Administration and Leadership, Columns

Seven Habits for Highly Effective EMS Leaders

Issue 12 and Volume 40.

The popular book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey, has sold over 20 million copies in 38 languages since it was first published in 1989.1

The book got me thinking: What are the seven habits of highly effective EMS leaders? I’ve been blessed to know, work with, associate with, and talk to many EMS leaders—like Jim Page— during my 38-year career, and I started thinking about the common traits I saw among them. What follows are my conclusions of the habits of highly effective EMS leaders.

  1. Passion. First, to be a highly effective EMS leader, you have to be passionate about EMS. They eat, sleep and breathe EMS. They’re constantly hungry for the latest EMS news, read the professional journals, and search the most popular EMS websites daily for the latest happenings in the profession, no matter how small. Their friends, whether in person or on social media, are mostly those involved in EMS. They also don’t consider their job “work”—they love what they do and they love being a part of it.
  2. Selflessness. The second habit I see among highly effective EMS leaders is that they put the EMTs and paramedics in their organization before themselves. They recognize the value of servant leadership and they believe in the inverted table of organization; their employees aren’t there to serve the manager at the top, but to serve the citizens in the community. The highly effective EMS leader knows it’s their responsibility to have their EMTs and paramedics prepared, trained and equipped for whatever patient they’ll encounter—so that they can always deliver a high level of care.
  3. Willingness to change. Highly effective EMS leaders also understand that the only constant is change, and if you’re not changing and staying current with technology, treatment modalities, leadership principles and trends, then you and your organization will be behind the curve. The only way to keep your EMS agency cutting-edge is to stay engaged and change the organization as needed to keep moving it forward.
  4. Network. The fourth habit of highly effective EMS leaders is that they get out of town. They travel. They go to conferences. They attend seminars. They visit other EMS systems. They constantly network with other EMS leaders and exchange ideas. They sit in the lectures—not in the hotel bar or by the swimming pool—where they can learn from other EMS experts and leaders.
  5. Push the envelope. The fifth habit is challenging the status quo. These EMS leaders take all the knowledge they’ve acquired from books, lectures, websites and networking to push the envelope—not only in their own organizations but in others. Many get involved in organizations at the national level and attempt to make positive changes nationwide. They’re forward-thinking and not afraid about trying to exert positive change.
  6. Make decisions. The sixth habit of highly effective EMS leaders is that they’re not afraid to make a decision. They don’t make an irrational or rash decision; they make well-informed decisions when the time is right. They pull the trigger and make a decision they won’t regret or have to defend at a later date.
  7. Balance. Highly effective EMS leaders also find a work/ life balance. They might live, sleep and breathe EMS, go to conferences and gravitate to people in the profession, but they also find time for family and the ones they love. They find time to cherish the good things they have in life and among all the death they’ve witnessed. They realize what a blessing life is and are thankful for what they have since it can be gone so rapidly.

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1. Pomerantz D. (July 16, 2012.) ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ author Stephen Covey’s work inspired $1.4 billion empire. Forbes. Retrieved Oct. 13, 2015, from