presence: Feeding your own self confidence
Chief Ron Richards
Command presence is essentially presenting
yourself as someone in authority, trusted and respected. This is partially
done through the message conveyed by how you LOOK, how you CARRY YOURSELF,
how you ACT, and how you SPEAK.
Dress the part
Photo by Tricia Mcinroy
||Remember, first impressions are a lasting
one. Looking like an unmade bed
is not the way to instill confidence. In order to look the part, dress
professionally. Always wear a clean, pressed uniform. Look professional....
at least look like you know what you are doing.
Personal appearance is not something
that starts when you walk into the fire station or appear on an incident.
It starts well beyond that. How are you groomed? What does the car that
you drove to the station look like? Has it been washed in the last year?
It the back seat full of coffee cups and food wrappers? What about your
desk? Is it orderly or does it look like a forty mile an hour wind just
blew all your papers on the floor and the janitor picked them up and threw
them on your desk?
Taking pride in your personal appearance
and grooming not only projects a professional image to the public, but
it also helps make you feel more confident. The response you get from the
public when your appearance is that of a professional will also help you
feel more confident. When you feel confident it will help you approach
situations with a better mindset.
How you carry yourself portrays command
presence or lack of it. Confidence is projected through your body language,
and how you verbally deal with individuals and groups.
Walk with your head up, eyes alert,
and your expression intent. You do not want to appear weak or vulnerable.
You want to project the image of someone that knows why they are where
they are, and who is trained and knows what they are doing.
Walk with intent. Don't shuffle
your feet or use a "lazy" walk. Pick up your feet and move like you know
where you are going, and that you have a purpose in going there.
You need to portray an "I am in
charge of this situation" image. The key is to be outwardly confident
- even if on the inside you are scared out of your wits. You want your
body language to convey confidence.
How you sound
||Your speech is another aspect of command
presence. More people than you think hear you speak. Besides your
face to face communications, many hear you speak on the radio. If you have
the "terror in the voice" scream going on the radio as you arrive on an
incident saying, "Chief 47, assuming the Blaze Street command..."
that will not instill a whole lot of confidence in your peers or subordinates.
I've referred to this as the "Big-Eye" syndrome. That's when you see a
big fire and your two eyes open so wide that they appear to be one gaping
whole in your forehead and the high pitched, screaming voice just puts
the icing on the cake instilling an image that you are scared $%&less!
A solemn but good example of command presence
communications is listening to the communications between a commercial
airlines pilot and an air traffic controller just seconds before a plane
crash. That pilot knows what's in store but still portrays confidence until
the bitter end.
What do people see you
|If someone was watching you to see if
you were able to react if they did something, what would they think?
It all boils down to how you present yourself.
Do you "look the part"? Do you carry yourself with confidence?, Do you
ACT the part? Do you speak the part? If you can, then you are developing
Command Presence, which will make your job a LOT easier.
Do you walk around with your hands in your
Do you look at the ground all the time?
Do you sit and watch television or listen
to the radio while on duty?
Do you look bored and inattentive? Practice
being firm and not taking no for an answer without getting angry. Keeping
your cool is also a big part of this.
|About the author: Chief
Ronald Richards has over 28 years of fire service experience, both career
and volunteer. He rose through the ranks in the Forest City Fire Department,
in Forest City, PA and became Fire Chief in 1995 holding that position
through 2000 when he retired. He currently serves as the Chief for Training
and Safety for Browndale Fire Company in Wayne County, PA. Chief Richards
has nearly 25 years of service with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, having
served as a Fire Marshal with the Department of Public Welfare, a Fire
and Safety Specialist with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
Currently, he is a Superintendent Assistant within the PA Department
of Corrections, responsible for media relations, litigation coordination,
accreditation, and the writing of policies and procedures. Chief Richards
graduated from the State University of New York with a Bachelor of Science
Degree in Fire Service Administration. Richards is a PA State Fire
Instructor and an instructor with Command
School. He is the founder of WithThecommand.com.