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Chief Insights: Creating a place where people want to be

Jason Dyess: “Leadership is mostly a matter of the heart”


Paris Texas EMS Assistant Chief Jason Dyess

The following content is part of EMS1’s EMS Leader Playbook – aimed at helping new EMS leaders increase their effectiveness, enhance their leadership KSAs, develop trust among crewmembers, and build confidence. Through a handful of questions presented by EMS1, veteran chiefs reflect on their early days in leadership roles and offer advice, while newer leaders detail their experiences taking on a new position.

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In this installment of Chief Insights, we feature Jason Dyess, EMS assistant chief, Paris Texas EMS.

The spark: What was the incident or person in your career that put you on the path to becoming a chief?

In 2008, I was fortunate enough to be able to respond with Texas Emergency Medical Task Force to the gulf coast of Texas for Hurricane Ike operations. At that point, I had been in EMS for about 4 years and was just getting the hang of things.

Being involved in this statewide response exposed me to many different EMS leaders at all levels from around the state. I was able to witness leadership in action firsthand. It was at that point that I began to think about leadership and the kind of positive effect good leaders can have on a team.

Look ahead: What’s something you want to accomplish in your first year as chief?

Improvement. We are trying to take every decision that is made and look at it in a few ways.

  1. Does it make us better and improve our service to our community?
  2. Is it sustainable?
  3. Does it align with our core values of service, integrity, compassion, accountability and excellence?

How will you create an organizational culture that people want to be a part of, to join and to stay?

For the foreseeable future, EMS is not going to be able to compete with various other healthcare professions when it comes to compensation, benefits or hours. As an industry, we have to work toward making this better, but in the meantime, we have to recruit and retain personnel with the assets currently available to us.

One of the greatest assets we have is the job itself. Another is how we treat each other. There is no other profession like EMS. It is bigger than you and bigger than me. When people have exhausted all options and don’t know what else to do – they call on us to care for their most prized possessions – their loved ones. Being that person is a great privilege. So, I think if we treat our providers with respect, explain to them how important they are to those we serve and show they are supported and appreciated by leadership, we create a place where people want to be.

How are you going to support and stand up for your personnel, internally and externally, to show that you care about them as a person and a professional?

First, I try to make sure that our field personnel know that none of it works without them. They are the ones who put in the work and make the difference. My job is to support them in that and make sure we are all pulling in the same direction. Second – you can’t fake this. Genuinely caring for your staff can be felt. While there are principles that I try to be intentional about, leadership is mostly a matter of the heart.

How do you demonstrate servant leadership?

I believe we are called to serve others. This means adopting a “service-before-self” attitude at every level of the organization. The field staff serve their patients, shift officers serve their shift, I serve the staff and together, we all serve our citizens.

Leadership lightning round

  • What is a leadership book, podcast or seminar you’ve found invaluable? I would have to say that attending Fitch and Associates Ambulance Service Manger course was extremely valuable. It combined leadership curriculum with practical everyday subjects pertinent to managing an EMS service.
  • If you knew the budget request would be approved, what’s a big purchase you’d make for your department today? I would catch up our ambulance replacement program. Chassis delays have stretched our replacement out farther than I would prefer.
  • How do you recharge/improve your resiliency? I like to spend time with my family camping, boating and attending my children’s sports/school functions.