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Well, good day to everyone. This is Bill Stark with LeaderGov. And I am so happy to be here today with Captain Andrea hall of the City of South Fulton, Georgia. Hello, Andrew, how are you?
Hi, Bill. I'm fantastic. Thank you. And thank you for having me.
Oh, you bet. We are. So looking forward to digging into this topic today of servant leadership. And as we've talked about on podcast before, you know, at leader gov, what we want to do, what we strive to do is, is we really want to see 10s of 1000s of local government leaders equipped to better serve each other and have productive environments where they can work and thrive and really better serve their citizens. So this topic today, Captain Hall is servant leadership is a very important topic along those lines. But before we jump into the actual topic, would you mind just taking a minute or two and just kind of tell us a bit about yourself and what you do it the City of South Fulton and maybe some of the local government work that you did in and other municipalities?
Sure, sure. Well, I started as a firefighter in 1993, in the city of Albany. So my fire service career has been about 27 years. I am currently a fire captain, in what we call our operations, our fire EMS operations division. And I am responsible for a crew and facility that we are that we is called a fire station. And so I'm responsible for that fire station for the crew that is assigned to that station. And I've been doing that for about 16 years now. So I've had lots of opportunities to determine what leadership style best fit me.
And it Fulton County or Albany, I know you spent some time in those two jurisdictions, what what type of roles did you play in those local government?
Well, with the City of South Fulton, which is actually formerly known as Fulton County, and worked in several capacities there, worked in our community risk reduction Bureau, I've worked in fire field operations or fire EMS operations. I've worked in training capacity, I've done a lot of different jobs in the fire service. So it has given me an opportunity to work with a lot of different personalities. And one of the things about I know, you know, this, right, by talking to me, but I am a female in an environment that would be considered primarily male. And that comes with a unique set of challenges, especially when you talk about leadership. How do you the question becomes how do you get people to an environment like the one that we're working in where strength and brawn is valued? How do you get people to want to follow you? How do you get them to trust you, and to trust your abilities as a leader in environments that could really potentially cause a person in their life? Or some at least some catastrophic injury if a long Decision is made? Yeah, so I've had the opportunity. I've had the opportunity to work with some really good mentors who supported me in my growth and development.
Yeah, that's a great, I'm so glad you mentioned that. With reference to building trust and relationships, male, female, especially, and course in those environments, where you've got lives on the line, there are a lot of dynamics that come into play in those moments. So it's a really good point in that I was going to ask you about that anyway, related to servant leadership, we know that at a big fire, you know, fire engines are at a fire, we need people on scene, the boss, the fire chief, whoever, we need them to be very much in control, and more or less dictating, who goes where to solve, you know, address the fire. So in that sense, sort of very focused, intentional, you know, one way leadership is needed. And of course, there's communication back and forth at a fire but but we want a leader that strong at the fire, but outside of that environment, you know, leadership styles, when you're like working on a project, doing day to day training, or things like that the leadership style of top down autocratic doesn't really work in the long term. So that's why we were wanting to explore this topic of servant leadership today with you particularly With your background and in public safety, so I was gonna ask you in Robert Greenleaf is the sort of modern day not founder, but he sort of coined some characteristics of servant leaders. And I'll just read them off here to you. And I would love for you to respond and just share with me, maybe one or two of these servant leadership qualities, how you've seen it, be at play in your work and how it's helped your team. So so we have listening for understanding we've got empathy, a healing, that is helping people move on from wherever they are, and in some sort of healing capacity, awareness, being aware of our strengths and weaknesses, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship stewarding assets that are that we've been given commitment to the growth of people. And lastly is building community. So those are the sort of pillars or servant leader qualities? How are there a couple of those that come to mind for you in terms of how your leadership style reflect some of those characteristics of servant leadership?
