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Transforming EMS leadership: Beyond buzzwords to real change

Exploring the gap between rhetoric and reality in EMS management and the journey towards effective, servant leadership.

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In this episode of the Inside EMS podcast, the discussion centered on the practical application of leadership in EMS. The conversation highlighted the gap between commonly used leadership buzzwords and their real-world implementation.

Key points

  • Employee engagement and empowerment. The need for genuine engagement and empowerment in the workplace was stressed. Kelly Grayson shares an example of providing discounted meals for employees during hectic schedules as a concrete example of servant leadership.
  • Leadership by buzzwords. Our cohosts raise concerns about leaders in EMS who rely on buzzwords without understanding their practical implications. They suggest many EMS leaders are caught up in an “ego vortex,” focusing more on authority and titles rather than service and care.
  • Personal leadership journey. Chris Cebollero shares his personal journey from being a “horrible leader” to understanding the essence of effective leadership. He emphasizes the importance of emotional control and viewing challenges as solutions.
  • Systemic issue in EMS leadership. The discussion highlights a systemic problem in EMS leadership, pointing out the lack of formal training and understanding of the art and science of leadership. Our cohosts stress that success in leadership should be measured by the engagement, satisfaction and productivity of the workforce.
  • The Peter Principle. The conversation touches on the Peter Principle, where individuals are promoted to their level of incompetence. They note often, leaders are not equipped with the necessary tools and training for their roles.
  • Difference between managers and leaders. A distinction is made between managers and leaders. Managers are described as those who enforce policies and procedures, whereas leaders are seen as doing the right thing and then justifying it officially.

Learn more: Visit the EMS Leader Playbook

Memorable quotes

“The true measurement of leadership success is how engaged, satisfied and productive the workforce is. Nothing else matters.” — Chris Cebollero

“Leadership is both an art and a science. You’ve got to know and understand the science before you can paint the portrait of organizational success.” — Chris Cebollero

This episode underscores the need for a paradigm shift in EMS leadership, moving away from traditional authoritative styles to a more engaged, empathetic and service-oriented approach.

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EMS1 is using generative AI to create some content that is edited and fact-checked by our editors.

The Inside EMS podcast is a regular expert discussion of hot topics, clinical issues, operational and leadership lessons for EMTs, paramedics and chiefs