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What Makes a Good Leader in Emergency Management?


By Allison G.S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

In numerous disciplines the question of 'what makes a good leader' is an important piece to understanding how to motivate individuals within a given discipline. In any profession, leadership is actually quite complicated. It is for this reason that numerous scholars research the issue attempting to nail down key aspects of what it is and what it means. When it comes to Emergency Management, there are, of course, there are a few key components to what makes a good leader. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently published a booklet about leadership - all important pieces to the overall puzzle. To Truly answer the question of, "what makes a good leader in emergency management" is complicated, but there are a few key points that many strong leaders understand.

Management Versus Leadership

There are many similarities between the concepts of leadership and management, but understanding their differences is particularly important. Forbes recently published an article listing out some of the key differences between these concepts. Management deals with the management of policies, programs, and duties – just to name a few. Leadership, however, takes on an entirely different means motivating individuals and helping them to follow a the leader into a new direction.  An individual can be a good leader and manager, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that a good manager is going to be a good leader – or visa versa.  It is often confused to be one of the same, thus it is important to establish that it simply isn’t. A good leader understands the difference.

Cherry-Picking the Important Issues

A great leader in emergency management understands specifically what is important. He or she understands that motivating his or her staff is essential to asking people to work hard under pressure in a fast-paced environment. These leaders do not "sweat the small stuff."

Professional Development

A good leader also knows when to effectively train his or her employees and help them tighten their skills as professionals. Offering workshops and other training sessions is important as helps to give employees confidence in their work. Confidence is an important piece for managing any small scale or large scale disaster.


Ultimately, it is important for good leaders to be in high ranking positions in emergency management.  Good, strong leaders will be the fiber that brings a group together to perform well under pressure.  We often hear about how policy will affect good emergency management and while this is true, a strong leader who inspires others will simply be the piece that pushes an emergency management team to success.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.