Administration and Leadership, Columns, Operations

The Self Attributes of Effective EMS Managers

Issue 1 and Volume 41.

Happy 2016! Over the course of this new year, I’ll be using the National EMS Management Association’s Seven Pillars of EMS Officer Competencies as a framework for this column. This document, which can be downloaded at, outlines a competency model breaking down best practices to describe the seven key components of a successful EMS leader.

I’m skipping the first pillar, which is made of general job performance prerequisites, and jumping right into dissecting the second pillar: self attributes. This pillar includes competencies in the following categories: work habits, work attitudes, stress management, self-insight and learning.


A competent supervisor demonstrates time management skills and will be able to efficiently and effectively plan and structure the workday, prioritizing effort to ensure time is concentrated on the most important items and tasks. Multitasking is important in that activities are regularly interrupted by emergency responses, unplanned events and a constant stream of emails and telephone calls. There are many tools and methods to help manage your time and control your days.

Goal orientation is related to time management, and both require the supervisor to plan and prioritize. Setting attainable yet challenging goals is important to professional development, personal growth and achieving job success.

Organizational skills include the ability to organize work flow to ensure assignments are completed in a timely manner and roles and responsibilities are met efficiently and effectively.

A successful supervising officer demonstrates a work ethic through action by accomplishing tasks while treating people with respect, fairness and honesty. The work ethic includes a professional and caring attitude when working to meet the needs of both internal and external customers.


The work attitudes of a competent supervising officer include initiative, effort, persistence, energy and optimism. Initiative is beginning and completing a task without prompts. Effort is demonstrated by exertion and serving as a role model for staff. Continuing to work through problems, overcoming obstacles, defeating challenges, breaking down barriers and achieving goals demonstrates persistence and energy. Maintaining a positive attitude, even in the face of difficulties, shows optimism.


The work we do is demanding and there are many stressors. Add non-work stressors such as home life, school, kids, finances, health and family, and we have a high level of stress in our lives. We must learn to better control ourselves and how we respond to stress.

For example, after a long week I was stopped in major traffic while headed home when a woman in a car wanting to make a left turn chose that moment to yell at me, “You’re blocking my turn! You should know better!” You can imagine what I really wanted to say. However, I maintained control and took several deep breaths. Needless to say, I was stressed and aggravated the rest of the drive home. This sort of treatment is hard to tolerate, but we’re faced with stress constantly and we must have a level of stress tolerance and resiliency to survive and thrive.

Maintaining a balance between work and home life is also critical to keeping stress under control. And finally, keeping up with changes in healthcare science and practice and adapting our lifestyle accordingly is critical to being healthy and stress free.


The competencies included in the self-insight domain are: self-confidence, self-awareness, self-reliance, humility and suspended judgment. To achieve these, spend time reflecting on behavior and actions to perform an honest assessment. You can gain valuable insights by using a 360-degree assessment—asking your subordinates, your peers and superiors to evaluate your behaviors, actions and performance. Balancing each of the five competencies that make up self-insight requires work, concentration, honesty and ongoing situational awareness on several levels: the personal and interpersonal level, the incident or event level, the organizational level and multiple “community” levels.


The competencies in the learning category relate to scholarship and both formal and informal education. They’re not only important for the supervising officer, but also to the staff they supervise and the individuals the supervisor works for. People who demonstrate these competencies will strengthen and accelerate personal and professional development, will facilitate the growth and development of subordinates, and contribute to the overall improvement of the organization.


A successful supervising EMS officer should strive to demonstrate the self attributes competencies through their actions and behaviors. These competencies provide a guide for anyone who is, or aspires to be, a supervisor people respect and want to emulate.

In partnership with

National EMS Management Association EMS Today Conference

Learn more from Michael Touchstone at the EMS Today Conference & Expo, Feb. 25–27, in Baltimore, Md.

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