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First In, Last Out: Leadership Lessons from the New York Fire Department Paperback – February 22, 2005


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First In, Last Out: Leadership Lessons from the New York Fire Department + The Last Men Out: Life on the Edge at Rescue 2 Firehouse + Report from Engine Co. 82
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio Trade; Reprint edition (February 22, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591840686
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591840688
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #279,670 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

After twenty five years in the most dangerous of all occupations, John Salka, Battalion Chief of The New York City Fire Department, offers tough and tender lessons in leadership. Salka masterfully leverages examples from fire fighting--"where lack of leadership can kill people"--to create values for leaders in every organization. He alternates vivid summaries of historic and terrifying fires (the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist factory, the 1993 World Trade Center explosion and ground zero) with metaphors from the firehouse to describe three commitments for decisive leadership. "Follow the smoke," is an imperative to uncover reality in yourself, your organization and your industry. Next, Salka counsels, "know their names before you send them into the flames," and encourages leaders to identify the contributions of each employee. The maxim, "Find your top whip" conveys ideas for developing future leaders and making a job into a classroom.

Other standout chapters focus on the nuances of building trust, clear decision-making and execution and tools for aligning individual and organization goals. Those expecting a macho approach to high-stakes leadership will be pleasantly surprised. Salka embraces intuition as "your subconscious trying to offer up a life time of experiences" and he explains how "managing emotional triggers" are ways of gaining competitive advantage. Salka's inspiring and passionate vision of leadership is a combination of reality testing, self-knowledge, and a shared mission when the heat is on. --Barbara Mackoff --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Salka, an FDNY battalion chief in the Bronx, has spent 25 years with the department, rising from firefighter to his current rank. He shares his insights on managing people, coping with crises, mentoring, decision making, adjusting to change and more. While Salka uses his experiences fighting fires, he clearly shows how his work has applications in almost any corporation: "[O]ur mission is to protect the people and property of New York City.... Since your customers define this value, your customers define your business. Organizations today need to ask themselves, Who is our customer? Only by figuring out exactly who their customer is and what they want can organizations fully grasp their mission." Salka discusses how he works with his firefighters and how managers can use his tactics. For example, he says, "[T]he most effective way to show your people that you trust them is to delegate to them. This is standard operating procedure in the FDNY. By letting them tackle problems on their own, you demonstrate your belief in them." The book covers key aspects to leadership—establishing trust, connecting with employees, decision making, engaging employees, dealing with crises and nurturing new leaders—in a logical fashion. The writing is solid though not inspiring. Readers who expected thrilling tales of firefighting will be disappointed because Salka's real-life anecdotes are toned down. Overall, this is a solid, but not unique, look at leadership.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

John Salka is an FDNY battalion chief with over 30 years on the job and he currently works in the Bronx. He has written numerous articles over the years for the FDNY magazine "WNYF" and has also contributed articles to Fire Engineering, Size-Up and Firehouse magazine, where he writes the monthly column "The Fire Scene".
Chief Salka's books, "First In, Last Out" (2004) and "The Engine Company" (2009) are based on his experiences working in the FDNY from his appointment in 1979 throught the next three decades. Chief Salka writes and lectures on fire service subjects and Leadership to public service organizations, private industry, military and fire service audiences. He can be reached at 914-755-6866 or firecomtraining@aol.com

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Kept my attention, easy to read.
P. Fuller
I just read this book by chance, checking it out from the local library.
Randy S.
This book is a must reading for fire chief's to the newest firefighter.
Bill Shouldis

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As a member of corporate America, I know first hand how many bad managers there are out there, and how easy it is to make poor decisions when managing people. This book is straightforward and easy to read, but more importantly, it outlines what I think, are some of the most fundamental ideas behind strong leadership. Some are common sense ideas that are easy to forget (and are helpful to read again from this angle) others are more surprising. But you will see most if not all of them in every good boss/leader you've ever worked for or observed. (and respected, for that matter.) Highly recommended to anyone who is looking for a truly useful book on managing and leading - the right way.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Dobelli HALL OF FAME on August 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The New York Fire Department (FDNY) seemed a company of heroes in the months after September 11, 2001. Later, when investigations revealed the enormity of the blunders and the degree to which petty political infighting had literally doomed firefighters to death, the FDNY lost a bit of its luster. But FDNY traditionally has a core of strong leaders, and John Salka is one of them. In this book, he shares his leadership philosophy. It's no slur to observe that this is a leadership book for firehouse buffs who are as interested in firefighter yarns as in leadership. The leadership principles outlined here are sound but not new; what is fresh is that the author illustrates those principles with fire fighting stories, clearly far more interesting than war stories from accounting - even if a bit remote from most people's everyday business reality. After all, few business people risk their lives in their daily work, and probably no business has the esprit de corps of a firehouse. We recommend this book to business people across the professions. The ride inside the fire truck will keep you engrossed in its solid leadership lessons.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Brian Wiggins on June 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Salka's advice is modeled on the leadership lessons of the New York City Fire Department. He takes many of the basic principles of effective leadership that are used to define the officers of FDNY and applies it to real life situations that can be used at any level of leadership by comparing these situations to those faced by the firefighters and their daily battles.

This book's real strength comes from Salka's approach: he writes to the front line supervisor/manager, the folks who are often on the first tier of management. While many books, as good as they are, assume that the reader is in a position to affect policy and choose their entire team, "First In" speaks to managers whose responsibility is the daily performance of the staff.

In addtion to great advice that can be put to practical use by leaders at any level, Salka regails the reader with colorful stories of the men and women of the FDNY. Overall, a great read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Every CEO and aspiring business professional should read this book. Business executives and those who lead corporate teams will gain tremendous insight into how to successfully lead and motivate others. The style of writing is excellent. While reading the book I felt very much like a really great, normal, down-to-earth guy was talking to me, sharing his experiences and providing practical examples that I could easily apply to situations that I encounter everyday in the business world. And who better to teach leadership than someone who successfully leads people into life and death situations on a regular basis? The stories here are true inspiration for any aspiring leader. This is an exceptional book full of practical advice for all business professionals. All of our business leaders today, from production floor managers, to human resource executives to small business owners to the heads of large corporations should read this book and follow its example. A must read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The Chief provides a pragmatic and useful guide to leadership in organizations of all sizes, missions and purposes. Whether your leadership interest is in business, military, government, education or non-profit organizations, the leadership lessons will find immediate application. And, if you are an aspiring leader, the Chief's viewpoint will accelerate the development of your own leadership style and help you (and your followers) avoid costly leadership mistakes. Worthy of several reads!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By george pickett on June 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
John Salka's book is an extension of his tremendous success as a fire officer. As his former Captain in FDNY on Manhattan's Lower East Side I spotted Salka as a bright, agressive, well liked Lieutenant that was always trying to make his organization better. John not only went through the ranks leading his troops honorably, he had the expertise to teach management techniques that were way ahead of his time in America's fire service. His book First in and Last Out is a tribute to this fine officers knowledge and a must read for fire service personnel or managers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Esposite Graphics on June 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
First In, Last Out was a book I couldn't put down almost from start to finish. I thought it was going to be about the courage and dedication of the NYC Fire Department - well, it was that and a whole lot more. I read the book several weeks ago and think often of passages that relate to day-to-day life, life in the business world, and how we can be better at all of it by following their ethic. It's a truly inspiring book - and full of real life adventure. The best of both worlds!
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