EMS Leadership: Part 12—Resonant Leadership in EMS

EMS Leadership: Part 12—Resonant Leadership in EMS

Janice moved quickly up the ranks of her EMS organization to become director of the county EMS organization, thanks to her demonstrated high-quality leadership. Even as an ambulance crew chief, she worked closely with her team to assure their success and to provide exceptional care for the patients she and her teammates encountered. Following are some examples of her outstanding leadership qualities.

Janice is consistently mindful of her own and her team’s personal capabilities and the feelings of patients and their family members, as well as the hospital staff they work with in the EMS environment. This mindfulness ensures that she and her team continue to provide the best patient care possible, meaning they must be constantly aware of their environment, consistently improve and keep up their medical skills, and understand that they and their patients are sometimes not having a great day. Mindfulness allows her and her teams to consistently operate in a stable and productive work environment.

Janice is hopeful that she can provide the leadership needed to sustain the EMS organization and inspires hope in her teams, the patients and their families that the best EMS care can be provided in difficult and challenging environments. The inspirational hope espoused by Janice allows her organization to have a progressive, successful and sustainable vision of the goals and objectives needed to provide the best patient care possible for their county.

Janice demonstrates empathy and compassion in everything she does. She is compassionate about her team's work and the community they support, and inspires compassion in her teams regarding their effective self-image and teaming environment. Through this inspiration, she and her teams consistently demonstrate empathy for their patients and the patient’s families. This provides a work environment that is balanced and effective in supporting their communities' emergency medical challenges. This compassionate environment builds trust not only in the ambulance teams, but also in the hospital and flight emergency teams they encounter to ensure the best possible medical care is being provided to all patients. Janice is definitely demonstrating what is known as resonant leadership.

Being a Resonant Leader

Resonant leadership is when men and women step up and chart paths through unfamiliar territory, inspiring people in their organizations to be successful and contribute to the success of the organization they are part of. There are three key elements of resonant leadership: mindfulness, hope and compassion. Mindfulness includes living in a state of full, conscious awareness of one's whole self, other individuals, and the context in which we live and work. Hope enables us to believe that the future we envision is attainable, and to move toward our visions and goals while inspiring others toward those goals as well. Compassion is where leaders understand people's wants and needs and are motivated to act on these feelings to support the individuals encountered and teams that make up the organization.

The resonant leader style was espoused by Richard Boyatzis, Annie McKee and Daniel Goleman, who wrote that great leaders are resonant leaders.1 They specify that great leaders are awake, aware and attuned to themselves, to others and to the world around them. They commit to their beliefs, stand strong in their values, and live full, passionate lives. Great leaders are emotionally intelligent, mindful and seek to live in full consciousness of self, others, nature and society. Great leaders face the uncertainty of today's world with hope by inspiring through clarity of vision, optimism and profound belief in their and other individuals' ability to turn dreams into reality. Great leaders face sacrifice, difficulties and challenges, as well as opportunities, with empathy and compassion for the people they lead and those they serve.

There are five stages, known as self-directed discoveries, that a person should experience to become a great leader.2 These stages include:

• Discovery of my ideal self--Who do I want to be?

• Discovery of real self--Who am I? What are my strengths and gaps?

• Discovery of my learning agenda--How can I build on my strengths while reducing my gaps?

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• Experimenting with and practicing new behaviors, thoughts and feelings to the point of mastery.

• Developing supportive, trusting relationships that make change possible.

As you progress through these discovery phases or stages, you become a more resonant leader, benefiting individuals you work with, as well as the patients, their family members and hospital staff you encounter in your work environment. Your objective is to become a leader who is mindful and provides inspirational hope and compassion in the individual and diverse work environments you support.

To determine if you are a resonant leader, ask yourself the following questions:

• Am I inspirational?

• Do I create an overall positive, emotional tone that is characterized by hope?

• Am I in touch with others? Do I know what is in others' hearts and minds? Do I experience and demonstrate compassion?

• Am I mindful--authentic and in tune with myself, others and the environments in which I participate?

Think seriously about becoming a resonant leader. These are easy leadership elements to remember and apply in our important EMS-related response environments.


1. Goleman D, Boyatzis R, McKee A. Resonant Leadership. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2005.

2. Goleman D, Boyatzis R, McKee A. Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2002.

Paul Breaux, PhD, LP, has a doctorate in leadership studies and conducts research in EMS, firefighting, law enforcement and military leadership environments. He is in his 11th year as a volunteer licensed paramedic (LP) for Bandera County Texas EMS and is an adjunct professor at Our Lady of the Lake University. His full-time leadership job is in applied electromagnetic research and development with Southwest Research Institute.


• EMS Leadership: Part 11—Transactional Leadership Factors in EMS

• EMS Leadership: Part 10Path-Goal Leadership Performance Considerations for EMS

• EMS Leadership: Part 9Situational Leadership Support for EMS Environments

• EMS Leadership Part 8Behavioral Leadership Considerations for EMS

• EMS Leadership Part 7Team Building

• EMS Leadership Part 6Conflict Management Alternatives for EMS Leaders and Staff

• EMS Leadership Part 5Idealized Influence Transformational Leadership in EMS

• EMS Leadership Part 4Individualized Consideration Transformational Leadership in EMS

• EMS Leadership Part 3Intellectual Stimulation Transformational Leadership in EMS

• EMS Leadership Part 2Inspirational Motivational Transformational Leadership in EMS

• EMS Leadership Part 1Master or Servant?

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