The Emergency Management Network
The Emergency Management Network Podcast
The Servant Leader Part 3
The Servant Leader Part 3
The Weekly Wrap Up

Thank you all that stopped by the EMN Booth last week at the IAEM Conference. It was great to talk to all of you and even tape a mini-interview for some. I look forward to next year In Long Beach, California. I know a few of you want to get promoted and take leadership roles in your organization. You will get some great insight with this talk today. Let’s get into it.

The Servant Leader Part 3

In this part of the series, we are discussing getting promoted within your department or you're hired into a leadership position from the outside. One thing that you have to remember is don't believe your press release. 

Don't Believe the Press Release

When my friend in the Navy got promoted to Pettey Officer 3rd Class (E4) from the ranks of the non-rates, he came to all of his friends and was concerned that it would be strange. It was a new status for him. You may feel the same way; you must be sensitive to your new role and responsibilities, also known as status. 


Status is tricky. It is not like a new suite; you cannot see it. However, people can, and their reactions can be intense. 

You have entered into what some people refer to as the status bubble. For some people, your status makes it more challenging to interact with you. For some, they feel that they cannot be open and honest with you. We have all seen military movies where the Marine asks his commanding officer, "Sir, permission to speak freely." That is the status bubble. 

Let's explore this exercise; now that you are in charge, what has changed? First, you have earned that promotion that you wanted. Second, you have more responsibility; last, your team now has expectations of you. 

The Leadership Island

If promoted from within the organization, your promotion removes you from your friends (like it or not, it is the truth) at some levels. Some of your work friends will now view communicating and connecting with you as challenging. Now that you are the leader and have "power" over them (perceived or actual) makes them hesitate, and they will censor themselves around you. In most cases, it is in fear of not meeting your expectations. 

Attack the Status Bubble

You need to attack the "status bubble." Take a pointer from my friend Rich, Don't allow your new situation to become the elephant in the room. Be open and discuss your concerns with the team. Trust me, and they will understand and appreciate what you are doing. Let them know that you are excited about your new job. Tell them they should not hesitate to speak up and give you feedback, positive or negative. 

Seeking Feedback 360° Reviews 

Occasionally solicit feedback about how you're doing. I like the idea of the 360° review; Your new role will require you to formally give team members feedback through the employee evaluation process and allow them to do the same. To reduce the status bubble, show that you want to know what they think about you, like the new boss. Listen carefully and offer a genuine thank you. 

Remind Them You are Human

Another great tactic is self-deprecating humor. Few things work as well as making fun of yourself. Think about the errors you've made at work—the unexpected, embarrassing moments in your life or something silly you once did. Find the right time every two or three months to share one of these incidents with the team. You become immensely more approachable when you show that you're comfortable laughing at yourself.

Building bonds

Building bonds with your team aren't always about humor. Sometimes it's just the opposite. One surefire way to break this status bubble is to encourage debate. My boss loves to debate the issues until we come to an answer. He likes to hear all sides of the problem before we make a decision. Many times, whether informal meetings or informal discussions, lower-status employees choose not to speak up when they disagree or wish to add another thought. They often precede speaking up as a risk. You aim to reduce risk perception by positively embracing difficult but well-intentioned discussions. You may have to push, pull, and prod your team along. When the team sees you honestly listen and positively respond in the face of criticism or debate, they will view you as fair.

Removing Barriers

In your new role, your status doesn't have to cause unnecessary problems. Breaking the status bubble is about removing communication barriers to having a robust dialogue that creates excellent teams.

Signaling fairness and integrity

Ethics of Leadership 

In a professional context, honesty is having and using clear and meaningful ethical standards. Being fair at work is one general way to demonstrate your integrity. However, it is essential to be very clear about what we mean by the word fair. Being fair refers to equal opportunity, not equitable distribution of outcomes and resources. Stated differently, being fair means you treat people equally by creating a positive and transparent workplace, but you also treat them differently based on their performance and needs.

Integrity and fairness matter because they impact trust; trust is a critical quality in higher-performing teams. It's one of the intangible assets that help move an organization past mere compliance towards deep commitment, commitment to each other and the work. Will Rogers once said, "It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute." The same is true with trust. With trust, you need to protect it, like the critical asset it is. Second, actions speak louder than words. Do not tell people what you did or can do, be like Nike, "Just Do It."

Prove yourself 

You don't have to explain that you are trustworthy when you spend time showing behaviors that demonstrate trustworthiness. When you espouse specific standards and expectations, you build trust by doing what you say. Several behaviors at work are particularly influential in determining whether or not people view you as a person of integrity. For example, openly address integrity as a core part of your team. Accomplishing this requires you to be consistent and clear about your ethical standards and your expectations of the group.

Share the credit, Shield the Blame.

You can show the team that you mean it by challenging any issue or decision that encourages dishonesty or rewards unethical behavior. One of the lessons that I learned about leadership was in the Navy. Share your successes and own the failers of your team. One of the best ways to demonstrate integrity is to share credit wisely. Anytime you and the team pass a particular milestone, reach a big goal, or receive recognition, don't steal the spotlight for yourself. Acknowledge everyone's contributions and make the team feel included in the win. It's also important to understand when to share the pain. When I say pain, I'm referring to unavoidable challenges and difficulties.

These might include undesirable travel, long shifts during an emergency, tight deadlines, or other challenges. The rule here is always the same. To the extent possible, you share the burden you ask the team to undertake. For example, take the most challenging shift if there is an activation during a holiday. Another great way to demonstrate integrity is to make decisions based on the merits and not on any other non-meritorious standard.

Don't Play Favorites

In particular, steer clear of favoritism, a way of making decisions that benefit only your favorite people at work. Assign work based on people's skills, not merely on how much you like them. One final great way to demonstrate integrity is to be willing to get your hands dirty. Whenever you ask the team to achieve a strict standard or to engage in abnormal work, such as working on a weekend, you should be the first to sign up and participate arm-in-arm with your team.

Wrapping it up

A few steps exist to build a track record of success as a leader. Few things are as vital as solid integrity. When people trust you, they'll listen better, and you will achieve better results. 

Be sure to let us know what you think about leadership in the comments below, and join us for a discussion. 


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The Emergency Management Network

The Emergency Management Network Podcast

This podcast features strategies and advice from today’s leaders and experts in emergency management. Its purpose is to empower and enrich current and future leaders.