Pinnacle EMS Quick Take: Trust is the foundation for the glass house of EMS

Mid-level leaders in EMS agencies face many pitfalls and scrutiny as they manage up and manage down within the organization


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ORLANDO — Good mid-level EMS leaders inspire others, communicate effectively, make sound decisions, and take accountability to manage up and manage down. Bill Seifarth, MS, executive director of the National Registry of EMTs, presented techniques for middle managers to overcome the challenges of supervising up and supervising down for the EMS leaders and paramedic chiefs attending the Pinnacle EMS conference in Orlando.  

Seifarth, the second of three presenters in a power session on “Best Practices for Mid-Level Leaders” began his presentation by describing the glass house of EMS culture that often is more focused on critiquing or tearing down personnel than building up teams through trust and emotional intelligence.  

Bill Seifarth, MS, executive director of the National Registry of EMTs, presented techniques for middle managers to overcome the challenges of supervising up and supervising down for the EMS leaders and paramedic chiefs attending the Pinnacle EMS conference. (Photo/Pinnacle)
Bill Seifarth, MS, executive director of the National Registry of EMTs, presented techniques for middle managers to overcome the challenges of supervising up and supervising down for the EMS leaders and paramedic chiefs attending the Pinnacle EMS conference. (Photo/Pinnacle)

Memorable quotes on effective EMS leadership 

Trust and emotional intelligence were the top themes of Seifarth’s presentation. Here are four memorable quotes: 

“We must have emotional intelligence and trust to be successful as managers.” 

“‘How can I be a more effective leader for you?’ is a question leaders should regularly ask their reports.”  

“There is often a disconnect or misunderstanding between our EQ and IQ. Emotional intelligence and being smart are not related.”  

“Middle managers are the instrument for change in the EMS profession.”  

Top takeaways on the how to succeed as a mid-level EMS leader 

Here are three top takeaways from Seifarth’s presentation on the importance of emotional intelligence and trust for mid-level EMS leaders.  

1. Practice emotional intelligence  

Emotional intelligence is a combination of:  

  • Self-awareness 

  • Self-regulation 

  • Empathy 

  • Motivation 

  • Social skills 

Developing and applying emotional intelligence skills is essential for success as a mid-level EMS leader. Seifarth advised emotional intelligence skills can be strengthened through persistence, practice and feedback from colleagues and coaches.  

2. Ask for and receive trust  

“Leadership is an achievement of trust,” Peter Drucker said. To express trust to reports and superiors is an act of vulnerability for an EMS leader. Seifarth and the attendees discussed the importance of developing a culture of trust that involves:  

  • Listening to reports  

  • Celebrating team successes 

  • Learning about direct reports  

  • Creating multiple channels of communication  

  • Taking responsibility for actions  

  • Making sure as a leader, you are providing the support employees need to succeed  

3. EMS culture is at odds with leadership requirements 

EMS clinical care culture demands detachment from the patient, compartmentalization and separation of emotions from the situation. Seifarth described how this culture expectation is in direct conflict with the demands of trust and emotional intelligence to have feelings, make thoughtful decisions and express empathy. Managing up and managing down is dependent on your abilities to build trust and act with emotional intelligence.  

Learn more about trust, emotional intelligence and culture 

Seifarth recommended these books to attendees:  

  1. Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, by Daniel Goleman 

  2. Emotional Intelligence 2.0, by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves 

  3. The five dysfunctions of a team, by Patrick Lencioni 

To learn more about leadership, trust and emotional intelligence, read the articles in the Fitch & Associates Leadership Edge column on EMS1, as well as these leadership articles: 

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