Challenges: 2019 Wildland Fire National Leadership Campaign - The Art of Leadership

the art of leadership - 2019 national campaign


The theme for the 2019 Wildland Fire Leadership Campaign is “The Art of Leadership”

Challenge #1

Create a leadership journal to be used throughout the campaign and beyond. We will be using the journal throughout the year!

Challenge #2

Read "The Art of Leadership" for Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, PMS 494-2.

Challenge #3

In your leadership journal, write your definition of "leadership."

Challenge #4

Read Max De Pree's book "Leadership is an Art".

Challenge #5

If you don't have a mentor, seek one or more out. Check out mentor selection tips from mentoring and career expert, Professor Ellen Ensher, Ph.D.

Time: 14:31

Challenge #6

The Art of Leadership: Write down your personal values in your journal.

Challenge #7

The Art of Leadership: In your journal, write down where you see yourself in 1 year, 3 years, and 10 years.

Challenge #8

The Art of Leadership: Read the book "Be, Know, Do" by Eric Shinseki, Frances Hesselbein, and Alan Shrader (editor).

Challenge #9

The Art of Leadership: Spend time with each team member individually.

Challenge #10

Make time in your daily schedule to take care of yourself (read, meditate, walk, etc.).

Challenge #11

Practice active listening. Be fully present during conversations.

Challenge #12

Write what's important to you in your journal. Prioritize your list. Are you committed to upholding your list?

Challenge #13

In your journal, list your weaknesses. Next to each, write how you plan to turn that weakness into a strength.

Challenge #14

Model the emotions you want your team members to display.

Challenge #15

When a team member is not performing to your standard, ask yourself if you've done all you can to help them.

Challenge #16

Be willing to follow should the need or circumstance arise.

Challenge #17

In your journal, ponder the following: Are you a leader who does fire work or are you a firefighter who does leadership?

Challenge #18

Survey your team members. What special gifts do they bring to the organization?

Challenge #19

The signs of outstanding leadership appear primarily among the followers:

  • Are your followers reaching their potential? 
  • Are they learning? Serving? 
  • Do they achieve the required results? 
  • Do they change with grace? Manage conflict?

[Source excerpt:  Max De Pree]

Challenge #20

Identify, develop, and nurture future leaders. Develop a plan of action with each person identified.

Challenge #21

Read Brene Brown's book Dare to Lead.

Challenge #22

Take notes in your journal as you watch Julian Treasure's TEDTalk "How to Speak So People Want to Listen"

Time: 9:58

Practice what you say and how you say it.

Challenge #23


Being: You must be ____________. (Fill in the blank and post in your journal.)

Challenge #24


Knowing: You must know ____________.  (Fill in the blank and post in your journal.)

Challenge #25


Doing: You must act____________.  (Fill in the blank and post in your journal.)

Challenge #26

The next time you experience a failure, think about why you failed instead of who was at fault. Try to look at it objectively so that you can do better next time. Ask yourself:

  • What lessons have I learned?
  • How can I turn the failure into success?
  • Where did I succeed as well as fail?

[Source: EQUIP by John Maxwell]

Challenge #27

Ask questions of your team members to better understand current concerns and opportunities for insight and collaboration.

Challenge #28

Read Chris Widener's book The Art of Influence - Persuading Others Begins With You.

Challenge #29

Take notes in your journal as you watch Dr. Joan Rosenberg's TEDx Talk "Emotional Mastery"

Time: 15:17

Practice the "Rosenberg Reset."

Challenge #30

Think of a leader you admire for his or her humility.

  • How does their humility contribute to your admiring him or her?
  • What impact does their humility have on your view of them?

[Source: "The Leadership Killer" by Bill Treasurer]

Challenge #31

Conduct a self-assessment by asking yourself and your team the following question:

  • Are you training your team to act instead of being told what to do?

Challenge #32

Solicit constructive criticism from others.  In your journal, develop a plan to address the feedback.

Challenge #33

Give credit where credit is due. Develop and implement a plan to acknowledge your team members.

Challenge #34

Leaders build teams by keeping team members informed.

  • Share information.
  • Solicit input.
  • Consider suggestions.

[Source: Be • Know • Do by Shinseki & Hesselbein]

Challenge #35

Got problems? “Problems aren’t going to solve themselves—a leader must get aggressive and take action to solve them and implement a solution.”

[Source: Babin & Willink, The Dichotomy of Leadership]

Challenge #36

"Effective speaking is about the unpredictable and uncomfortable art of connection." - Brene Brown, Dare to Lead

  • Seek opportunities, preferably outside your comfort zone to expand you speaking skills.
  • Volunteer to conduct a debriefing, meeting, etc.

Challenge #37

Being a good leader means deferring to another person's strength.

  • List your weaknesses in our journal.
  • List your strengths in your journal.
  • Next to each weakness and strength identify someone (or more than one person) who can complement you.
  • Develop a strategy to engage with the other person.

