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Dots connect when they pass through the heart.

For months, my friend and mentor has asked me to write a short article for this website. But each time I sat down, writers block kicked in. Frustrated, I couldn’t figure out why I was struggling to share about this wonderful organization, its mission, and my passion for leadership. That changed today while sitting in my therapist’s office. I had to pause mid stream because the dot connected as my inner voice screamed: Leadership is deeply personal and comes from the heart. Let me explain.

I was about 10 years old when I missed my first meal because of an emergency call. As a chief fire officer, my dad was my idol. On this night we were a team, standing by for medical needs at a football game while also being available for other emergencies. After the game, we were picking up a fast food cheeseburger when dispatch advised of a rollover accident. Without hesitation he paid and told the cashier, “we will be back,” as we bolted out the door. In no time we arrived on scene. Five patients, multiple ejections, a helicopter to fly the most critical, and a fatality; All high school kids that were at the game we had just left. I learned the details by listening to the radio as I sat in the front seat, glued to the activity before me. Then, as quick as it started dad was back in the car and we headed back for our burger. They were closed though so we went home and settled for something else. If I wasn’t hooked on being a firefighter before, now I surely was.

Back to therapy. As shared my story her jaw sorta dropped. I’m not sure if it was the story, my age at the time, or that we were finally getting somewhere. You see, my dad passed away ten months ago. It’s been rough not being able to thank him for the lessons I learned because of him. Yes, we often talked about our past adventures and his job while weaving in the present with my job, family, and our world. Unknowingly though, we didn’t talk nearly enough nor did I realize how much our time together allowed for reflection and learning.

But what does my therapy have to do with public safety leadership? It doesn’t, except that this story illustrates how we influence and impact those around us everyday. And that, is one form of leadership. As a student of IPSLEI, I learned about myself, how I impact others, and how we impact the community we serve. That learning comes from deeper reflection as a consumer of what happens to and around me.

Do. Reflect. Learn. This is the IPSLEI way. We all have vast experiences but their true meaning in our lives isn’t realized unless we learn from them. Unfortunately, reflection is often overlooked. Sometimes it doesn’t always immediately happen, or we reflect several times to learn something new from the same experience. The point is that reflection doesn’t have to be complex, but reflection is paramount to leadership development. If we are to be a consumer of what happens to or around a us, we must also learn be better leaders.

Oddly enough, I’m still learning from my dad even without him here. Each time I reflect about what is happening today to learn for tomorrow, those lessons have a funny way of showing up and bringing it all together. My story today comes from the heart. Today as I reflected in therapy, I was reminded of the connection between my experiences and this central tenant to being a good leader; one that I learned in the IPSLEI program.

As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” When is the last time you reflected? I promise it will make this life worth living.

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