I was a Wildland Firefighter for the last 13 years, and I traveled around the USA fighting fires in your backyard or the forest behind your town. My experience on the fireline gave me insights into authentic leadership in the workplace. People’s true colors come out when the situation is high risk, and the stress is on maximum flame length. These are my insights

Being a leader is different than being a supervisor because a leader inspires action that accomplishes goals while a supervisor tells employees how to get it done. A leader listens to his co-workers and integrates leadership ideas from the bottom while a supervisor is the only one that’s right. When a leader makes personal development their number one priority, they will lead themselves before they are leading others. It is important to have a foundation of personal development so the leader doesn’t bring their emotional baggage to the team. Every position is valued the same, and each person takes the same amount of ownership. Each team player owns its entire operation from top to bottom on all levels of leadership. Every team member is a leader and practices radical honesty so they can be better tomorrow.

Becoming a strong leader is a lifestyle that is ever-changing and evolving because if a leader stops growing from the inside out, their leadership dies. A true leader is in the business of mentorship and building the most effective team on all levels. Setting the example of excellence through action, not words. 

The leadership is from the heart, not the mind, because compassion is the driving force of a cohesive team. Guidance for a mission in business, firefighting, tech, or anything else starts with three simple statements. The task, purpose, and end state; without these pillars of operational leadership, the team will become lost. The task is the actions that have to be taken to get to the end state; the purpose is essential so the team can adapt to the situation and achieve the same results. Lastly, the end state is the picture that everyone in the operation is focusing on. A common goal that the team sees in their mind and does whatever it takes to make the image a reality.  

The foundation of Internal Leadership


  • Be proficient at your job from the inside out
  • Take charge of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  • Adhere to your personal standard operating procedures
  • Develop a plan to accomplish self-mastery


  • Look out for your wellbeing
  • Put your safety and welfare above all other objectives
  • Take care of yourself every day
  • Resolve inner conflicts


  • Know yourself and seek improvements 
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses and focus on personal development
  • Question yourself to find the best possible outcomes
  • Listen to yourself because only you know what you need

Self-work fuels great leadership because it’s important to lead yourself before you lead others. Keep it simple and no one will get lost. 

How are you going to lead yourself?