Good Ideas are Great, But……..


I’ve heard and been told for years many adages and antidotes as they pertain to leadership, personal and professional development and promoting. Having served in many capacities, both in the fire service and in other organizations and government entities, I have had the opportunity to observe or put these sayings in practice.

I was recently having a discussion with a colleague about promotions. The typical conversation carried on about who is qualified and what they would bring to that position and the traits they possessed or didn’t possess.

I was asked what one thing or trait that I would pick when looking at potential candidates. I was unable to give an adequate answer right then and there. However, with some time and reflection, I have settled on one that I believe embodies many other traits, but by itself is critical for members to move an organization forward and to really lead.

Talent, skill, leadership, and many other traits are great and needed. But, all of those are useless if the member can’t finish. That’s right, a person MUST be able to finish to accomplish and use the traits that they have. To effectively lead, to share and optimize skills and talent, they must be paired with the ability to finish!

I have seen highly talented and highly skilled members come up with great ideas and hit the ground running with new projects and tasks, only to lose interest or energy and not finish. This may take many forms. You’ll notice though that these are the members that love new things. They love the “idea” of something but can’t stick with it long enough to really play an integral role or to see it to completion.

These members like to be involved, but quickly are absent late in the game. These members are not finishers and they are detrimental in leadership roles in any organization. When you promote a member, that should be the beginning of many finishes. It should be the beginning of not only great ideas, but the ability to push through and finish things.

Finishers set themselves apart in that when the fanfare and great ideas hit rough patches, they are still there adapting and pushing on. Like a distance runner (I like trail running) we applaud the fact that he toes the line–and rightfully so. But at some point he is going to have to finish a race. To not finish a race or two is understandable. If you’ve ever experienced a long run that went bad, you understand that not finishing is contagious. Do it once, it’s easier to do again, and again and again. Finishers in the organization will do whatever it takes to get it done. To finish!

Look for finishers and non-finishers. They are usually pretty easy to spot. I’ll warn you though, the non-finishers can be very appealing at first. They will come in with some great ideas and motivations. Over time, however, they will prove who they really are.

When looking for potential candidates for promotion, many traits and variables are utilized. But, look very hard at if they finish or if they are just great idea people. You want the finisher leading your people, not just sexy ideas.


  • William Ketel says:

    The ability to come up with great ideas and plans is not the same as the ability to complete a project, and neither one is the same as the ability to be a good leader. And being a good leader is not the same as always being able to make the best choice. So what this means is that it takes more than one to do the great job. Teams combine abilities and talents and are able to do a lot more.
    The USMC phrase “Gung Ho!” is a shortening of an old Chinese phrase that meant “work together”. It applies in a lot of life situations. It takes more than one to make success. That is why there are fire service TEAMS.

  • Heather says:

    This is a great article, and I couldn’t agree more. In public service or any other sector – Hard work and follow through far outweighs creativity and enthusiasm..

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