October 2021 Leadership Message From the ISFSI President: Pete Van Dorpe

Greeting Brothers and Sisters:

I’m sitting down to compose this on a beautiful fall day, looking out over my yard into the lake beyond. I am truly blessed in many ways. A comfortable retirement in a comfortable community, surrounded by great friends and a wonderful, close family. And for lagriappe, (look it up son) I get to do truly rewarding work with Executive Director Leigh Hubbard, her team, and a dedicated Board to help make this Society a valued resource to its members. We all rely on Leigh in many ways, big and small. Case in point; I always re-read Leigh’s recent newsletter contributions prior to setting down to mine in order to look for ideas to build on. Last month Leigh expanded on the quote, “Be humble, be hungry, and always be the hardest worker in the room”, attributed to Dwayne Johnson.

I don’t think it’s an accident that “be humble” tops the list. Humility, and the associated trait of gratitude are essential not only to effective leadership but also to having a fulfilling career and life. Like all the other leadership tenents I shared with you, thanks to Colonel Mortenson, over the last few months, humility and gratitude must be cultivated, nurtured, developed, i.e WORKED ON. Deliberately and consistently with an intention toward improvement. This can be accomplished in many ways through meditation, reading, random acts of kindness, and by building rituals into our daily routines that foster the expression of these traits. Let me share with you an example from my local Rotary Club. We meet each week over breakfast and the first item on the agenda each week is called “Happy Dollars”. Each member in turn tosses a dollar or so into the pot (the money goes to Rotary International’s End Polio Now fund) and shares and experience from the past week that gave them joy and/or that they are grateful for. It sets a positive tone for the meeting and reminds us all that we are indeed fortunate. I have attended many meetings elsewhere that would have benefited greatly by a similar ritual!

I am of course simply restating Leigh’s point. A genuine expression of humility in our everyday thoughts and acts demonstrates to others that we value them. As instructors, creating an environment where everyone knows that their contributions have value is essential to effective learning and understanding. Building again upon (or am I just stealing?) Leigh’s idea, there is nothing weak or submissive about expressions of humility or gratitude. It does indeed take incredible strength of character to be genuinely humble.

Rather than burden you further with my inadequate attempts at driving home my point, I’ll invite you to view a living example of the power of true humility and gratitude. The link below is to Chief Pat Kenny’s acceptance of the George D. Post Instructor of the Year Award at FDIC this past August. Please make the time to view it (or view it again). Pat’s impact goes way beyond the power of his message about the importance of firefighter mental wellness, (though that is indeed impact enough), it extends to how to live a TRULY meaningful life. One that reaches beyond the self in service to others. The very essence of leadership.


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