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Healing the ‘cultural chasm’

02 January 2024
Volume 16 · Issue 1

The dramatic lurch to ‘command and control’ leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath has seen commentators asking whether ‘heroic leadership styles’ might linger, affecting the long-term culture of the workplace (Hulks, 2020). Those who work in ambulance services generally favour a hierarchical and broadly directive style of operating (Wankhade et al, 2015). Therefore, a step-change away from direction and advice might present a more significant psychological challenge to the ‘hard-wiring’ of many senior ambulance staff. This ‘cultural chasm’ is surely a significant matter if one of the single most important things leaders do is to create and manage culture.

A leadership style that is overly directive and centred on advice-giving works well in emergency situations or when the environment or task is unfamiliar. However, if this becomes a dominant and pervading culture, it is unlikely to sustain good relationships and is likely to contribute toward a ‘dependency culture’. The natural desire to innovate and strive for improvement will be impeded, as professionals learn to await repeated instruction before acting. A symptom will be more frequent ‘escalation’ of routine tasks that should comfortably be within the scope of the role.

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