 24 hour day, and then trying to emulate each thing. Days and months of messing up and being frustrated at how easy they make it look. Until one day without even noticing what you’re doing you’re doing it, YOU have become the next leader. Let’s stop being caught up in titles that are nice. I don’t want to go as far as saying they don’t matter because they do, but at times aren’t worth sacrificing the farm to achieve. Instead, hold the title of LEADER in the position that you’re in. Be the very best at that job! We all hold titles, some given, some earned, what title is behind your name?
Lt. Andrew Sauder
Hooks and Hooligans