FDIC 2015 Instructor Profile: Larry Conley

Captain Larry Conley (St. Louis (MO) Fire Department)

Captain Larry Conley (St. Louis (MO) Fire Department) presented the classroom Thursday afternoon, ‘From Zero to Hero: Leadership Habits Outside of the Emergency.’ Here are some of his thoughts.

The Fire Service
I originally joined the fire service because at the time I felt it was a good secure job. I’ve always had a love for helping people and, even though I never imagined living that out through the fire service industry, I’m glad our paths crossed. High points have been the second family that has developed over 23 years and evolving as a teacher and trainer. Low points can be the time working on holidays and the family functions missed because I have to work. Overall, it all evens out.

My love for instructing started in 1997 when I volunteered to help teach a fire recruit class at the St. Louis City Fire Academy. I was hooked and as needed I have taught recruit classes. A few hundred firefighters have been through “Uncle Larry’s Playhouse.” During recruit training, I may be the most hated instructor, but when they complete the academy, the recruits are grateful. Often, a graduate “the Playhouse” express how something we taught them now makes sense, though they didn’t understand at the time. We made a difference, and the firefighter is better for himself and our department.

High Points, Low Points
Seeing when the student ‘gets it’ gives a mutual rush. The low point is when, as a lead state evaluator, I have to fail someone because the recruit didn’t meet the standard. It’s hard to fail someone, but I sleep at night because I know I didn’t compromise the standard.

While teaching, I realized that although my students were learning and mastering the practical skills, they sometimes had gaps in who they were as people, which affected their ability to be assets to the team. If left unchecked, it could lead to debt, substance abuse, broken relationships and bad judgment. GLUE (Growing Leaders Using Empowerment) was created to address the firefighter’s personal leadership. The bricks in your personal house are practical things we master in this profession. The seven principles of GLUE are the mortar that keeps your house standing. They help the firefighter maintain a rewarding career and a rewarding life. A rewarding career and an eroded life (mortar leaving the bricks) will eventually bring your personal house down. We address everything from personal vision, effective communication, and health to name a few points. Our leadership concept is effective for all levels in the fire service from the rookie to the fire chief.

The FDIC Experience
This will be my fourth year presenting at FDIC. My first year, I didn’t appreciate what I was involved in until the end of the week. FDIC has a rigorous process for selecting presentations, so I’m humbled and honored to be back year after year. The networking is like no other conference April is becoming the family reunion I look forward to every year in Indianapolis. Even though I come to teach, I always learn a lot and take the information back to my department for our benefit.