How to project integrity as an EMS leader

Being true to your core values is always the better road to choose


There are many leadership attributes that ensure success. Some include being proactive, being a good communicator, being respectful, having an open-mind, being consistent and being good with follow up. Regardless of the attributes that define your leadership reputation, there is one trait that guarantees the success of all these other characteristics: integrity.

Defining integrity for EMS leaders

A common definition for integrity is “doing the right thing, even when no one is looking”. More formally, integrity is about being honest and having strong moral principles. Leaders are faced with tough decisions that challenge their integrity on a daily basis.

You must know the science of integrity before you can paint a picture of successful EMS leadership. (Photo/courtesy Pixabay)
You must know the science of integrity before you can paint a picture of successful EMS leadership. (Photo/courtesy Pixabay)

It’s always easy to cut corners, or take the “do as I say not, as I do" direction. This is a trap and will ultimately crush your leadership reputation, making you less effective as a leader. 

Building a strong leadership following will require your folks to believe in you, trust you, and know that you have their best interests at heart. How can we effectively hold our workforce accountable if we are not accountable ourselves? The short answer is we can’t.

6 ways to develop integrity

There is a Japanese proverb that says, “The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour.” Translation: it takes years to develop your leadership reputation.

In my leadership career, this was a tough lesson. I am not embarrassed to say that I chose and made poor decisions that affected my leadership credibility and hence my effectiveness as a leader.

Here are six ways to develop and maintain your integrity:

  1. Determine your core values. Develop an understanding in what you truly believe in, and the foundation in which you choose to lead your life. Take a few minutes to write down your core values, and read them regularly to reinforce your beliefs.
  2. Make the best choices. One of the things I share with my leadership team is to not be afraid of making tough decisions. With that in mind, never say anything you wouldn’t want repeated on the news, and don’t write anything you wouldn’t want to read in the newspaper.
  3. Promote integrity. As a leader and role model, you continually work on building your character and professional reputation. Assist your peers and co-workers in doing the same. Help them develop high self esteem, become self confident, and identify their core values which will assist in developing their leadership reputation.
  4. Be assertive. This will help you to defend your positions and gain alliances. Being assertive also means knowing when the battle is lost and it’s time to move on.
  5. Avoid white lies. Be honest and take responsibility for your own actions. Own up to your mistakes and do whatever it takes to make things right.
  6. Stay humble. Don’t take yourself too seriously. As we grow into leaders we tend to allow our egos to grow as well. Egotism has no place in a leader’s list of attributes. There is always someone else out there that can do a better job then you.

Leadership is both an art and a science. You have to know the science before you are able to paint a successful leadership picture. Being a leader that has strong beliefs, true conviction, who is honest and has good morale principals will ensure the success of your leadership picture. 

Consider your personal integrity a safety net that is always there to keep you on the right path. Once that safety net is gone, we not only risk hurting ourselves, but the folks who believe and trust in us.

This article was originally posted Aug. 15, 2013. It has been updated.

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