Sample Certification Exam Questions – Leadership & Influence, Part 3

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By Daryl Lee Spiewak, CEM, TEM, MEP, Lead Trainer for the CEM Commission

Last month we discussed and analyzed a few examples of examination questions on leadership and influence in emergency management, emphasizing techniques for facilitating change. This article continues our discussion of leadership and influence in emergency management, with an emphasis on building and rebuilding trust, and includes an analysis of a couple of sample examination questions.


Dictionary.com defines trust as “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.” IS-240b states trust is “a combination of trusting others and being trustworthy.” Therefore, trust is based on the actions of the emergency manager and how he or she treats other people. And that isn’t just subordinates; it applies equally to the whole community – all levels within the organizational hierarchy, other agencies and organizations, businesses and industries, media, and the public.

Building Trust

Building trust means saying what you mean and meaning what you say. Emergency managers can do this by managing and meeting expectations, being consistent, and honoring agreements. They need to “demonstrate respect for other people’s knowledge, skills, and abilities by reducing controls and not micromanaging, involving others and seeking their input, helping people learn necessary skills, and trusting in their own competence.”

Emergency managers also need to “demonstrate unguarded interactions by sharing information, telling the truth, admitting mistakes, giving and receiving constructive feedback, and maintaining confidentiality.” Last month we said emergency managers need to display transformational leadership. The FEMA Independent Study Course 240b Leadership and Influence states emergency managers use transformational leadership to build trust by demonstrating what authors Dennis and Michelle Reina describe as the Four Cs in their book, Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace. The Four Cs are defined as “the conviction to acknowledge the truth, the courage to honor relationships, a sense of compassion, and a sense of community.”

Losing Trust

Building trust is a slow process, but losing it can occur with a single event. Emergency managers who fail to implement the behaviors highlighted above will lose that hard-earned trust. Whether intentional or unintentional, any of these behaviors will result in lost trust – “distorting, withholding or concealing your real motives; falsifying relevant information; attempting to control or dominate; not discussing or meeting others’ expectations of performance or behavior; attempting to evade responsibility for behavior; accepting credit for other people’s work; not honoring commitments; and gossiping.”

Rebuilding Trust

Just like establishing trust at the beginning takes time, rebuilding lost trust takes time too. The FEMA Independent Study Course 240b Leadership and Influence states there are “six steps that you can take to recover from a mistake that may have unintentionally damaged trust – accept responsibility; publically acknowledge mistakes; apologize; take actions to immediately deal with the consequences; make amends; ask for feedback; and be non-defensive in listening to constructive criticism.”

For the purposes of the certification examination, candidates need to know and understand trust, how it may be lost, and how to rebuild trust if it is lost whether through intentional or unintentional actions.

Sample Core Questions

So what would some core questions look like on the certification examination? Here are a couple of questions with a simple analysis of
each one to help you prepare.

1. Airing your concerns about taking on a new commitment is likely to:
a. Build trust.
b. Erode trust.
c. Expand your capacity to trust.
d. Reduce your responsibility but enhance your authority.

Analysis: This question is about a leader’s behavior and its impact on trust. To build and maintain trust, we said an emergency manager needs to say what he or she means, and mean what he or she says. So taking on a commitment the emergency manager will be unable to fulfill would likely lead to not meaning what was said and thus a loss of trust. Therefore, airing concerns about taking on a new commitment will support trust.

At first glance, it appears the correct answer will be a as it says to build trust. The second possible response is
incorrect because it says this behavior will erode trust, meaning to destroy. That is the opposite of what we perceive to be the correct response.

The third possible response is incorrect because it says this behavior will increase your own capacity to trust. While increasing your trust in others is a good thing, the behaviors are related to the perception others have in their trust in you meaning what you say.

The fourth possible response is also incorrect. Airing your concerns about a new commitment before accepting it will reduce your responsibility (because you will not be responsible for the new commitment), but it cannot enhance your authority over the new commitment because you don’t have any power over it yet and because your concerns won’t provide you with more control or power over the resources for the commitment. Therefore, the correct answer to this question is a., our first choice.

2. Demonstrating conviction, courage, compassion, and community can:
a. Be used by a transformational leader to build trust.
b. Diminish your capacity for trusting others.
c. Make you vulnerable to your adversaries.
d. Undermine or erode trust.

Analysis: This question about using the Four Cs. We know building and nurturing trust in the workplace takes thinking and acting from a transformational leadership perspective, and that involves demonstrating
the Four Cs. So at first glance the first response appears to be correct because it mentions transformational leadership. The first response indicates trust can be built by a transformational leader using the Four Cs. This is correct and should be the most correct answer, but let’s consider the remaining three responses before making our choice, just to be sure.

The second response indicates demonstrating the Four Cs will diminish your capacity for trusting others. We know that statement in untrue because the Four Cs have to do with the transformational leader’s behavior and how others will perceive him or her, not in your capacity to trust others. So this response is incorrect.
The third response says demonstrating the Four Cs will make you vulnerable to your adversaries. This cannot be 100% true, because honoring relationships, demonstrating a sense of compassion, and showing a sense of community all serve to build trust, which is a good thing adversaries cannot easily use against you. But in the short term, it is possible that an adversary could use your commitment to acknowledge the truth against you, depending upon what the truth is. However, in the long term, acknowledging the truth is trust building action even when the truth is difficult to acknowledge and for others to hear. So this response is incorrect.

The last possible response is telling us that demonstrating the Four Cs will undermine or erode trust. We know that statement is untrue because they are used to build trust, just the opposite. Therefore, the correct answer to this question is a., our first choice.

Next Month

Next month we will discuss the IAEM-USA Board’s recent changes to the certification program. Specifically, we will cover recertification requirements and upgrading from the AEM to the CEM. In the following months, we will continue our discussion with new examination topics – the Program Manager – and we will analyze some practice exam questions. Please send any questions you have about the examination or the certification process directly to me at info@iaem.com, and I will address them in future articles.

IAEM Bulletin, May 2015

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