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Chief Insights: Aligning a team towards a common goal

Division Chief David Munoz on guiding members in the same direction with clarity and meaningful purpose

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Editor’s note: 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 or to nominate a chief to be featured.

In this installment of Chief Insights, we feature David Munoz, division chief, LifeLine EMS, Commerce, California.

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

I wish my origin story were as thrilling as rescuing a baby from a burning tree, but it’s actually the culmination of many influences throughout my career. A major source of inspiration has been my father’s remarkable work ethic. Owning an automotive fabrication business, he restored classic cars and poured his heart into his work. Observing his dedication, I learned early on the importance of committing fully to what you believe in – a principle he instilled not just in me, but in all my siblings.

Additionally, my professional growth has been significantly shaped by my Vice President of Operations, Dillon Brock; and Chief Operating Officer, Danielle Thomas. Their exemplary leadership skills have profoundly influenced me. From them, I’ve learned invaluable lessons on transforming organizational culture to be more inclusive and transparent. Most importantly, they taught me the critical importance of aligning a team towards a common goal, ensuring everyone is motivated to move in the same direction. These experiences have been fundamental in shaping the leader I am today.

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

My primary goal currently is to enhance our effectiveness in tracking and evaluating progress both within our operations and across the organization as a whole. I am driven by the ability to monitor and document our achievements, which are crucial for steering the organization towards greater efficiency, effectiveness and success. This focus not only ensures improved patient satisfaction and boosts employee morale, but also helps in cultivating a team that sets a benchmark in leadership and inspires others.

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

Similar to the organizational culture I am currently a part of, the values of inclusivity and transparency are essential to everyone involved. I believe a pivotal aspect is the emphasis on continuous learning and self-improvement, which are deeply engrained in all members of the organization.

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?

While I strongly advocate for supporting my team, I also believe it’s crucial for each member to independently assert their voice. Their contributions are valuable, and hearing them is integral to our collective success. My role as a leader is to provide support and guidance, yet I also emphasize the importance of personal growth through firsthand experience. This approach not only deepens their understanding, but also enhances their problem-solving skills. Throughout my leadership journey, I’ve encountered numerous challenges that, although uncomfortable, have enriched my experience and significantly shaped my development both personally and professionally. These experiences have been instrumental in helping me evolve into a more effective leader.

How do you demonstrate servant leadership?

I make it a priority to actively listen to my team’s contributions, because effective leadership really pivots on ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard as servant leadership. I would consider myself deeply committed to understanding collective goals and guiding them across the finish line with as much clarity as possible and meaningful purpose. I was taught a “phased approach” to project management and breaking down tasks into manageable segments, which helps facilitate a better understanding of what the goal is and how we can get there. I also demonstrate empathy, not only as a core aspect of my type of leadership but also as a valuable trait that, I like to think, inspires others and motivates them to align with shared goals and objectives.

Leadership lightning round

  • What is a leadership book, podcast or seminar you’ve found invaluable? “Leadership and self-deception – Getting out of the box” by The Arbinger Institute.
  • If you knew the budget request would be approved, what’s a big purchase you’d make for your department today? I would commit to investing in both the personal and professional development of my team through targeted education and training programs.
  • How do you recharge/improve your resiliency? I usually have a disconnect from work and spend legit quality time with my wife and two daughters. This could be as simple as a quick trip to somewhere local or going somewhere new.