And How To Lead From The Back of The Bus, Helicopter, Station or Base…
“Do you want to talk to the doctor in charge or the nurse who knows what’s going on?” ~Unknown
There’s truth in this quote.
And it’s no disrespect to doctors.
Have you ever noticed how every EMS station, dispatch center, and air medical base has two sets of leaders?
A person with the title “boss,” and the guy or gal everybody goes to for advice?
If you’re lucky, there’s some overlap. If you’re really lucky, one person wears both hats.
Luck is Not a Plan
But what if you’re not lucky? What if your supervisor is a nice person, means well, and just can’t lead? I know it’s hard to imagine, but try, just in case you ever find yourself in this position.
What if the boss only thinks of himself and rarely does the best thing for the team? What then?
Reality is you worked hard for your position. Your family is counting on your next paycheck. And your own safety depends on how well you and your co-workers function as a team. It’s not as simple as just walking away.
It’s up to you to make your situation better.
Why Leadership Matters
Have you ever wondered why leadership matters in EMS and air medical?
It’s a fair question.
After all, EMS is not the armed forces. Your communications center will never be asked to defend America’s shorelines, right?
But make no mistake, leadership matters –everywhere. And leadership absolutely matters in EMS and air medical. Here’s why:
New crews learn through example. New crews copy what they see. New crews are the future of EMS and air medical.
Leadership sets the tone for success or failure of new and experienced crews. Leadership directly influences your personal safety, as well as the safety of your co-workers and patients.
To be blunt, the safety fairy isn’t coming.
There’s no magic pill to immunize yourself from accidents. The closest thing you have to safety “magic” is leadership.
That’s why leadership matters.
But how do you do it?
How To Lead
Can you lead if you’re not the boss?
Can you lead without a title or position authority?
Can you lead from the back of the bus? Or helicopter? Or emergency department?
The answer is yes.
If there’s a ‘secret’ to leadership, this is it.
Leadership starts with trust. No trust equals no leadership.
That’s the reason you see so many workplaces with both formal and informal leadership structures. When crews don’t trust the formal leadership, they keep looking until they find someone they do trust.
Here are four ways to establish yourself as a trusted authority and leader. Four ways to keep yourself and your crews as safe as possible.
1. Be consistent
Consistency matters. Consistency beats perfection.
Your coworkers can handle you making mistakes. What they can’t handle is you being inconsistent.
Here’s what I mean: it’s really important you explain the details of cases, calls and flights consistently.
It’s not okay to tell one version of your story to flight medics, another version to flight nurses, and yet another version to ground crews and the communication center. You absolutely, positively, must be consistent.
And be careful —before you default to “I already am consistent” –stop and really think about your explanation of past cases. Do you really tell the exact same story to your peers? Your supervisor? And other coworkers and observers?
Trusted professionals (and leaders) are consistent. You may think you’re consistent and not really be there. That’s okay. Awareness is about 90% of the battle. Now you know. Now you can do better.
You can literally start improving today.
2. Show, Don’t Tell
“Your actions speak so loudly I cannot hear what you say.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Leaders show, not tell.
Everybody has a “war story” in their past. A memorable case, call, or flight that highlights their experience and expertise perfectly. And stories are great in the right context, time, and place.
But don’t limit yourself to just stories. Be willing to roll up your sleeves and do the work.
Leadership is as much about doing the work as anything else. Many seasoned leaders forget this. They convince themselves they’re “managers,” not “worker bees.” Truth is, leaders do both –manage and work.
Gain trust by doing the work.
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway -If you want people to trust you, follow the rules. If the rules dictate a certain methodology or performance standard, you absolutely must meet this standard every time. No exceptions.
Remember that nobody respects the manager (or worker bee) who says one thing and does another. It’s glaringly obvious whenever this happens, and it’s devastating to the manager in terms of building and keeping trust.
Build trust by never asking other team members to do something you haven’t done (or wouldn’t do) yourself.
Pause the next time you have a choice between doing the work or delegating a task. Is this a chance to lead? When coworkers see you do, instead of delegate, it sends a powerful message. It builds trust.
3.) Make the Tough Calls
Leaders make tough calls. Leaders take ownership of their decisions, right or wrong.
It’s okay to be wrong. It’s not okay to take less than 100% ownership of your decisions.
Your coworkers respect honest mistakes followed by honest explanations. Nobody respects lack of responsibility or unwillingness to make difficult or unpopular decisions.
Sooner or later, you will make a tough call that goes badly. Take full responsibility immediately.
Don’t fall to pieces. Take responsibility and move on. Your coworkers will respect you for it.
Over time, nobody remembers the details of cases, calls, or flights. What people remember is how you treated them and how you made them feel. When you build trust through action, people feel good about time spent with you. They want to follow you.
4.) Stay Positive
Do you know someone who’s usually right, but always negative? Remember how you just thought of this person. Is this how you want others to think of you? Enough said.
Leaders stay positive.
Leaders expect the EMS plan to continually change. Leaders make adjustments, move forward, and stay positive no matter what.
Don’t be the guy or gal that brings the whole mood down. It’s okay to have a bad case, call, week, or even month. It’s not okay to bring everybody around you down. And it’s not okay to be terminally negative.
Your attitude influences others. Your attitude influences safety. It matters.
When To Start
How do you get started? Is there a best time to start building trust and using the leadership principles above?
Yes. Right now.
If you work EMS or air medical, you already know improvements can (and should) be made. Don’t waste time pointing fingers or placing blame.
Take control of your own future. Do your best for your coworkers — and for yourself.
Be consistent, show (not tell), make tough calls, and stay positive. Follow these simple but powerful principles and you’ll quickly see results.
You’ll also find yourself becoming the “go to” guy or gal who leads by example –regardless of your title or formal position within Flight Safety Network.
Ready to go pro? Check out Flight Safety Net INSIDER training program here.