Administration and Leadership, Columns

How EMS Managers Demonstrate Effective Leadership of Others

Issue 3 and Volume 41.

The frontline supervisor is often the first position to which organizations delegate formal authority—authority that includes a responsibility to lead. The third pillar of the National EMS Management Association’s Seven Pillars of EMS Officer Competencies is “leading others.” It includes skills in communications, interpersonal awareness, motivating others, developing others and influencing.


Communications: Communicating isn’t telling, it’s a dynamic activity with several foundational components. In order to achieve authentic dialog there must be a sender, medium and receiver, and information must move back and forth between participants. We must be competent in both written and verbal communication and do our best to embrace the digital world where there are media beyond voice and paper such as PowerPoint presentations, podcasts, webinars, social media and others.

Using the various available tools and media, a supervising EMS officer (SEMSO) should be competent in communicating within and outside of the organization, and be able to demonstrate active listening, facilitate discussion and speak in front of groups. A SEMSO needs to know the who, what, when, where and how of sending messages within the organization. This includes being aware of chain of command, who needs to know the information, and whether a phone call, email or memo (or all three) is warranted. Your boss won’t be happy when his boss asks him a question about something he doesn’t know about because you left him “out of the loop.”

Active listening isn’t easy; it takes effort and concentration. One of the most difficult skills to master is silencing the inner voice—the voice inside your head that’s formulating a response, beginning the argument or asking questions. If you’re listening to your inner voice, you aren’t listening to whoever is speaking.

Interpersonal awareness: This competency set includes awareness of the impact of psychological traits and behaviors on interactions, maintaining an environment that’s supportive of appropriate and lawful social interactions, being perceptive of others’ motivations, promoting effective communication and nurturing a positive and effective work environment.

Motivating others: An effective SEMSO motivates others through a willingness to take charge and serve as a leader, ensuring staff members are committed to achieving organizational goals and objectives. Collaboratively identifying and facilitating achievement of new individual and organizational goals and objectives, reinforcing success, providing correction and coaching when goals and objectives are not met, and building teams are also important SEMSO motivational competencies.

Developing others: As leaders we have to prepare those who follow to take on new roles and responsibilities. SEMSOs have a responsibility to facilitate professional development and must be able to educate, train, assess, evaluate and coach. Not everyone will choose to pursue promotion, but everyone has room to improve and grow. Effective SEMSOs are guides, teachers, mentors and role models. They must demonstrate basic knowledge of adult learning theory and instructional design, perform evaluations and collaboratively develop improvement plans. In essence, SEMSOs create their replacements.

Influencing: Leaders influence people, through cooperation, persuasion, negotiation and resolution of conflict, and by empowering, inspiring and demonstrating political savvy. Effective SEMSOs cooperate with others inside and outside of the organization in order to achieve goals and objectives.

They acknowledge, recognize and integrate different points of view and opinions to persuade staff, colleagues and peers of the importance of a particular position, policy, goal or objective. It may require negotiation skills and resolving conflicts to achieve the final outcome.

A SEMSO empowers people by maintaining a supportive environment to foster ideas that align with the agency’s values. SEMSOs can and should provide inspiration by demonstrating knowledge of and commitment to the organization’s vision, mission and values and by providing an environment that’s open, transparent and supportive.

We all work in political environments and are influenced by politics on many levels. Internal and external political considerations have impact; politics affect choices, decisions, and course of action. Successful leaders are perceptive, shrewd, and comprehend internal and external political influence.


Below are examples demonstrating the competencies of leading others:

  • Developing presentations, writing memos and using appropriate media to convey accurate information, optimize information transfer and influence behavioral change.
  • Acquiring information that provides insight into issues that affect the personal lives of staff and maximizes performance by assisting in resolving or remedying those issues.
  • Setting an example and being a role model by adherence to the organization’s mission and commitment to the values and vision.
  • Determining the appropriate level of delegated authority so individuals can successfully complete projects or initiate programs.
  • Determining the appropriate level of delegated authority so individuals can successfully complete projects or initiate programs.
  • Soliciting ideas and contributions from staff that will improve the organization and crediting the individual when ideas or contributions are implemented.
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