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Leading with Purpose: Servant Leadership in EMS




The prehospital medical services landscape is constantly evolving, demanding innovative approaches to leadership. As we face recruitment and retention challenges it is more important than ever to turn our focus on how we create a positive work experience for our people. We can accomplish this by embracing servant leadership.  Servant leadership prioritizes the needs of others, putting the team and their well-being at the forefront. In EMS, where teamwork is crucial for patient care, this style of leadership can have a significant positive impact.

 

There are several key principles to servant leadership:

Communication.  Effective communication is the backbone of servant leadership. Leaders ensure clear, transparent communication across all levels, fostering collaboration and teamwork. In addition, actively listening to feedback and concerns from staff is essential for building trust and addressing issues.

Empathy and compassion. Servant leaders understand the challenges faced by their people, offering support and encouragement. They work to foster a culture of trust and psychological safety, allowing team members to speak up and share concerns openly.

Empowerment and delegation. Servant leaders trust their people’s expertise and empower them to make decisions. This fosters professional growth, motivation, and accountability.

Focus on development. Servant leaders invest in their team's development through training, mentorship, and opportunities for professional growth. This ensures a skilled and well-equipped workforce, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes and organizational success.

 

Taking a servant leadership approach is beneficial to our people, to our organization and to us as leaders.  Putting people first results in improved staff satisfaction.  When people feel valued they naturally become more committed to their team and to their organization.  Fostering a positive work environment in this way also reduces stress and promotes teamwork.  More satisfied and engaged team members are also more likely to focus more on providing high quality care in the field. 

 

Not sure where to start?  Here are a few things you can do to begin to hone your servant leadership skills:

Engage with your people regularly. Find opportunities to have conversations and take an interest in what interests them.  Open the door to questions and ensure there are formal and informal opportunities for your people to exchange information and ideas with you. Be sure that you are encouraging people to share ideas and participate in decision-making processes when appropriate. 

Encourage professional development.  In addition to mandatory training, suggest opportunities for self-growth, personally and professionally. Provide mentoring on how to prepare for the next career milestone.

Recognize excellent work and discretionary effort.  This doesn’t always need to be formal (although it should be some time).  Public acknowledgement is very impactful.  


Servant leadership offers a powerful approach to leading in most industries, including EMS. By putting people first, servant leaders cultivate a positive work environment that benefits both our teams and patients. Ultimately, this leadership style paves the way for a more resilient, dedicated, and successful organization.

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