Flow-based Leadership: What the Best Firefighters can Teach You about Leadership and Making Hard Decisions

By Judith L. Glick-Smith Ph.D
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About this book

There comes a day when we have to make a tough decision under stress. That decision might change the course of our life. Flow-Based Leadership helps you improve your decision-making skills through the use of some great real-life stories of firefighters.

The book first introduces the feeling called ‘flow’—teaching by example its importance in decision-making. Next, you’ll explore various techniques to initiate flow in critical situations and how to respond when flow doesn’t occur as expected. You will learn how to implement flow-based decision making and flow based-leadership within personal and professional circumstances. You will next encounter an extreme, experiential training program called Georgia Smoke Diver (GSD), and how it helps special military forces like Navy Seals and Army Rangers to maintain a calm focus in chaotic situations. Towards the end, the book uses the GSD program to describe the flow-based organizational framework and how it can be integrated into your life and workplace to achieve better decision-making skills.

By the end of this book, you’ll be able to use flow-based leadership in your personal and professional life maintain clarity and confidence under duress.

Publication date:
July 2016



I will begin with my initial thanks to my brother-in-law, Retired Battalion Chief Steven Strawderman, who shared his decision making story with me, and then proceeded to introduce me to his amazing friends in the fire service.

Steve’s friends led me to other members of the fire service, who became participants in my doctoral study, all of whom I thank for their participation and their willingness to allow me to retell their stories in this book.

It was this snowball effect that led me to Battalion Chief David Rhodes, who graciously opened the door to the Georgia Smoke Diver (GSD) program to me. Chief Rhodes has been an amazing collaborator in my efforts to complete this book. I will be forever grateful for the many, many discussions we have had over the years and for his willingness to share his knowledge. The men and women of GSD have been my world for the last five years. I have been honored to have the opportunity to hang out, observe, participate in various deep (and not-so-deep) discussions, and listen to their stories.

These connections have led me to observe other training programs, including Fire Fighter Weekend (at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center), AXIOMS of Leadership, and Georgia F.L.A.M.E.S. In fact, thanks to the encouragement of Fire Chief Michael Baxter, I actually completed the life-changing AXIOMS class.

I’m grateful for long conversations with people like David Wall (Division Director, Georgia Fire Academy), who is in the throes of writing his own dissertation on decision making, Retired Fire Chief Phil Chovan (GSD #84), and Chief of the Fire Asylum Marty Mayes.

There are also all my friends within the profession of technical communication and the world of business, like Thomas Koulopoulos and Michael Rochelle, who have offered their words of encouragement. Then, there was De Murr, who cooked for me while I wrote, when we were working a project together in Philadelphia a few years ago. I would be highly remiss leaving out my Starbucks cohorts, Eddie Sayer, Brad Banyas, Mike Dunn, Gianni and Ann Louise Bonnani, and all the baristas at the Brookwood and GA-141 store, who have kindly spent countless hours listening to me process all this information verbally. In fact, it was Eddie who led me to Steve Hoberman, the best editor and publisher a new author could ever ask for.

An endeavor, such as this, really does involve many people. The connections have occurred almost magically and at exactly the right moments in time. Thanks to all who have cheered me on over the years.

Judith L. Glick-Smith, Ph.D.

About the Author
  • Judith L. Glick-Smith Ph.D

    Dr. Judith L. Glick-Smith is a consultant with over 30 years of experience helping organizations resolve issues resulting from volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA), which require creative communication, leadership, knowledge transfer, and training solutions. She is also a co-contributor and co-editor for two books in collaboration with Global Leadership Initiatives.

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Flow-based Leadership: What the Best Firefighters can Teach You about Leadership and Making Hard Decisions
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