Lessons in Leadership: Integrating Courage, Vision, and Innovation for the Future of Sustainable Fisheries

The Process of Leadership Development

William Demmer

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874608.ch12

Experience has proven to me that effective leadership evolves from a sincere effort to mature emotionally and then learn tactical and strategic skills that focus on success. I’ve often wondered how leadership development of ancient humans evolved. Did people follow the person with the big personality or the problem solver who could effectively lead the way to safety and or food? Probably it was a combination of the two. My evolution into leadership first focused on becoming a good and effective problem solver. I was born into a manufacturing family with businesses dating back generations. I knew that if I was to evolve into a leadership role, I would need to develop technical skills to identify specific business components in need of management. Knowing that I had a decent level of mechanical aptitude, I assumed that my career path would take me from engineering school into the family business. After earning my Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering, I began my career as a project manager with the family business, a tool and die company serving the automobile and aerospace industries.

Working the factory floor through my college breaks and summers provided me with the ability to both understand and add value to most of our manufacturing processes. A sense of confidence emerged, and I knew that I would always be able to “eat” because my evolving skill set would always be marketable, even in a soft economy. After graduation, though, it became obvious to me that my effectiveness as a leader would determine just how well I would eat.

For a newly degreed engineer, a challenge for me was learning to communicate effectively and building relationships with my team, supervisors, and customers. An aid to my development was Dale Carnegie’s (1936) book How to Win Friends and Influence People, from which I gained insights and tools that helped me immensely. It is little wonder that Carnegie’s book has been a cornerstone of sales-brinksmanship and relationship-building for generations.