Challenge #38

Time is one of our most precious assets. For one week, track your time in your journal.

  • Where did you spend your time?
  • Did you accomplish what you wanted to accomplish?
  • Are you wasting precious moments?
  • If time management is an issue, develop a plan of action to rescue the resource.

Challenge #39

In your journal, answer the following questions:

  • Are you developing leaders in your organization or are you developing bureaucratic, rule-following functionaries?
  • What can you do to enhance leadership development?
  • What practices can you institute or recommend for increasing trust in your organization?

[Source: "A Year with Peter Drucker" by Joseph A. Maciriello]

Challenge #40

Leaders are lifelong learners. Visit the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program self-development plan website.

Challenge #41

Leaders are communicators. Visit the Wildland Fire Leadership Development self-development plan website.

  • Review the information found within the tool.
  • Practice preparing leader's intent.
  • Practice giving briefings and debriefings.

Challenge #42

Self-leadership and awareness is vital for leadership success.

  • Do something kind for yourself daily.
  • Record your daily personal acts of kindness in your journal.

Challenge #43

Need help journaling? Check out the blog "How to Keep a Notebook Like Da Vinci."

[Source:  "From the Green Notebook".]

Challenge #44

Social connections are good for our mental health. Self-Care Challenge:

  • In your journal, write a one-sentence statement of what you want your social life to be like.
  • Make a plan to take positive steps in that direction.

[Source: "The Self-Care Prescription" by Robyn Gobin, Ph.D.]

Challenge #45

Effective leaders know themselves and seek improvement. In your journal, answer the following personal questions: 

  • What do you love?
  • What do you live by? 
  • What do you think is the purpose of life?

[Source: “The MovieGoer” by W. Percy via the Daily Stoic blog]

Challenge #46

Leaders need to be fit for command, addressing body, emotions, mind and spirit.  Read Loehr and Schwartz’s HBR article "The Making of a Corporate Athlete".

Challenge #47

Leaders dream big and focus small. 

  • Read Gary Keller’s book The One Thing.
  • Use your journal to track your “one things” and monitor your performance.

Challenge #48

Effective leaders have the moral courage to do the right thing. 

  • In your journal, identify a wrong that you have witnessed. What would you do if you were in this situation?
  • Is there a wrong you need to make right? Make the correction, if possible.

Challenge #49

Effective teams share a set of common values.

Challenge #50

Effective leaders develop other leaders and share their power as much as possible. 

  • Does your organization have a growth mindset? If not, consider implementing it where feasible.
  • Who are you grooming to take your position?
  • Practice the art of delegation.

Challenge #51

Effective leaders have accountability partners they can turn to for constructive criticism and honest feedback.

  • Do you have an accountability person/team? If not, find/form one.
  • Check in with your person/team on a regular basis.
  • Keep track of your check-ins and progress in your journal.

Challenge #52

Self-care and reflection are vital. Respond to the following in your journal. 

  • Are you happy where you’re at?
  • Do you feel like you’re fulfilling what you’re meant to in life?

[Source: "Growing Influence" by Ron Price & Stacy Ennis]

Challenge #53

Leadership is the art of influencing people in order to achieve a result. 

  • How do you define influence?
  • Do you feel you have influence?
  • Where would you like more influence? Devise a plan of action.

[Inspiration: "Growing Influence" by R. Price & S. Ennis]

Challenge #54

Leaders promote connectivity within their teams.

Watch RSA’s take on Brene Brown’s empathy versus sympathy presentation.

Time: 2:53

Take notes in your journal and work to connect with your people.

Challenge #55

In your journal, respond to the following questions. Include a plan of action.

  • Are you content with your job?
  • Are you learning enough?
  • Are you challenged enough?
  • What causes you joy and discontent with your job?

Challenge #56

Leaders are responsible for nurturing organizational culture.

  • Are you familiar with values, assumptions, and beliefs or your organization? Are you sharing them with your team?
  • Do the behaviors of your team members and yourself match those of the organization?
  • Develop a plan of action to address behavior issues and cultural change.

*Inspiration: Growing Influence by R. Price & S. Ennis

Challenge #57

Effective leaders maximize training effectiveness.

  • What plan do you have in place to ensure training transfer occurs?
  • Are you fostering a culture where sharing knowledge and information is encouraged?
  • Do you have a safe space in which people can learn?

Challenge #58

Great leaders know who they are and what they want. Respond to the following in your journal.

  • What defines you?
  • Are you doing what you want to be doing? Why not?
  • What about your job as a leader brings you joy?
  • What about your job causes you concern?

Challenge #59

Leaders put the needs of others before self. 

  • Check in on someone. Be present with and available for them during your visit.
  • Devote yourself to a cause.
  • Consider being a mentor.

Challenge #60

Leadership is not a solo “sport.” 

  • Take a moment to thank someone who helped you get to where you are today.
  • Acknowledge someone within your sphere of influence who is presently making your job easier.

Challenge #61

Drills aren’t just a tool in a carpenter’s toolbox.

