Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Leadership Journey of Vijith Randeniya, Chief Fire Officer, West Midlands

Rising from the lowest ranks to the top rank within an organization took 26 years of relentless and passionate commitment to duty for Vijith Reandeniya now 49. After earning a degree in modern history, Vijith chose to opt for a path of a fire officer despite the resistance from his parents. Vijith says, his father believed he wasted a good degree as firefighting was not his idea of a professional career for his son. But Vijith joined with an aim in mind, to change the stereotype about opting for a career in fire services. Currently, Vijith is incharge of GBP 120m budget and 2600 staff handling one of the two biggest fire stations in England and Wales. Vijith’s parents migrated from Sri Lanka, not knowing that their son would later become the first Asian chief officer of any fire service in England and Wales.

This is no ordinary story of personal leadership where someone starts at the lowest of the ranks and move up the ladder to be the chief. Setting up higher standards and attention to details is what defines a lifestyle for Vijith. He has been highly motivated and driven by the life and personality of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and ranks him as one of his mentors (and highly recommends listening to the inaugural speech of JFK). When on path of leadership, studying and education never ends. Vijith during his career earned his graduate degree in Management and finally ended up getting an honorary doctorate degree as well.

From the perspective of leadership, Vijith believes that there is no such thing as a perfect leader. “As a human, we are all vulnerable. People pull us down. And at times emotion gets us. But you should have sense of ambition that keeps you rolling and climbing again”. His best moment in life was when he was awarded by the Queen and when his father proudly talks about his son being the Chief Fire Officer. His current ambitions include making his fire station the best anywhere in the world. In this pursuit he is trying to address the fundamental challenges of avoiding fires rather than fighting them. Prevention is better than cure. Nothing like it!

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