Rube’s Rules of Leadership

“Someone is always watching,” said Chief Dennis Rubin, at his Tuesday afternoon FDIC 2013 workshop, “Rube’s Rules of Leadership.” A principal partner with D.L. Rubin & Associates, he outlined the 13 rules of leadership he developed in more than 40 years in the fire service with fire departments in Dothan, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; and Norfolk, Virginia.

In discussing Rule No. 2, “Lead from the front,” he emphasized moral and ethical behavior is critical. Rubin showed a video of a TV news investigation of public works employees in three jurisdictions. The reporters shadowed the employees from the start of the day to the end. In two public works departments, they found employees were generally doing their jobs, taking no more than the designated time for their breaks. Supervisors regularly stopped by work sites to ensure employees were doing what they were supposed to be doing. The public works directors were also readily available for interviews. However, in a third department, the investigative reporters found numerous abuses: starting work an hour and a half into the shift, taking 45 minutes for a 15-minute break, more than an hour for a half-hour lunch break, and one instance of an employee buying liquor while on the job. No supervisors were seen making rounds. When the story became public, the public works director was unavailable to discuss the investigation, and was eventually fired.

Rubin noted the department directors’ leadership was reflected in the behavior of the employees, “Good management makes for good employees,” Rubin said. “It’s all about the public trust,” he said, which can be easily lost through misbehavior. The actions of one group of municipal employees reflects on all, including the fire department, undermining the public’s confidence. “I made it a point to show all company officers this video.” Part of leadership is about being the “designated adult” and stopping inappropriate practices, Rubin noted. “You have to intervene before the camera rolls.” As a fire chief, he said he has been forced to implement discipline for members that have committed significant rule infractions. The genesis of this course is to help prevent members from getting into trouble. Rubin has been a long time attendee and presenter at FDIC, and attend the last few programs held in Memphis, Tennessee, as well as in those held in Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

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