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Top 10 traits of a strong EMS leader

Whether you are a current leader or are just ready to leave the truck, these characteristics will help propel your career forward

Updated June 11, 2014

When I was a paramedic working in the ambulance running call after call, I learned a lot of important lessons that helped me to grow. Some of these lessons were not always positive, especially when it came to leadership. I learned what it was like not having the equipment to do my job properly, having my ideas ignored by my leadership team, and having a disengaged relationship with leadership.

Now as a leader, my role is to remember my days in the truck, and never apply those negative lessons to the crews. As my opportunity to lead expanded, I was introduced to the concept of servant leadership, which helps to guide and develop the team’s success.

Servant leadership is one of the best ways to empower others to achieve greater levels of skill and ability, which eventually develops them into better and more productive future leaders.

Servant leadership is based on the following 10 characteristics:

  1. Listening: At some point in your EMS career there were leaders who just did not care to listen to your ideas, concerns or suggestions. As a leader this has to be one of the foremost skills you possess. But it’s not just about listening to what employees are saying; let’s start listening to what they are feeling, too.
  2. Empathy: The path from the field to a leadership position is filled with bumps and bruises. At some point, we made the decision to stop taking care of patients directly and turned toward taking care of our workforce. When they come to you with their patient care and system problems, concerns, and suggestions, remember what it was like when you were in their shoes. It will go a long way in developing the solutions and workarounds that will solve the issues.
  3. Healing: As a leader you will find broken sprits, emotional hurts and mistrust in both your workforce and organization. As you begin your transformation and integration of your Servant Leadership style, learning to heal is an important step, and a powerful force needed for your success.
  4. Awareness: Overall awareness, and particularly your own self-awareness, reinforces the servant-leader. It not only helps you understand issues that involve values, ethics, and doing what is right, but also with recognizing your own emotions and the emotions of those around you.
  5. Persuasion: Think about your EMS career. Have you been told what to do, rather than being asked? Were you empowered to give your experiences and ideas into this vision? The answer, much of the time, is probably “no.” As a leader, you may be much more successful if you persuade your staff to pursue the vision in a collaborative approach. Not only that, they’ll be more willing and excited!
  6. Conceptualization: This is an important function of servant leadership. We need to be able to think beyond our day-to-day operational responsibilities and focus on a problem or an organization in an overall picture. This is where having a vision for the future comes into play.
  7. Foresight: A servant leader needs to have learned lessons from their past, understand what is going on in the present, and know what the future holds. This is where your intuition as a leader is vital.
  8. Stewardship: Developing an organization your workforce is proud of is step one. We then need to consider how to ensure our organization inspires trust from and does good for our communities.
  9. Commitment to the growth of people: We need to develop our workforce into the leaders of tomorrow! It was a long hard road to becoming a leader, or teaching at the big EMS conferences, or developing the confidence to handle a pediatric arrest. We need to be deeply committed to understanding the goals of our workforce and help them attain those goals.
  10. Building Community: This really goes to the development of the organization. You always hear about a rift between dispatch and the field, or the tension between clinical and operational issues. We all work for the same organization with the same vision and strategic goals, and your job as leader is to get your people to buy into that.

When thinking about the challenges we have in providing EMS now or the developments that lie ahead, being prepared to lead your organization is critical. Whether you are a current leader or are just ready to leave the truck, are you prepared to serve in a way that meaningfully supports your staff? After all, you would appreciate a leader with these attributes. So would your staff!

Chris Cebollero is a nationally recognized Emergency Medical Services leader, best selling author, and advocate. Chris is a member of the Forbes Coaching Council and available for speaking, coaching and mentoring. Currently Chris is the president/CEO for Cebollero & Associates, a medical consulting firm, assisting organizations in meeting the challenges of tomorrow. Cebollero is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. Follow Chris on Twitter @ChiefofEMS and on FaceBook.

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