Absolutely, sir, the majority of them, but let's, let's take a step back for a second. And I just want to share with you, when we talk about leadership and leadership styles, I have been in the fire service, I started at a very young age, I was 19 years old, when I came into the fire service. And so I had very little idea about what it actually meant to be a leader. I've done these things indirectly. However, I didn't know that that's what I was doing. I've been primed for leadership since I was a very young person at seven years old. But we have some basic leadership styles that we talk about, like you say, the autocratic and democratic and laissez faire. And from the beginning of my career to now I've tried, I've attempted to try each of those leadership styles to see what worked for me. And a lot of it was due in part to the fact that I was working in an environment where, you know, there's, there's a lot of testosterone, I'll say that. So there's some expectation, whether it is my own, I put it on myself, or it was expected externally, that you were to operate a particular way, you have to have command presence. You know, this is the language that we use in our industry. And so what does command presence mean? So for, from the beginning of my career to now there was a lot of juxtapositioning, to determine what my leadership style would be. And what I would find is that I would have, I was really falling sort of in a hybrid of all of these particular styles. None, there was no one that fit India, you know, I was not a not an autocratic leader. By nature, that's not my personality. And so, because I don't always like to be the one telling everyone what to do all the time. There's a time and place for that, but it was not my normal modus operandi. And I'm certainly not a laissez faire leader, because I can make the decision and it's important to know when to make a decision, stick by it, be accountable for it take ownership. So if you Okay, yeah. Okay, so I found that I was more of a hybrid. Before I even was aware that there was a such a such thing as servant leadership. And I was doing, I was exhibiting a lot of those qualities very early on. But I wasn't comfortable enough in the environment that I was in, to actually be a servant leader, because I wasn't, you know, that was not what I thought, you know, leadership in this environment was about. So whenever I kind of grew up a little bit, I matured a little bit and understood, that it's really best to just be yourself and to work to your strengths. I began to determine what, you know, how I could add value as a leader, and it came out in exhibiting a lot of those qualities that you've already mentioned, the top one was empathy. And then awareness. And when I say awareness, I mean, being aware enough to meet people where they are, and then develop from there, because one of the things you mentioned the gentleman who coined the phrase, servant, leadership, Robert King, and one of the things that he said that really stuck with me because I read his essay. And he was saying that you know, the main goal of a leader is to serve and you know, when you have done a good job and service to others, when you can look and recognize and answer a couple questions. And those questions I do those served, grow as persons. And then do they become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous? And are they more likely to be of service to others as a result of your leadership? And so when I look at the people that I've had the pleasure of leading, I can honestly say that I have created instances when I've had an opportunity to leaders who are willing to serve in the future. They have grown as people, they become dynamic people as a result of my leadership style. And so part of that goes back to meeting people where they are, and helping them to work to their strengths, while still bringing up some of those areas that may be challenges for them.
You know, that is a, you know, would you mind just go I want to be sure everybody hears that again, because you mentioned those questions that Robert Greenleaf asked, Could you just repeat those again, because when we think about leadership, we often leave awake, you know, the, the damage done behind us, so to speak, and we can either leave awake, that's, that's healthy, that's got life to it, life giving, or we can have a lot of ugly stuff in our week. So I would love to hear you read those questions that he asked again, just so everybody can can hear him?
Yes. Okay. Well, the first question is, do those served grow as person? The second question is, do they become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, and more likely themselves to become servants? As a result of your leadership?
Right. Wow. Wow. So was being them so that they can then become Yeah,
yeah, the end goal should be to ensure that the people that you are leading, are equipped, or they're better, as you know, as a result of having your leadership than they were when you found them?
Yeah. You mentioned empathy. Could you share a story or anything recently around say listening or empathy, or maybe awareness that that sort of stood out to you and your work, just a story in the last few weeks or months?
Well, I actually have a very interesting story. This is something that happened, I have a great true of, of young men that I work with. And we spend a lot of time on personal development, not just in terms of training for fire service related activities, but just personal character building exercises that we do, just to be better people, for the community, for the organization for ourselves, for our families. And so we were having a little roundtable, and this is our opportunity to share with each other things that we're working on. And so they sent to me, Captain, we just want to share something with you that that might help you. I said, Okay, no problem, because I'm certainly open to improvement myself. And they were saying, you know, we're guys, and we know that you'd like to explain everything to us, and you want to make sure that we have all the details, they said, but we're guys, we just, we just want you to just talk Listen, tell us just do it. Which I thought was pretty interesting. And I had a very, I had an epiphany in that moment, about even communication. You know, we communicate from our own perspective, you know, we communicate based on how we like to be communicated to, and it just never occurred to me that I may use too many words for them.
Yes, when Wow.
And that was very powerful.
