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Heroic Leadership

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Heroic Leadership

Heroic Leadership - LowneyColorado Firecamp sees a model worth following in Chris Lowney's account of the Jesuit leadership style. The Jesuits live by the ideal of magis - Latin for ‘always something more’ - and they have delivered on a promise of ‘more than wholehearted service.’

Chris Lowney spent 7 years as a Jesuit priest before embarking on a distinguished career as an investment banker for J.P. Morgan. His account of the Jesuits' 450-year history presents a number of parallels to today's wildland fire service.

The early Jesuits put a high value on mobility - at a time when people rarely ventured 10 miles beyond their birthplace. The priests submitted themselves to go on what were the first all-risk assignments, wherever the Pope had need of them - kind of like carrying a fire pager or listing yourself as available in ROSS.

They promised to literally drop whatever they were doing and go anywhere in the world on 48 hours notice.

The dispatch timeframe for firefighters is shorter today. But then, we are not generally the first to make a map of where we are going, nor do we typically face a year-long voyage to get there.

The Jesuits also embraced diversity (of a gender-monolithic sort) by accepting candidates rejected by other religious orders: those from peasant families, different nationalities and new converts to Christianity. Today's wildfires are fought by men and women; agency folks and contractors; volunteers and inmates; and from countries where firefighters are called bombero and pompier.

The Jesuits recruited as many as possible, of the very best. However, they didn't stop there. They built the finest educational system the world had ever seen, just so they could develop their own people into leaders. That's similar to what's taking place with the NWCG training programs. We have a ways to go on the leadership part, but progress is being made.

Lowney describes the four pillars of Jesuit leadership as: self-awareness, ingenuity, love and heroism.

  • Self-awareness: “To order one's life”
    Leaders thrive by understanding who they are and what they value, by becoming aware of unhealthy blind spots or weaknesses that can derail them, and by cultivating the habit of continuous reflection and learning.
  • Ingenuity: “The whole world will become our house
    Leaders make themselves and others comfortable in a changing world. They eagerly explore new ideas, approaches and cultures rather than shrink defensively from what lurks around life's next corner. Anchored by nonnegotiable principles and values, they cultivate the ‘indifference’ that allows them to adapt confidently.
  • Love: With greater love than fear
    Leaders face the world with a confident, healthy sense of themselves as endowed with talent, dignity, and the potential to lead. They find exactly these same attributes in others and passionately commit to honoring and unlocking the potential they find in themselves and in others. They create environments bound and energized by loyalty, affection, and mutual support.
  • Heroism: Eliciting great desires
    Leaders imagine an inspiring future and strive to shape it rather than passively watching the future happen around them. Heroes extract gold from the opportunities at hand rather than waiting for golden opportunities to be handed to them.


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