I have spent the majority of my career in the back of an ambulance, taking care of people. Certainly not a glamorous job, but I derived a great deal of personal, and professional, satisfaction from the simple act of caring for and bringing people to the hospital. My clear goal over the course of this career, was to one day become the chief executive of an EMS organization and provide the kind of working environment I always envisioned as ideal. Three years ago I achieved my goal, took a job as the leader of a group of paramedics, and was immediately unmoored from the rich job satisfaction I had enjoyed over the fifteen prior years.
Don’t get me wrong, my new work was challenging in a way I had not previously experienced and I embraced the opportunity to create a wonderful workplace climate for my new employees. As I went about emulating my favorite former managers and trying not to disturb the new emergency services community I was working with, I began to struggle with who I was as a leader. Understanding my desired outcome but not seeing the path to achieve it became frustrating and my already waning career satisfaction faded.
A practice in my new organization was attending a leadership course at the University of Denver, specifically for emergency response professionals, and I agreed to attend. Little did I know that this 6-day course on the science of leadership would be a transformative experience in my life. I realized that I ‘didn’t know what I didn’t know’, a position that can be crippling to both solving problems and expanding one’s capability. My desire for knowledge and understanding was reinvigorated and I am now absolutely driven to master my understanding of the problems that I previously thought I was solving. This recognition has fundamentally changed my leadership practice and greatly increased my confidence and capability at work. The next step for me includes attending the Executive MBA program at the Daniels College of Business, with one quarter completed I can now clearly see my gap in knowledge and the path to correct it. As Kerry Plemmons, my DU leadership professor, likes to say “life is a gradual escape from ignorance” and it is with this tenet that I forge into a new chapter in my understanding.
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