Well, and if you had not, if you had not opened up that channel for them to provide you with feedback, you would never have known that. I have known that. Right. Yeah. So this this idea of listening, in this case and being aware, you know, they're making you aware of some way that you communicate that is maybe not as effective as what they would like So yeah, that's a that is an awesome example. And it you know, as leaders, this idea of being vulnerable and inviting, critique, inviting feedback, that's that's a kind of dangerous thing it to a lot of people because, you know, we don't want to hear you know, negative things, but you opened yourself up to improvement. You got some good feedback. You know, if you I'm really I'm really interested, maybe we could do another podcast later on this idea of blending all of these different leadership styles because I think that's fascinating the way you've, you know, adapted over time, you know, as you've matured and use different leadership styles. But if you if you think about servant leadership, kind of 30 1000 foot view and kind of zoom out. And if you were to think about fire chiefs, public safety chiefs, deputies, city county managers, folks that, you know, work hard every day that that have grown up in a kind of autocratic world, where it's top down, it's I'm gonna give you an instructions, you go carry out what I want. It's all about me getting my project done, and you're in, you're at my disposal, because you're my employee. You know, that's a that's a predominant way that people lead. If you were to just speak to them, and share just one or two sort of approaches to leadership, learnings, thoughts that you would have that you would want to share to that that kind of leader that might be listening to this podcast, what would you? What would you say to them? What would be your your your advice?
Well, I think I'm going to start that with a couple of little sayings that my grandmother used to share with us as children. Two things she said, we are only as good as we give. And you can tell the tree by the fruit it bears, I think those are very sort of powerful. Sage save, because giving, the more you give to your employees in terms of opportunities to contribute, opportunities to develop and grow professionally. And personally, the better your overall organization is, also it takes a little bit of the pressure off of you to always have to be the one to make the decision to be accountable for every single decision that's made. So share joy is double joy, shared sorrow is half sorrow. So I believe there are certainly benefits to being a servant leader, because not only are you developing your people for for greater things in the future, but you're also giving them an opportunity to create a stronger, more successful organization. And like I said, you can tell the fruit, that the tree by the fruit it bears. So if you have a good person in leadership, and they are demonstrating the qualities of a servant leader, then you certainly see that bear fruit in your organization by either greater sales, greater or, you know, less recidivism, people enjoying coming to work, people having more patience when we're in those challenging periods, whether it's budgetary issues that we have, or you know, because when you're in local government there, there are several challenges that you come upon. Some can be anticipated, some not. But I think when you have good leadership and people who proceed into their, their subordinates, I think that is returned to them. When there's a time that we have to be patient with some of the decisions that have to be made that may not go in our favor.
Absolutely. I had a boss one time who really invested in me and took me to meetings and events that were sort of above my paygrade. And, and he really showed me another world and kind of showed me how he made decisions, that kind of thing. And I tell you, I would have crawled over broken glass for the sky. And I would have given him and I did give him incremental effort. You know, I didn't just give him what he asked for I gave him what he asked for plus some extra. And that type of motivation for an employee. And all the other benefits you talked about really helped with retention, of course, morale, building the culture that you want to have in your local government. So I love that that those are two great quotes. Thank thank God for grandmas huh?
Yes, thank God for grandmother.
This is this has been great. Any any final thoughts? Because I again, I want to serve, I'd love to circle back sometime and talk a little bit more about leadership in general and some of the things you've learned in blending these styles. But any final thoughts or comment on servant leadership topic?
Well, I You brought up a very interesting thing about autocratic leadership and how we've been trained that way for so long. So one of the things I would say is let's be fearless, and trying something different in involving those folks that we might not normally have any contact with as leaders. But we're in a changing time now, where there's a shift even in the thought processes about how we do business. And not necessarily to speak to any particular demographic, you know, and I'm talking about how many college Gen X's or Millennials or whatever, but with technology with with the explosion of technology, you know, we have access to so much more information and that sometimes can cause a divide. So I I think it's important. As leaders, we have to be willing to pivot, and even continue to grow as you know, ourselves, because even as a leader, we're still learning. And I think that's one of the biggest benefits of being a servant leaders that you understand that you never get to a place where you're not able to learn something to grow yourself. And you're, you're always in a position to seed into someone else.
Love that we have a saying that says if you stop learning, you stop growing. And that's right. So you're really speaking, speaking a great message. Well, thank you so much for taking just a few minutes out of your day to spend with us. We're hopeful that city, city and county leadership teams and public safety teams can have a chance to hear some of the wisdom that you're sharing. And again, just appreciate your the work you do with the City of South Fulton. And thank you for spending some time with with us today here at leadergov.
Thank you very much, Bill, we appreciate you as well.