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Chief Insights: Foster a culture of respect with consistency in leadership

Division Chief of EMS, Shaun Ford, shares how to be the leader you always wanted to work with

Shaun Ford.jpg

Chief Shaun Ford’s goal in year 1 was to “listen most, speak little and learn all the details about my new employer I could.”

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. Email to offer your insights for the EMS Leader Playbook.

In this installment of Chief Insights, we feature Shaun Ford, division chief of EMS for the Camas-Washougal Fire Department in Washington.

The spark: What put you on the path to becoming a chief?

Fire/EMS was the career field I was always interested in from the time I was a young child. As I graduated high school and it was time to determine my next steps, I had the opportunity to shadow a local battalion chief and deputy chief for a day and that was it; I knew the fire department was my calling. At the time, secondary education wasn’t common in the fire service. However, my family were big proponents of higher education and strongly suggested I obtain some level of college education. I ended up obtaining by B.S. in Fire Service Administration and my internships during the degree program as the chief’s aid for a summer really got me interested in the administration side of the fire service. I was very drawn to the big picture of helping direct an agency and all the intricacies which go into that endeavor.

What’s something you wanted to accomplish in your first year as chief?

I have been in a chief level position now for 8 years. My first command position was a division chief and my goal in year 1 was to listen most, speak little and learn all the details about my new employer I could. I was hesitant to make or suggest any substantive changes without knowing the history of the how and whys of the current department operations. I wanted to be the chief officer that I had always wanted to work with and not replicate any of the negative behaviors I had witnessed.

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

Administrative level employees should not be creating the culture of the organization; we should be promoting and enforcing the ideals of our mission statement, but leave it to the line staff to create the culture. Consistency in leadership fosters a culture of respect regardless of rank.