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Home > Topics > EMS Management
January 07, 2014
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Elements of Leadership
by Chris Cebollero

5 tips to keep your ego in check

Balance confidence and arrogance or your leadership will sink

By Chris Cebollero

I’m sure it comes to you as no surprise, but EMS is a very egotistical business. It’s that ego that keeps us from asking the question “Why?” — we don’t want to look as if we don’t know what we are talking about in front of our peers.

We all know those EMS leaders who take themselves too seriously and lead with their ego. Those are the folks that, when they look behind them, soon find they have no followers. In this article, let’s take a look at the ego and how we can keep that pesky little guy in check.

Ego, defined

The term “ego” comes from the work of Sigmund Freud, considered the founding father of psychoanalysis. In 1923, Freud structured the human psyche into three parts: the id, the ego and the super ego.

Briefly, the id includes basic drives and passions. The super ego is the conscience, punishing us with guilt when we do something “wrong.” Ego is in the middle, managing the desires of the id, while protecting itself from the super ego’s sense of perfection.

Ego’s role is to protect the image you have of yourself. It will fight to protect that image whenever it seems threatened.

Ego as a defensive mechanism

Think about your days on the streets as providers. Whenever someone questioned or criticized your medical care, how did you react? We often became defensive.

In EMS, we want to have confident EMTs and paramedics. However, at times this confidence can push beyond a healthy amount and border on the egotistical. Leaders – including us – are not immune.

As you transition into a leadership role, the ego can become even more inflated, and the defense mechanisms even more exaggerated. As an EMS leader, allowing your emotions to dictate your actions secondary to an overinflated ego is a true recipe for destruction.

5 tips to manage your ego

It is crucial that you constantly work on balancing and adjusting your ego to the appropriate level. Here are some ways to keep it in check:

1. Make situations safer for everyone. In EMS, we have to ask the tough questions sometimes. Doing it in a non-threatening way develops a safe and trusting environment for you and your subordinates. If you can help yourself and others feel safe, you can join together and move forward toward positive goals.

2. Manage your own tendencies to overreact. When your leadership is criticized and you feel threatened, you may want to put the other person in their place. Step outside of this emotion for a moment. Ask yourself how you would want someone to address you in that situation. If you don’t want to be treated that way, then you can bet the other person doesn’t want to be, either.

3. Overcome the urge to be “right” every time. Ego definitely comes into play when we make ourselves “right” and others “wrong.” When you believe that you have all the answers or use a “my way or the highway” approach, you truly put your leadership creditability into question. Instead, use “win-win” thinking and behaviors to create a more cohesive team approach.

4. Get over your sense of entitlement. As a leader, remember where you came from. You work for your employees, not the other way around. Believe in the power of servant leadership, and that will keep you humble.

5. Stop complaining. In your leadership role, it might seem easy to complain or point fingers in the direction of your team. Complaining about others is a method used to assert the wrong in others and the rightness within you. Everyone makes mistakes! Instead of complaining, break down the barriers of blame and create an environment where lessons are learned with every mistake, and steps are taken to keep the mistake from happening again.

About the author

Chris Cebollero is a nationally recognized Emergency Medical Services leader, author, and advocate. With close to 30 years experience directing and coordinating hundreds of Emergency Medical Technicians, paramedics, dispatchers, and support staff. Currently Chris is the Chief of Christian Hospital EMS in North St Louis County.
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