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Top 9 public safety leadership books

These nine leaderships books have been voted among the best in the genre


These nine leadership books have been voted as the best in the genre.

By Megan Wells, EMS1 Contributor

We asked our readers and columnists to reflect on some of the best literature they’ve read specific to leadership in public safety leadership this year. These nine books came in at the top of the list:

1. Flow-based leadership

Responders to emergency situations will often react by entering “the flow,” a mindset where training and experience kick in and the responder knows exactly what to do. Ultimately, “the flow” allows first responders to make better decisions in dire circumstances. Author Dr. Glick-Smith analyzes this phenomenon based on the Georgia Smoke Driver model of fire service. This model consists of elements such as leading by example, communicating purpose, facilitating team flow, and other crucial components that work to ensure excellence in leadership and decision-making.

2. Barn Boss Leadership: Make the Difference

Author Brian Ward has a vast amount of experience teaching and training emergency response topics, firefighting principles, and leadership techniques. He has held positions in small, volunteer fire stations as well as large metropolitan departments. This book combines his knowledge about fire, science, psychology, and fire service history to provide value for individuals of all ranks within an organization.

3. Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations

In this book, Friedman attempts to explain the world in term of its transformational speed, or the rapid rate at which technology has (and will continue) to change almost every aspect of our daily lives. Friedman’s writing is an important lesson for all first responders to read, in order to understand their role within society.

Friedman believes that three forces on the planet: Moore’s law regarding technology, the market (referring to globalization) and Mother Nature, will shape the 21st century. As such, this book is an essential guide for understanding present conditions and their impact on the future.

4. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

“Grit” refers to a blend of passion and persistence as the components that are the key to outstanding achievement, over talent. Duckworth provides a powerful framework for success by drawing from the experiences of West Point cadets, teachers in tough schools, and finalists in the National Spelling Bee. This New York Times bestseller identifies how recovering and persevering after failure will ultimately lead to success.

5. Leading the Unleadable: How to Manage Mavericks, Cynics, Divas, and Other Difficult People

Author Alan Willett recognizes that dealing with difficult individuals can be the hardest part of a manager’s job, but believes that with the right approach most people can become productive team players. The book explains a straightforward process that effectively improves behavior. The technique Willett explains works well for situations like outbursts, irrational demands, griping and other workplace disruptions. It offers a way to ‘transform the troublesome into the tremendous,’ and can be a valuable tool for every manager.

6. What Millennials Want from Work: How to Maximize Engagement in Today’s Workforce

As millennials grow to become a larger portion of the modern workforce, it is crucial to understand how to work with them. A strong working relationship with your younger employees helps improve teamwork, increase productivity, strengthen organizational culture and build a staff of highly talented individuals. Despite this generation’s label of being lazy and entitled, they can actually be quite productive. With the proper motivation, millennials’ ideas can reshape the workplace. This book provides valuable insight into what that means for the future.

7. Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want

Many individuals find themselves ‘drifting’ through life at one point or another. It is common to forget your purpose and potential in life. When this happens, life slips by, one day at a time. This lack of self-awareness doesn’t help us propel toward achieving the life we want. The authors of this book demonstrate how to design a life by determining, in advance, the outcomes we desire. By following a step-by-step guide, readers can act on a simple, but effective, life plan that will put a stop to drifting.

8. The Founder’s Mentality: How to Overcome the Predictable Crises of Growth

When growth targets are not met, it is due to internal (rather than external) issues, 90 percent of the time. Some possible causes for these issues include; distant management, a loss of accountability and/or proliferation of processes and bureaucracy. These problems occur naturally during periods of company growth. Zook and Allen claim, when a ‘founder’s mentality’ is adopted, the leader can guide growth by restoring focus and a connection to customers. This book outlines the steps for achieving founder’s enlightenment.

9. Pass it on: The 2nd Alarm

As a follow-up to his first book, Pass It On, fire Chief Billy Goldfeder once again collaborates with other fire chiefs, fire officers, and leaders from across the country to share their experiences and wisdom. With over 80 contributors writing anecdotes, life experiences, and personal stories, this book offers a valuable treasure trove of tactical and operational knowledge. This book is truly a must-read for anyone in the field.

What books did we miss? Let us know and we’ll continue to grow our list of must-read leadership books.

This article, originally published in 2016, has been updated.