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Ten Commandments of EMS Leadership

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I’m an incurable pack rat who has always held onto historic EMS files, photos, equipment and documents. It’s a trait I possessed long before coming to work for JEMS. But it accelerated soon after I moved to California to work with Jim Page and getting involved with the making of his The History of EMS video.

It was shortly after the first World Trade Center bombing and it was a pet project of James O. Page, the founder of JEMS, who was often referred to as the “Father of Modern EMS.” Thank heavens Jim was also an admitted pack rat because, for this important project, he brought in dozens of cartons filled with historic photos and documents he had stored in his garage. He carted them into the office and poured through them to ensure the absolute accuracy of the script he was typing day and night. (I still have his original script; but you probably guessed that.)

During one early conversation about the history of EMS that we had while working on the project, Jim said something profound to me that I never forgot. He said, “You have to know where you’ve been before you know where you’re going.” That historic video was an epic work by Jim Page and lives on today.

Archiving History
Jim not only saved historic documents. He carefully cataloged and filed them. So when Jim passed away in 2004, his wife Jane allowed the James O. Page Charitable Foundation, formed to continue Jim’s work and vision, to place his significant work and files into an archive at UCLA.

There were countless files that contained handwritten notes by Jim about conferences he spoke at and issues in which he was involved. As a young company officer with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Jim and his engine crew were first in at the famous Playboy Club Fire on June 3, 1970.

Jim’s notes, follow-up report and diagrams of the damaged structure were so detailed that they could have been used as an instructional guide for other fire officers.

Before sending the original to the UCLA archives, I made a copy for Jim’s son, Andy, a fire captain in Poway, Calif., and myself. (But you probably already knew I had made one for myself.)

So it shouldn’t surprise you that when we moved our office 10 miles north of San Diego in December, most of the staff had three to five boxes of “stuff” that they packed for the movers, and I had 46. People were purging old files and hand-written drafts like they were feeding coal into the belly of an old steam locomotive, muttering those all-too-familiar words, “We have them on disk. Why save the hand-written notes?”

I did too, but could not part with many, particularly those written by Jim Page, because I have learned that, like the handwritten notes scribbled by President John F. Kennedy next to the first draft of his inaugural address, the scribbles are often more poignant and thought-provoking than the words that grace the final version of a document.

I don’t think you’ll be surprised to learn that there wasn’t enough room in my new office to store all the old files. So I took several boxes home and stored them in what little space I had left in my bulging garage.

In March, while sifting through some of these boxes of treasures, I came across a folder that had Jim Page’s familiar handwriting on it. It said, “The Ten Commandments of Leadership” on it.

Opening it, I saw not only Jim Page’s distinctive handwriting, but also a list of what he believed were the most important aspects of leadership.

His words of wisdom are amazingly concise, to-the-point and timeless. So I dusted them off and decided to share them with you to help guide you in the development of your career; and to vindicate me for being such an incurable pack rat. 

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