  • Practice! Practice! Practice!
  • Set up a drill (pre-mortem exercise) for your team.
  • Foster relationships with outside groups and hold joint drills.

Challenge #62

We don't learn much when everything goes right. We learn most when things go wrong. – Simon Sinek

  • Read Kyle Eliason’s article “11 Tips for a Successful Post-Mortem.”
  • Ensure you conduct an examination of both right and wrong events.
  • Celebrate successes and learn from failures.

Challenge #63

Leaders surround themselves with people who can hold them accountable and can give them honest feedback.

  • Do you have an inner circle?
  • Evaluate your inner circle to ensure you have people who ask the hard questions and keep you honest.

Challenge #64

Keeping stress at a manageable level should be the goal of every person.

  • Read Dr. Robert Schachter’s book Mindfulness for Stress Management: 50 Ways To Improve Your Mood And Cultivate Calmness.

Challenge #65

Coach John Wooden began his quest for defining “success” with two principles:

  1. Don’t try to be better than someone else.
  2. Always try to be the best you can be.

In your journal, define your guiding principles and your definition of success.

[Source: Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, John Wooden & Jay Carty]

Challenge #66

Caring for self and others is a duty of every leader. Chronic workplace stress can cause burnout. Know the signs and how to avoid it.

Challenge #67

Respond to the following question in your journal:

  • What's the one accomplishment you've made in your life that you're proudest and how has it impacted how you lead?

Challenge #68

"To be authentic is to be at peace with your imperfections." - Simon Sinek

  • In your journal, acknowledge your imperfections. Document what, if anything, you can/plan to do to address them.

Challenge #69

Leaders ensure they do not let the opportunity pass to grow.

  • Is there something you want to learn how to do? Do it.
  • Make growing as a leader a priority. Schedule time in your day for a learning activity.

Challenge #70

Making decisions is something all leaders must do.

Challenge #71

“We all know the importance of asking for help, but those who achieve big things are the ones who accept it when it’s offered.” – Simon Sinek

  • Write this quote in your journal and make a commitment to accept help.

Challenge #72

Leaders pay forward the good they have received.

  • In your journal, document the good others have done for you.
  • Make a plan to pay forward those good deeds.

Challenge #73

Leaders are readers and writers.

Challenge #74

Self-care is vital for a leader’s well-being.

  • Spend 30 minutes to 1 hour disconnected from electronic devices.
  • Engage is physical activity.
  • Spend time with friends and family.

Challenge #75

Bring out the best in others. Dan Rockwell suggests:

  • Participate.
  • Expect more from yourself than you expect from others.
  • Treat everyone the same.
  • Walk around.
  • Always do what you say.
  • Apologize when you screw up.
  • Clarify commitments.

Challenge #76

Leaders lead by example. In your journal:

  • Make a list of the top five attributes you expect your team to exhibit.
  • What behaviors might YOU practice that display the attributes you expect from others?

(Adapted from Dan Rockwell’s Leadership Freak blog.

Challenge #77

Reflect on the last year by reviewing your journal.

  • Do you feel you have advanced your leadership art?
  • Are there unfinished challenges you would like to complete?

Challenge #78

Successful leaders lead change to leave the organization stronger than they found it.

  • Are you or have you been an agent of change?
  • Is the organization stronger because of your efforts?

Challenge #79

Effective leaders are good followers.

Challenge #80

Leaders should be fit for duty.

  • In your journal, make a plan to:
    • Meditate/reflect daily.
    • Eat well.
    • Exercise.
  • Implement your plan.

Challenge #81

Leaders set the example.

  • In your journal, write down how you want to be seen by your team members.
  • Conduct an evaluation (could be a 360-degree assessment) to see if your perception matches reality.

Challenge #82

Effective leaders promote a culture where morale and retention is high, people are committed and performance well.

  • In your journal, list what items create this type of environment for you.
  • What type of environment do your team members need?

Challenge #83

Effective leaders get involved with their operations without micromanaging.

  • Make it a habit to be visible during operations.
  • Lend a helping hand on occasion.
  • Share the joys and hardships with your team.

Challenge #84

In your journal, reflect upon the following:

  • What shifts in your leadership have you experienced over the last year?
  • What do you still need to work on?

Challenge #85

Good leaders hone their critical thinking skills.

Challenge #86

Effective leaders benchmark other leaders.

  • Who are the leaders you follow?
  • Keep yourself relevant and informed by switching up your list from time to time.

Challenge #87

Being an agent of change is a leader's job.  In your journal, respond to the following:

  • How do I feel about leading change?
  • List one area of change you intend to lead in 2020.

Challenge #88

In your journal, reflect upon the following:

  • What shifts in your leadership have you experienced over the last year?
  • What do you still need to work on?

Challenge #89

Approach each day with a blank canvas.

  • Write and paint a new page in our life story. 



Print 2019 Challenge Reference Guide


Page Last Modified / Reviewed: