Administration and Leadership, Exclusives

How Do You Develop An Effective Leader? Q&A with Anthony Minge

Anthony Minge has been helping educate emergency services leaders for nearly two decades. A partner with Fitch & Associates, he runs the firm’s leadership development programs, including its Ambulance Service Manager (ASM), Communications Center Manager (CCM) certification courses as well as the Beyond the Street workshops. He also serves as program co-chair, along with his colleague Jay Fitch, for the Pinnacle EMS Leadership Forum.

Early in his career, Minge served as business manager of Children’s Medical Center of Dallas Transport, a busy pediatric specialty transport service, and later held a similar position with Northwest Medstar in Spokane, Washington, one of the largest air medical programs in the Pacific Northwest.

After more than 12 years with Fitch & Associates, Minge has helped emergency services and healthcare organizations across the country improve efficiency, compliance and strategic thinking. Along the way, he has seen the direct link between leadership and organizational health, learning from successes as well as failures.

In this interview, Minge shares insights into how to develop the next generation of leaders in public safety and healthcare, the importance of continuous learning and how the role of leaders in emergency services has changed. 

JEMS: How has the role of leaders in emergency services evolved?

Minge: I think there are more demands on leaders than ever before. I came into EMS and healthcare because there was a need for business management and finance skills; that’s a whole new element that managers 20- to 25-years-ago really didn’t have to focus on. Right or wrong, EMS is a business now, and whatever service model you work in you need to understand budgeting, revenue capture, billing and expense management. The fact of the matter is that’s a challenging skillset. And things are going to continue to change at an even more rapid pace.

JEMS: How can leaders prepare for a future that’s constantly changing?

Minge: First, constantly strive to learn and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I love to see students in our leadership development courses have their “A-ha moments” when they realize they’re not alone—everyone there wants to be an effective leader, but they don’t always know how and they’re afraid to ask. Too often we see it as a sign of weakness if you say you don’t understand or haven’t been trained on something. The best leaders may have confidence in themselves but they’re deeply inquisitive—they understand the need to be open to new information and new ways of doing things.

Two other critical skills are time management and delegation. Delegation is a skill that a lot of new managers don’t have—when you’re out on the frontline, you’re expected to do it all, you’re trained to handle the situation. If you carry that attitude into a leadership role, you’ll find yourself overwhelmed. Ultimately, you’ve got to let go of certain things, and just make sure you have the right people to get them done.

JEMS: What other aspects of leadership do you see people in emergency services struggle with the most?

Minge: Really, it’s not so much what people struggle with, it’s how we fail to prepare and nurture our leaders. New EMTs and paramedics usually go through a training process where an FTO or more senior clinician helps prepare them to take on the role on their own. But with leaders, we often throw them into their position without any training and expect them to succeed immediately.

Mentoring has been a problem in our profession. As leaders we’ve got a responsibility to pass on what we’ve learned. And new leaders shouldn’t be shy about asking someone senior to be a mentor. And I’ve learned it goes both ways. Every time I teach up-and-coming EMS and communications center managers, I learn as much from them as they learn from me.

JEMS: What experiences in your career most developed to your growth as a leader?

Minge: I think it’s been a lifelong journey for me. I watched people–my parents, bosses, colleagues–what they did, how they communicated, how they interacted with people, both good and bad. While some were smart and very well educated, they didn’t have the respect of the people they were supposed to lead. They were failing miserably at being a leader because no one wanted to follow them. You can’t demand respect from your team, you have to earn it. My parents and early teachers taught me the importance of listening to and learning from others. This advice has served me very well.

JEMS: Did you face any roadblocks trying to earn that respect as someone in a leadership role in EMS and healthcare without extensive clinical experience?

I think it goes back to starting with the building blocks of respect. Every single person in an organization, no matter what they do, has an important job. I might not be able to perform the task as a clinician, because I wasn’t trained to do that, but I can have an appreciation for what they do. I carried their bags when I went out and rode along with the crews, I spent time with the mechanics and talked to them about what they did. Learning those pieces was incredibly important to me so I had an appreciation for their role. I may not be able to do their job, but I appreciate how important it was.

JEMS: People who have attended ASM and CCM have called the experience “transformative.” What makes them special?

Minge: We have great faculty and the information is constantly updated to be relevant to a changing profession, but really, it’s the relationships the students develop with each other that makes the difference. It’s a very interactive environment, and they’re together for a week at a time twice during the course, learning, working on projects and taking time off together. They build relationships that last throughout their career.

JEMS: It seems that there are more books about leadership coming out than ever before. Are there any in particular that you recommend to people with leadership aspirations?

Minge: I love Patrick Lencioni’s work and Daniel Pink’s books. The Servant Leader is also a great book that I like to go back and reference. I think that’s something that we forget as leaders, that leadership from just the top down doesn’t work. As leaders we’re there to serve our people. And I’ll still always go back to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, which has some lessons for managing any organization that are still relevant more than two thousand years later. Which just reminds us that while new technologies, policies and challenges arise every day, the essentials of leadership remain the same.