Wednesday, November 6, 2013


By Mark vonAppen

What do you believe in?  Do you believe everything you are told?  Do you always do exactly what you're supposed to?  I believe leadership is a two way street.  Do you believe in that?

What motivates you?  Is it the promise of moving up in the world and the status that supposedly accompanies it?  What if I told you that getting to the top by any means other than hard work won't garner the respect of your peers?  What if I told you I'm not exactly like everybody else? 

I won't follow anybody just because somebody tells me to.  Never have, never will.  I make up my mind about who to follow based on the character they demonstrate.  I believe in character, not characters.   I won't follow somebody just because they wear a badge of higher rank or hold down a position that wasn't earned the hard way.  I might obey, but I won't follow.  I am not so blinded by positions of power that I validate and give respect to all who claim it.  You shouldn't either.

What motivates me?

  "I am amazed at honesty's ability to cause people to deny, become enraged, or be a catalyst for change."
The level of honesty that is required of a leader is what motivates me.  A leader can  identify weaknesses, need, even point out (unpleasant) reality in order to help others overcome them without causing resentment.  Honesty builds trust.  By making those you teach face reality you help them build character.  The type of person who derives power from intimidation, empty promises, and inconsistent policies will never truly lead effectively.  One who is a mentor must encourage the mentee to ask good questions of those in charge, make no excuses for passion, and tell the truth about their performance and experiences so that they will grow.  A leader with heart tells the truth.

How do you build character?
  • Ask good questions 
  • Make no excuses for passion 
  • Tell no lies about performance

What do you believe in?  Authority and dogma, or honesty and respect?  Fame, titles, wealth, or authority have never impressed me and they shouldn't impress you.  A body of honest, quality work commands respect.  I am awed by the power of honesty and integrity.  We all should be.  I am amazed at honesty's ability to cause people to deny, become enraged, or be a catalyst for change.

Whether someone likes you or not is immaterial.  Whether they respect you is not.  Respect is earned through consistently fair actions and built through trust.  Respect is built on character.  When you teach someone something learned through the lessons of your life it isn't you who is doing the teaching, it is your experience.  Some people believe that one person can't make a difference, but that's a big lie.  One person with passion is all it takes to make a difference.

What if I asked you where your heart is?  Could you tell me?  Would you have the courage that it takes to tell the truth?


  1. This reminds me of something that I was told by a mentor many years ago. "You learn more from the supervisors you dont like than the ones you do." I would agree that over the years I have learned more about how to not treat people by poor leaders/officers than I have by the good ones.

  2. "How do you build character?
    Ask good questions
    Make no excuses for passion
    Tell no lies about performance"

    This is huge for me, being a probationary firefighter and being extremely passionate for the job I am constantly demoralized by my superior firefighters and officers. I want to go to classes, I want to learn, I want to go out and throw ladders force doors or move hose, I want to push myself to be the best I can be but there are some people in the house to try to bring me down. For them the only reason I am there is to clean the house and do the dishes. I have no problem doing those chores as it is my duty, but I'd also like to be able to have the opportunity to learn from people of been on the job longer then me.

    I will continue to be passionate about my craft at hone my skills not only for myself but for the citizens I serve.

    Thank you for your hard work Captain