July 29, 2023
Is Loyalty a Disappearing Trait?
As I continue writing about the Marine Corps leadership traits, this week’s topic is loyalty, which is “the quality of faithfulness” to your country, spouse, family, or organization.1 However, is loyalty a disappearing trait? Is loyalty taking the same route as an outdated computer mainframe? Read on to find out.
Faithfulness is a cherished quality.
I entered the fire service during a period when World War II and Korean War veterans were nearing the end of their careers, and the Vietnam War veterans were in the beginning or mid-years of their firefighting career.
I worked with firefighters who were loyal to their departments and the profession. They were firefighters who understood the importance of loyalty and sticking with a department. They did not jump ship at the first sign of hardship or discomfort. They were not constantly looking for something bigger and better.
For them, loyalty was not only a leadership trait, but it was also a core value. Serving with and being loyal to the same department for a career was considered a badge of honor.
The mentality flips.
It is hard for me to pin down an exact time, but there was a mentality flip sometime after 9-11. This is my observation and not based on empirical research or data.
It was a childhood dream of mine and many of my peers to become firefighters. I saw that mindset continue through the 1990s and a few years after 9-11, but then something happened. Perhaps the memory of 343 FDNY firefighters killed at the hands of terrorists faded away. Maybe people forgot the images of firefighters standing on top of the Pentagon unfurling the American flag after the terrorists crashed into that building.
I don’t know the reason, but something changed.
Seeking online fame and fortune.
As I listen to and speak with fire officers across the country, many of them point to the fact that interest in the fire service has waned. Qualified candidates are seeking careers as an online sensation, or they look for high paying jobs in industries that promise more money than firefighting. But do those jobs provide the same sense of satisfaction that comes with being a firefighter?
A mentality has crept into the fire service and manifests as disloyalty to the department and profession. Now I am not against anyone who seeks better pay and benefits. I am addressing the individuals who are constantly looking for the next department to come along that pays more money than the current one.
For those firefighters I ask, at what point will you stop looking for more money? What is your underlying motivation for constantly seeking another department? If it is the money, then you will never be satisfied.
Do not confuse loyalty with blind obedience.
Please understand that loyalty is not the same thing as blind obedience, although there are officers and chiefs who will accuse you of disloyalty if you should happen to question an immoral, unethical, or even an illegal decision. Do not be bullied into that line of misguided thinking. I could write much more on this section, but not for now.
A safe environment for coaching and mentoring.
As a retired battalion chief, I serve current and aspiring fire department leaders through coaching and mentoring. I do this in an environment where you can ask questions about the difficult and challenging situations you face without fear of retaliation, intimidation, or ambushed during an evaluation by comments you made to a superior that you thought was safe.
©2023 Rick Davis. Artificial intelligence (AI) WAS NOT used to generate this content.