San Antonio Magazine for Alamo Heights, Terrell Hills, Lincoln Heights, Terrell Heights, Northwood and Oak Park

Steering the Ship: Leadership Strategies for Turbulent Times

Alamo Heights Fire Dept

By Angel Santiago | Photography by Taylor Lane


Why did the ship captain make a great leader? Because when the waters got rough, he didn’t jump ship—he steered it to safety.


On a serious note, I sat down and talked with Battalion Chief Cody Hobbs and Captain Hunter Tamez, a few of the leaders of our Alamo Heights Fire & EMS, about what leadership means to them. For them, leadership requires setting a good tone, leading by example, and being there for your people when times get hard.


According to one Swedish proverb: “Rough waters are truer tests of leadership. In calm waters, every ship has a good captain.”


For Cody Hobbs, the Battalion Chief of A Shift, this couldn’t be more true.  He talked about the importance of being able to lead through the hard times. “It’s easy to lead when it’s great and easy, but I think with time, effort, and experience, I started learning to do a better job and figured out how to lead my team through the hard times, keeping everybody on track and their spirits up.”


The thing about those rough waters is that it can be anything work-related or personal. “I tried to ask everybody above me and below me if there is anything I can do for you today.” Chief Hobbs said.  “If it is a new uniform or whatever it is, it doesn’t really matter. It could be that you just needed a second to take care of some personal stuff. Whatever it might be, I ask daily – is there anything I can do for you today?”


If you read last month’s leadership article, you know that taking care of your people is one of the most important qualities a leader must possess.  Why? Because organizations are made up of people; therefore, if you want the organization to grow, you grow the people in it.  Taking care of your people goes beyond what happens at work.  It is about taking care of them as individuals, investing in their personal growth and development and their overall well-being.


This is one of the concepts that Hunter Tamez, Captain of A Shift, knows all too well. “I came from restaurant management before this, and I learned that, as a leader, you have to wear many hats and not get fixated on just one role.  You never know what you may need to show up for. You may have a team member dealing with an emotional thing. For another, you may have to pay attention to their mental health – especially for first responders.  So, one of the hats you might have to wear at any given time is that of a peer coach. Supporting them with non-fire-related problems; being somebody they can come and talk to.”


For this to work, leaders have to ensure they gain their team’s trust, respect, and confidence.  Chief Hobbs does this by ensuring you look the part, be the part, and do the part. “I came from a military background, so I make sure to start my morning off freshly shaved and my uniform squared away. So when the people below me show up, they see that this is what I’m supposed to look like. I need to set the tone for the level of professionalism I want my team to uphold.”


Another important skill that fosters open communication and trust is to build personal relationships with the team.  Effective leadership goes beyond managing tasks; it’s about building meaningful relationships with team members. When leaders take the time to connect personally with their team, it encourages team members to share ideas, voice concerns, and collaborate more freely, leading to increased innovation and problem-solving. Captain Tamez can vouch for this. “For me, building a personal rapport with each team member allows me to have that open communication and be able to get feedback from everyone so that when I make a decision, my team feels comfortable letting me know whether or not it’s the right decision or if maybe we should go in another direction.  And as a leader, I don’t take offense to that; I feel like that’s part of our relationship.”


Did you know that there is tremendous value in leaders building personal connections with their team members? It leads to increased employee engagement and higher productivity.  According to Gallup, employees who feel their manager is invested in them as people are eight times more likely to be engaged at work.  A study by Harvard Business Review found that employees who feel trusted by their managers are 50% more productive. These are only a few statistical examples highlighting the importance of leaders building personal relationships with their team members. Other benefits are reduced turnover, improved communication, and enhanced well-being.


Both of these leaders emphasized the importance of self-leadership and setting a good example, highlighting the need for personal growth and development. If you’re considering either becoming a leader yourself or simply improving your leadership skills, Chief Hobbs invites you to consider the following:  “I would think of and reflect on how you like to be led. What works for you, what you personally like, and look towards those father or mother figures and/or mentors in your life that you look up to and learn from them to make your leadership recipe for becoming your own kind of leader.”


Leading through hard times is not just about weathering the storm; it’s about emerging stronger and more resilient. As a leadership coach, I am dedicated to helping leaders like you develop the skills and mindset needed to navigate challenges with confidence and grace. If you’re ready to transform your leadership approach and empower your team to thrive even in the toughest times, let’s connect. Contact me today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward becoming the leader your team needs in every season.





My name is Angel Santiago, and I’m a teacher of transformation, a mindset coach, and a leadership facilitator. Feel free to connect with me via social media under the hashtag #LifeCoachAngel, or you can email me at

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