Gauging Success

Steve Schnaudt

August 1, 2022

A leader's job is to influence people. If you are not influencing others, you are not leading.

But here's the problem. Not everyone who is influencing should be leading. What a dichotomy, right?

Rumor spreaders. People who set bad examples by their slovenly appearance or poor work ethic. Folks whose self-interest and conceit trump the interest of the organization, the team, or the overall mission. We must delineate the type of influence that differentiates who should be the leaders in your organization from who should not.

True leadership is about positive influence, and positive influence leads to success.

But, how do you define success? Certainly, there is a dictionary definition of "success." But, I submit that the true meaning of success is much more personal than what's written in the dictionary.

Success, to some people, is attaining an educational goal such as a college degree or a new certification. Perhaps you got that promotion to the manager position or achieved a certain rank or title. Maybe you gauge success based on personal wealth or some award you've received. Of course, none of these answers are wrong. But, as I said, the "what" of success is very personal.

In a previous post, I referenced my experience as a fire department line officer insomuch that leaders should be setting explicit performance expectations and then personally living up to those same standards. Leading by example is one key component to assuring a cohesive and functional unit. In addition, it helps yield an efficient and effective team.

Does this make you a successful leader? I would say yes.

How does your team perform when you are absent? Answering this question is a great way to measure your progress and success as a leader.

But, if you are in a leadership position does effective execution of the mission alone equal success? There needs to be more.

I will further define success as being genuinely involved and influential in the accomplishments, advancement, and triumphs of those you have the privilege to lead or mentor. How? With persistence, patience, compassion, and a measured, consistent approach to leading, we can help to influence and guide others toward success.

As I said, at its core, true leadership is about positive influence. An essential leadership mantra is that leaders should always actively train their replacements. You need to share information - not hoard it. Invite members of the team into your sphere of influence. Manage, but don't micromanage. Be hands-off enough to allow for the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Encourage others to seek a greater purpose and realize their potential.

Perhaps this means you make accommodations for a crew member so they can study for a promotional exam. Or help them take a college course or attend a conference. Maybe you'll need to inspire someone as they overcome a personal challenge so they can accomplish something they never considered possible. Often people don't even know what they are capable of until you give them a little push or stern encouragement.

Leaders should devote a measurable amount of time to set people on a path toward achieving goals and overcoming adversity. In addition, we should encourage others to strive for advancement. The personal successes, triumphs, and growth of those you have the privilege to lead are a truly palpable measure of your success.

An effective leader is directly influential in the success of others. And you succeed when the members of your team succeed.

Engage, influence, lead, and succeed.

Steven Schnaudt is retired Captain with the Robbinsville Township Fire Department in New Jersey. He is a Nationally Registered paramedic and a Level 2 fire instructor with over 30 years in fire and EMS. He has been published in both Fire Engineering Magazine and 1st Responder Newspaper and is almost always available on Twitter at @FireMedic40NJ.