March 27, 2018

S4|E10: Jeff Whitney – “None of us is as smart as all of us”

By Tom Davidson

Jeff Whitney is the Arizona State Forester and Director of the Department of Forestry and Fire Management. Jeff’s formal education includes a BS in botany from Northern Arizona University as well as a MS in environmental resources from Arizona State University. Prior to becoming State Forester, Jeff enjoyed a 36-year career with the federal government in both natural resources and emergency response. His last position before this one was as Executive Director for Fire Program Analysis (FPA) in Washington, D.C. with the U.S. Department of the Interior and the USDA Forest Service. Before that, he served in a number of capacities with the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Jeff began his career in 1972 as a seasonal firefighter, serving five seasons with hotshot crews and three seasons as a heavy engine captain. Following that, he continued to serve in incident response, primarily in operations and as an Incident Commander. Currently, he is a qualified National Area Commander. On the show, Jeff shares his extensive experience with us, how it has always been about the people, and leadership lessons he wished he had learned even sooner!

Key Takeaways:

[:55] A message from Leadership Nature.

[1:40] A quick intro about Jeff’s background.

[3:30] How did Jeff become interested in forestry?

[5:25] How did Jeff get started in firefighting?

[8:25] Jeff discusses some of the highlights of his career.

[10:20] Your people skills are as important as your scientific attitude.

[20:40] After 36 years with federal services, Jeff retired … but not for long. 18 months later, he was back at it again.

[24:35] The longer you spend time on a team, the more resilient you are to deal with the unexpected.

[27:15] What is Jeff the proudest of at the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management?

[34:15] Jeff discusses some of the leadership lessons he’s learned over the years.

[36:55] What leadership lessons does Jeff wish he’d learned sooner?

[39:40] A little bit of humbleness goes a long way in leadership.

[40:00] What is Jeff discovering about working with the next generation?

[42:55] Just starting out in your career? The first thing you gotta do is find your north star!

[50:50] If your heart’s right and you’re working with the right people on a tough problem, you’re going to come out with a decent outcome.

Mentioned in This Episode:
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
The Art of War, by Sun Tzu

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