AIB Guest Lecturer: Greg Crossman
As the practical business school, AIB invites industry leaders to speak to on-campus students at its local Adelaide campus. Students of the Leadership subject had the opportunity to learn from the experience of Assistant Chief Fire Officer Greg Crossman from the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service (SAMFS).
SAMFS Assistant Chief Fire Officer Greg Crossman spoke to a selection of AIB’s on-campus students in a recent weekend workshop, presenting as a guest lecturer on the topic of Leadership.
An AIB MBA graduate himself, Mr Crossman provided an enlightening view of how the practice of leadership can be applied to the fire service from both an operational and business context.
“On the field and emergency situations our leadership style is autocratic – you will do exactly what you are told to do, when you are told, immediately and with no questions asked,” he said.
“There has to be one person and one plan – if you have three people saying, ‘We will enter through that side of the building,’ you may be compromising safety.”
Off the field, when the emergency situation is over, the leadership style changes dramatically, leading many to ask ‘How do we lead people in a non-operational setting?’
“When I first joined the Fire Service in 1978, if an officer walked into the room you would stand, literally in acknowledgement of the rank,” Mr Crossman said.
“Now I walk into a room and someone is going to say ‘G’day, Crossie, how are you?’ This is really challenging – how do people still perceive us as leaders if they do not stand and salute us?”
In an organisation with strong military traditions, coming up against generational change has resulted in many of the leadership team to examine what makes them leaders – with interesting results.
“We asked, ‘What are the personality traits that I would respect in leaders?’ and found as a company we shared some core values – integrity, honesty, hard work, and endeavour,” Mr Crossman said.
“But when we asked, ‘Which one drives you?’ we realised we had different priorities.”
The experiment was a fantastic learning opportunity for the company, as it also gave each officer the opportunity to learn from each other’s leadership style, including that of the Chief.
“The Chief Officer is the sort of person who is a charismatic leader, very much a people person, and comfortable sharing his own flaws and weaknesses,” Mr Crossman said.
“When I put the uniform on, I feel like Superman – I don’t want anyone to know there are things I can do better,” he said.
“It was hard for me to come to terms with sharing my weaknesses, but when I did, it felt very powerful, and now I have an even greater understanding about what leadership means.”
AIB’s students also came away from the lecture with a better understanding of what leadership means in both theory and practice, and we thank Greg Crossman for sharing his experience in what was an enlightening and entertaining presentation.