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Flow-based Leadership: What the Best Firefighters can Teach You about Leadership and Making Hard Decisions

Book Description

Have you ever arrived on the scene of a house fire to find a frantic woman in the driveway? As a firefighter, you know instinctively what this means: there is a child inside. You immediately enter "the zone," because you know what to do. This is based on your training and experience. The feeling of being "in the zone," is referred to in the field of positive psychology as "the flow."

Multiple studies have shown that, if people have the proper training and experience, they will make better decisions in emerging situations while in a flow-state. How can your organization help your people experience flow more often, thereby improving their decision-making?

This book describes what flow is and what flow-based decision making and flow-based leadership look like. It also details a flow-based leadership model for implementation, based on an extreme, experiential training program in the fire service called Georgia Smoke Diver (GSD). This model consists of :
  • Leading by example
  • Communicating purpose
  • Committing to a stable infrastructure
  • Binding the group through ritual, knowledge sharing, and collaboration
  • Honoring individual creativity to promote innovation
  • Using positive motivation techniques
  • Facilitating team flow.
GSD's success and longevity is a result of rigorous commitment to this model that helps firefighters stay safe, ensure excellence, and live a life of well-being, both personally and professionally. It is a model any organization can adopt to better the lives of the people within the organization and the lives of the people the organization serves.

Whether you're in the fire service or not, this book provides incredible and truly unique insights into leadership, decision making, and creating exceptionally effective organizational cultures. A must read for anyone who is in a position where his or her decisions impact the work and the lives of others. Judith's writing ignites the imagination with stories that are inspiring, engaging, and deeply moving. You will walk away with a new appreciation for the importance of being "in the flow" and a simple but powerful framework for creating a meaningful and purpose-driven life.

Thomas Koulopoulos
Chairman Delphi Group, Author The Gen Z Effect

Dr. Judy (as she is fondly known in the fire service) has presented us with a uniquely insightful look at firefighter decision making, going beyond the traditional analytical and weaving the naturalistic with the possible. This is a roadmap for upcoming leaders in any organization in which decisions must be made in chaotic, uncertain and rapidly evolving situations.
David M. Wall, Division Director
Georgia Fire Academy

Throughout my career, I have had the privilege and honor of training with hundreds of high risk professionals. This book gets to the heart of why and more importantly how these individuals can perform at such a high level every day, with on and off the job stresses that are off the charts!
Ed Naggiar, PhD
U.S. Navy SEAL Officer

Table of Contents

  1. Acknowledgements
  2. Foreword
  3. Introduction
    1. Setting the Context
      1. It’s a VUCA World
      2. Required Cultural Challenges
    2. Who This Book Is For
    3. What This Book Is About
    4. How This Book Is Organized
  4. 1 What Flow Is
    1. Beginnings of Flow Theory
    2. Characteristics of Flow
      1. Clear Goals and Feedback
      2. Opportunities for Decisive Action
      3. Awareness and Action Merge
      4. Focus on the Task at Hand
      5. Confidence: The Feeling of Being in Control
      6. Losing Sense of Self
      7. Temporal Distortion
      8. Autotelic Experience
    3. Conclusion
  5. 2 Initiating Flow (or Not)
    1. Preconditions of Flow
    2. Triggers of Flow
      1. Something Out of the Ordinary
      2. Threat to Personal Safety
      3. Child Involvement
    3. Consciously Initiating Flow
      1. Knowledge of Our Own Triggers
      2. Preparation
      3. Physical Readiness
      4. Mental Alignment
      5. Spiritual Connection
    4. When Flow Doesn’t Happen
    5. Conclusion
  6. 3 Flow-based Decision Making
    1. Importance of Training and Experience
      1. Tunnel Vision vs. Hyper-vision
      2. Commitment to Learning
    2. How Flow Enhances Decision Making
      1. Size-up: Creative Suspension of Choice
      2. The Action/Inaction Continuum
      3. Decision Making Models
      4. Mitigating the Effects of Stress
      5. Situation Awareness
      6. System 1 and System 2 Thinking
      7. My Own Lesson in Situation Awareness
    3. Conclusion
  7. 4 Flow-based Leadership
    1. Leadership Styles
      1. Example of an Event Not Constrained by Time
      2. Time-Constrained Events
    2. Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse Fire
      1. About the Worcester Fire Department
      2. Incident Description
      3. Aftermath
      4. Tie-In to Leadership
    3. Kyle Wilson Story
    4. Michos’ Role in Wilson LODD
    5. Flow-Based Leadership Empowers Others
    6. Conclusion
  8. 5 Georgia Smoke Diver Model
    1. Leadership Structure
    2. Smoke Daddy Designation
    3. Course Content
    4. Spreading the Good Word
      1. Indiana Smoke Diver Program
      2. Oklahoma Smoke Diver Program
    5. Model for Creating Flow-Based Organizations
    6. Conclusion
  9. 6 Creating Flow-Based Organizations
    1. Lead by Example
      1. Leadership Styles and Conflict Management
      2. On Being a Leader of Equals
      3. Taking Personal Responsibility
      4. Honoring Those Who Came Before
    2. Communicate
      1. Communicate the Mission and the Vision
      2. Communication in Emerging Incidents
      3. Communication with the Self
      4. Team Communication
    3. Commit to a Stable Infrastructure
      1. Infrastructure Components
      2. Physical Assets
      3. Systems
      4. Monitoring Progress
      5. Attention to Process
      6. Knowledge Management
    4. Bind the Group
      1. Ritual
      2. Knowledge Sharing and Storytelling
      3. Role of Laughter
      4. Power of Collaboration
      5. What’s Your Number?
    5. Honor Individual Creativity to Promote Innovation
    6. Use Positive Motivation Techniques
      1. Mo Squad
      2. Motivation Strategies
      3. Visual and Physical Motivation
      4. Shift to Positive Motivation
      5. Motivation for Those Who Don’t Make It
    7. Facilitate Team Flow
    8. Conclusion
  10. References
  11. Index