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The Characteristics of a Thriving Middle Manager

Emergency Medical Services middle managers are the heart of any thriving EMS organization. When supervisors are poorly equipped as middle managers, however, organizations can struggle.

Sharing our wisdom and providing leadership training and education to our middle managers is essential to growing healthy, well equipped EMS leaders of the future.

There are specific important characteristics found in building our best, thriving middle managers. They are as follows:

1. Being Trustworthy

There is nothing that deteriorates trust faster than a supervisor who gossips and talks poorly of others when they’re not in the room. Employees want to know you are trustworthy and that what they share with you will stay with you. If you’ve convinced yourself that supervisor gossip doesn’t travel, you are sadly mistaken. Gossip travels at an incredible speed; especially when it comes from leaders. When we violate trust in relationships, the people we manage become distant and engagement suffers. Not everyone has integrity, but our leaders must have integrity and trustworthiness if we expect our organizations to thrive.

2. Practicing Accountability & Coaching

As much as we believe employees despise discipline, they also have little respect for a manager with no backbone or a company that allows for poor clinical care. Practicing accountability breeds a healthy culture, and when done well it creates a platform for mutual respect while providing the opportunity to learn and grow. Supervisors must hold their team members to a standard and be willing to coach and mentor staff.

3. Being Fair and Fact Checking

A manager who is aware of their own biases and strives for fairness is valuable to any organization. Operating from a place of non-judgement with a willingness to fact-find before making decisions that affect the team builds trust and provides a safe work environment.

4. Offering an Ear to Listen

One of the most rewarding aspects of being in a middle manager role is the opportunity to positively impact the daily lives of everyone you work with. A supervisor who listens, keeps confidentiality when possible, and who holds you accountable while not passing judgement is modeling a strong character and will influence a healthy culture.

5. Being Consistent and Keeping Your Word

No one respects a middle manager who fails to get things done. It’s important that employees know they can come to us for what’s needed. If you find yourself unable to deliver on those needs, following up and connecting them to the right person or place is valuable. Unanswered emails and a lack of follow through on deliverables will rob you of opportunities and give your team the impression you’re unreliable, or even worse, incompetent.

6. Providing Hope and Inspiration

Bringing hope and inspiration, especially during difficult times, builds team morale. A middle manager who loses hope and becomes uninspired can negatively impact organizational culture and fail to positively influence others. It doesn’t mean you won’t need to vent, or you won’t ever have negative feelings.. of course you will, because you’re human. Channel those feelings to a mentor outside of the organization.

7. Being Authentic & Real

As a middle manager, no matter who you are, you will not be liked by everyone. Often middle managers shy away from their authentic selves in an attempt to be liked or to be invisible. Inauthentic behavior breeds superficial, low-trust relationships. If you hide behind a façade, unfortunately your relationships with your team members will suffer. Own who you are, be authentic and bring your whole self to the table.

8. Practicing What You Preach

Doing the work and doing it well sets the example. If you came up through the ranks not washing your truck, cutting corners with patient care, failing to clean your station, and treating your co-workers with anything less than respect...well, you have a lot of work to do. Respect begins with setting the example. “Do as I say and not as I do” doesn’t fly in EMS.

9. Being Okay with Being in the Middle

“It’s normal for any person to want recognition, and leaders are the same. The fact that leaders in the middle of the pack are often hidden- and as a result they don’t get the credit or recognition they desire and often deserve-can be a real ego buster.” - John C Maxwell, The 360 Degree Leader.


Andrea S. Abbas is the author and owner of The EMS Professional and works as the EMS Programs Manager for the Michigan State Office of Rural Health. She also continues to serve as a paramedic in a rural community. Andrea has over 20 years of experience in various EMS roles including: EMS director, EMS quality assurance and compliance management, EMS educator, EMS consultant and project manager, field supervisor, field training officer, and paramedic. She has also spent a portion of her professional life teaching college level biology courses.

Andrea earned her master's degree in molecular biology through Eastern Michigan University. She has her Nationally Registered Paramedic certification, state Instructor Coordinator license, state Community Paramedic certification and sits on multiple state EMS committees and work groups. Andrea enjoys teaching, writing and public speaking and is driven to strengthen the EMS industry through collaborative and innovative approaches to challenges facing the EMS profession.

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