Is This The Best Book on Leadership Ever?

The Heat of the Moment by Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton

Do you know, I think I might have just discovered the best book on leadership that I’ve ever read.

Full disclosure, I am the wife of a firefighter (now retired) so have a particular interest and affection for, the fire service, particularly in women entering the service. My husband joined in 1986. Our son was just a few months old and our daughter 4yrs old at his graduation ceremony. I was there with both of the children. The chief officer came up to us and chucked my son under the chin, saying, “Well, son, when you grow up will you be a fireman like your daddy?” As he was only 3 months old I replied for him: “Probably not but our daughter might”. The look of shock on his face was priceless. However, he was much more shocked when later at the evening party I got him up to dance and asked quite loudly why there were no women in the brigade. He spluttered wildly and replied that there could be but they lacked the correct physical attributes. What do you mean, I countered, a penis?

It was, of course, exactly what he meant.

Dr Sabrina Hatton-Cohen was 3 years old at this point. She joined the fire service at 18 and went on to become a chief officer. She is currently Chief Fire Officer at the West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service. Her early days in the brigade were dogged by that same prejudice shown by my husband’s chief officer in 1986, fifteen years on. I cringed to read of how some of her fellow crew just ignored her, waiting for her to make a mistake, to prove to them that women weren’t up to it.

They didn’t realise what they were dealing with. Before she got to the fire service Sabrina has been homeless on the streets for two years. She was urinated upon, physically attacked, and subjected to anti semitic abuse, amongst other things. Somehow she still managed to get herself to school, selling the Big Issue and later to study for a degree in Psychology, leading on to a PhD. Managing a few misogynistic firefighters was probably child’s play. Happily her second posting was much better.

Extract from Sabrina’s book

However, her book is more than an account of her early years, although that is riveting. She chose to look at the Command and Control style of leadership in the fire service and to examine ways of improving decision making in life and death situations. She backed up her assertions with research. The book is a must read for all leaders, not just those working at horrific fire scenes. There is plenty of coverage of this, but also of her research. She set out to reduce risk and has been hugely influential in changing the follow the rulebook mentality. And she’s only 36!

The book is out in paperback in February and you can preorder at W.H.Smith’s or buy at your local bookstore. The hardback is still available, too. I am hoping to interview Sabrina soon so do look out for that

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Posted on January 9th, 2020 by

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