Where There is Smoke, There is a Firefighter


You run around all day, and so does your team. Urgent activities take over, the weeks and months fly by. The focus is always about getting more done sooner. Then one day, a demanding client, a dwindling bank account, or an operational mistake sparks a fire. On that day, likely right before a weekend, the firefighter in you kicks into gear. With an impressive ability to prevent disaster you gather everyone, and jump in to save the day.  Clearing the decks and dedicating a few long days you are able to successfully stop the smoke and flames. You are a hero. And that can be addictive.

Firefighting may feed your ego, but it is not the kind of leadership when constantly repeated, that drives organizations to success. While you may feel an important sense of purpose swooping in, waiting until disaster strikes comes at a cost. The expense and damage to the team, to work/life balance, to the bottom line is often not talked about. Last minute rescue missions more often than not speak to a lack of leadership.


Inspirational leadership comes from visionary forethought, and spending the time on deeper problem solving, without the emotional and financial cost of constantly having to address emergencies. Advanced planning and reflection may not be as exciting as running up a ladder when the office is on fire, but it can earn you recognition and success without the cost and burden of having to constantly rebuild.

Are you waiting to save the day until the next crisis, or are you taking strategic steps to assure that crisis won’t come? Here are 4 simple questions to answer honestly.

  1. How clear is your long-term vision?
  2. Are you focused on a set of business improvement goals in alignment with that vision?
  3. Does your team regularly assess what is working and what isn’t on the team?
  4. Do you review past projects and problems, identifying what might be at the root in order to create better outcomes?

If you are addicted to saving the day, you will wind up creating a culture filled with the smoke of inefficiency, stress and rework.

What one thing can do you right now to show off the proactive leader in you?

Written by Helene Mazur

Helene is the founder of Princeton Performance Dynamics, a business coaching and strategic planning company. Helene’s passion is helping her clients to focus on the few things that can make the biggest difference. Results include more impact, greater financial results, stronger leadership, and alignment to values.