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President’s Report

Volunesia? Another Form of Leadership, Lest We Forget 

When our AFSA communications team shared that “leadership” would be a key editorial focus for this issue of Sprinkler Age, my first reaction was how difficult it is to capture the essence of what defines a true leader. Many of us have admired so-called “leaders,” who have ultimately failed us through their words or actions. We have known “leaders” who have gained our trust and support but did not fulfill the promises they made or live up to the following they attempted to create. 

On the other hand, most of us have also experienced the powerful association of being around someone in our midst who inspires and motivates us to be our best while “building us up” to enable us to bring out our best, at the right time for the right reasons. However, we may not have really thought of that person as a “leader”—at least in the traditional sense of the word. Perhaps we need to take a new look at defining who exactly the real leaders are in our society, realizing that leadership begins with true selflessness. 

Stepping Up: Servant Leaders According to Scott Prickett, author of Lead, Follow, and Move Hell Out of the Way: “The humility of a leader is what will multiply the impact of their influence beyond their efforts.” He builds on this concept, noting that leadership is more about servitude rather than taking the lead through power and position. Good leaders, he adds, work towards becoming unnecessary as they unleash others as part of a multiplying impact to achieve a common goal. In other words, true leaders are not afraid to empower and entrust others or give credit where credit is due. 

When you think of specific leaders, whether in the fire sprinkler industry or in your personal life, what do they have in common that you admire? Are you considered a leader amongst your colleagues? How about by those whom you employ? These questions should require taking a few minutes to reflect upon the concept of leadership, and even more importantly, assessing your own “leadership IQ.” Perhaps the bellwether is how our individual perspective correlates with the view that others have about us. 

Leading the Charge When it comes to servant leadership, I commend the passion and dedication that our members share and AFSA’s volunteer leaders embrace in support of our founding principles—the merit shop philosophy and system of free enterprise. As our AFSA Bylaws state: 

  • Employees and employers should have the right to determine wages and working conditions, as they choose within the boundaries of the law. 
  • Employees should have the right to belong or refrain from belonging to any labor organization. 
  • Mandatory membership in any labor organization should NOT be required. 
  • Employers must have concern for the general welfare of the employee, and there must be fair compensation for work performed. 
  • Laws should protect the right of employees to work regardless of race, religion, gender, national origin, or membership or non-membership in a labor organization. 
  • Violence, coercion, intimidation, and the denial of the rights of the employee and employer should NOT be tolerated. 
  • The economy is incumbent upon all branches of government and government should award contracts to the lower responsible bidder; any unjust pressure to violate these principles should be opposed. 
  • Monopolies of any kind or price and wage fixing are detrimental to our system of free enterprise, which is essential to the welfare of AFSA, the fire sprinkler industry, and our country. 
  • Support for the policy of competition served by antitrust laws and our uncompromising intent to comply strictly in all respects with those laws. 
  • The destiny of all Americans can best be served by cooperation, reconciliation, and following the tenets of free enterprise and democratic government. 
  • All AFSA activities shall be conducted for the benefit of ALL members in the industry as a whole and not for the benefit of any particular member. 

Recently, I saw a t-shirt that read: “Volunesia: That moment when you forget you’re volunteering to help change lives because it is changing yours.” When I see the many uncompensated hours that our AFSA Officers, Directors, committee and council members give of their time and talent, at all hours day and night for the betterment of the individual and our society through their support of AFSA and its founding principles, I am in awe of their dedication to serve and lead. Many of these leaders have been volunteering for years in one way or another to advance our freedom to allow merit-based shops to perform the work that literally saves lives and protects property through a competitive market environment, driving down costs and improving quality. 

These are the type of leaders, who often go about their work quietly (but sometimes not when it’s necessary to drive a point home!), volunteering to change lives—and in the process of doing so, are finding personal fulfillment and professional growth through supporting a collective cause greater than their own. 

Future Leaders At AFSA38: Convention, Exhibition, and Apprentice Competition, October 1-4, at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in beautiful San Diego, please join in recognizing outgoing Chair Wayne Weisz, who has led this Association for two years. Adding up all the hours that this dedicated servant leader has given during the timeframe that I have been at AFSA since January, it literally adds up to days on end that Chair Weisz has volunteered including having “volunesia” when I ask him to turn in direct expenses for his work on our behalf! Selflessness, for our cause, in action. 

Equally important for any Association is the need for growing new leaders amongst our ranks. AFSA’s NextGen Initiative launched a new mentorship program in May, designed to connect past or current members with up-and-coming younger members who have a passion to develop their leadership potential. For more information about NextGen or AFSA’s new mentorship program, contact AFSA Director of Communications & Social Media Nicole Duvall at Who knows… you may even get “volunesia” in the process! 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Debra McGuire,  MBA, IOM, CAE, is President and CEO of the American Fire Sprinkler Association.

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