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

Stability, Management, and Leadership

Chris I. Goddard and Robert G. Lambe

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874608.ch20

Because of the association with public lands and waters, the management of natural resources in North America is carried out almost exclusively by, or in association with, governments, primarily federal, provincial, state, and tribal and occasionally municipal. Without question, the hallmarks of government are stability, consistency, and transparency. Therefore, it is incumbent upon governments to develop managers that can very capably deliver ongoing, issue-free programs year after year.

During the late 1970s and 1980s, governments generally embraced the widely popular philosophy that “a manager is a manager,” and similar skill sets are employed regardless of managing a fleet of trucks, a private company, or a government program. Consequently, many managers today, particularly those without resource and social science backgrounds, have little understanding or experience with the complex issues associated with natural resources management. Interestingly, one essential component of natural resource management, the requirement for and dependence upon science-based decision making, has often protracted implementing requisite changes, as senior managers to forestall controversial or difficult decisions request additional information (i.e., more scientific assessment and data) prior to implementing a management action. By utilizing this approach, at least from a management perspective, the issue has been resolved successfully in a scientifically sound and defensible manner.

Another interesting outcome of the adoption of this management philosophy is the need for upwardly mobile managers to demonstrate their ability to lead a change initiative. This often simply results in the reorganization of the administrative unit. There is an element of truth in the old adage of the “three envelopes.” When undertaking a new position, the manager is handed three numbered envelopes by his or her predecessor and advised to open them sequentially when situations deteriorate. Occurring the first time, the manager opens the first envelope to read “Blame your predecessor.” The second time, the message simply says “Reorganize.” The third time, the message states “Prepare three envelopes.”