On December 19, 2022, we all lost a very valuable member of the Fire Service.
For those that know who Bobby Halton is, you know exactly what I'm talking about. For those who don't, do yourself a favour and look him up...and more importantly look up his writing, his speaking and his podcasts.
What I'd like to do today is to take a brief look at how Bobby led his life and what are the enduring lessons we can learn from him.
Without further ado...
#1 - Be Involved
Bobby was 100% commited to the Fire Service, and more importantly, the folks of the Fire Service. His energy and enthusiasm for this was seemingly limitless. From his leadership at Fire Engineering, to constantly popping up on podcast everywhere, to conferences and conventions across the globe. Anyone that every saw him around the convention center at FDIC will testify,...he never stopped! Constantly engaged with everyone there; from small one-on-one conversations in the hallways and pubs to his speeches in the Big Room. The Energizer Bunny could take tips from this man!
And he was constantly mentoring, coaching and empowering everyone he could.
Good leaders, lead; Great leaders create other leaders.
#2 - Have a Sense of Humour
Bobby was quick with a quip, joke or good-natured rib and he was also very quick to poke fun at himself. Never taking himself too serious and never overstepping when it came to others.
#3 - Be Educated
I'm sure there are folks that are as well read as Bobby, but I certainly haven't met them. He seemed to have voracious appetite for reading, learning and finding the connecting fibre between the writings of other folks, often in very different life paths, and how they could help the Fire Service become stronger.
And his memory for quotations of the great thinkers and orators! ...Chief Salka ( FDNY ret. ) would often joke about Bobby's ability to "whip out some Aristotle" at a moments notice. I am a big fan of quotes but I would never go quote-for-quote with this man.
#4 - Be Humble
I was fortunate enough to spend time in a social setting with Bobby a couple of times and he could both command a room and also feel like it was just you and him chatting, at the same time. There was never an air of him "gracing" anyone with his presence. In fact, he would express his gratitude for being invited to the event and also for you taking the time to talk to him!
He also was very open-minded about new concepts and was curious to everyone's viewpoints. He was very transparent when he had a change of direction on issues and was quick to acknowledge where he was possibly off-track.
Curious - Questioning - Humble
This is great combination of traits we should all endeavour to incorporate!
#5 - Family First
As fully involved as Bobby was, he put his family first. This included his very close friends. This job can become pretty "all-encompassing" sometimes. We have to remember what is our priority; and that is our families. They are the ones you pledged to serve and protect before all others. Remember that promise and honour it at all times.
To quote a good buddy of mine, "when this career is over, they will be the ones standing beside you...not the ass-hat, look-at-me guys".
#6 - Be Grateful
From every example I can think of reading, hearing or seeing with Chief Bobby Halton, he was always unapologetically grateful for every blessing... and also for his challenges. Bobby epitomized the glass being half-full at almost all times. Both the challenges and the blessings, and how you deal with each, will help to shape the person you are.
I could continue with these, and those that knew him far better than me could continue this list exponentially, but I will summarize and wrap up.
Bobby Halton was not superman, and like the rest of us, had his faults - that he himself was quick to point out - but he was a firefighter's firefighter. I don't know if he was the absolute best example of a firefighter and a leader in the Fire Service but I can't think of anyone better.
What I do know is that we all should try to be more like Bobby....and if we do, the Fire Service will only get stronger.
Thank you Chief Bobby Halton and rest in peace.
See you the Road