"Decisions are made by those people who show up!"
ƒ James O. Page
I have an array of books that I've read over the years and keep for occasional reference. Some of the best: Lincoln on Leadership, Reagan on Leadership, Robert E. Lee on Leadership, Patton on Leadership and Churchill on Leadership. Each book offers anecdotes and an analysis of the individual, their methods to motivate people and their approaches to leadership and management.
Jim Page's death was untimely, and the EMS community lost a great mind and EMS advocate. Millions of people, directly and indirectly, were touched by Jim in some fashion. While listening to the speakers at his memorial service, I began reflecting on all that Jim accomplished in his life and how he earned the distinction of being known as the "Father of Modern EMS." His accomplishments didn't happen purely by chance or luck. And, as with the books on my shelf, there are lessons we can learn from Jim Page's writings and guiding principles of leadership.
First, leadership begins with character. Jim Page had character. Second, Alan Brunacini, chief of the Phoenix Fire Department, said in his comments at the memorial service, "Jim Page was an elegant man." A person with elegance and strong character shows drive, energy, determination, self-discipline, willpower and the nerve to create a vision and make tough decisions. This translates to leadership.
Jim's leadership throughout the years involved a vision. Whenever he would start a program or project, he had a roadmap to get to his goal and an idea of what the final product would look like. He recognized that obstacles might develop and modifications might be needed, but he always had an idea of the end result. Naturally, there were disappointments, but he would learn from those failures to reach his objectives. He never lost sight of his goals and had the determination to make them happen.
He once told me about the trials and tribulations of some of the first EMS Today conferences. After the first EMS Today in Kansas City, he had barely broken even. With the leftover money, he decided to buy a new pair of shoes to replace the ones he was wearing despite the hole in them. Now, after more than 20 years of hard work and diligence by Jim, Keith Griffiths and the Jems staff, EMS Today is the most successful and respected conference and exposition in the EMS profession.
Another attribute of Jim's leadership is that he was modest when it came to his achievements. He never sought the spotlight or praise for his successes over the years. His attitude regarding his many accomplishments was not, "Look what I did," but more, "Look what we did," to credit his staff, coworkers and collaborators.
In 1995, the International Association of Fire Chiefs EMS Section created the Outstanding EMS Achievement Award, to be presented annually to an individual essential to creating and/or promoting non-clinical innovation and achievements in fire service EMS management and leadership with a positive national impact.
The first award went to Jim, and during that presentation it was announced that the award title was being changed to the James O. Page Leadership Award. Jim was truly humbled and honored that the award was named after him. Not only did he say it, but you could see it in his eyes and by the expression on his face.
Another characteristic of Jim's leadership style was that he treated each person he came into contact with as though they were the most important person in the world. While in conversation with you, he didn't look around the room to see who else was present and wasn't distracted by other events. You were the center of his attention, and he was focused solely on your words and thoughts. He was genuinely interested in you and what you had to say.
Dale Carnegie's book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, specifically addresses this characteristic. Carnegie explains that we often try to win others over by talking about ourselves to interest or impress them. Carnegie elaborates that in reality most people are primarily interested in themselves. He contends that you should instead focus your attention on others, and, as a result of your interest, they'll become interested in you.
Jim was always interested in the other person in his conversations ƒ not because of what he read in Dale Carnegie's books but because of his sincerity.
When you reflect on what Jim accomplished, how he did it, and how well he was respected, you see the incredible lessons we can learn from his stewardship. My limited space here forced me to present just a few important thoughts about his great EMS leadership. Yes, Chief Brunacini, Jim was elegant ƒ and he also had style.