Lessons in Leadership: Integrating Courage, Vision, and Innovation for the Future of Sustainable Fisheries
Leadership Is a Lifelong Journey
Ronald J. Essig
Adjectives typically used to describe effective leaders include visionary, courageous, trustworthy, competent, bold, inspirational, and passionate. While some of these traits are likely instilled at birth, I contend that most are developed over many years of education and experience. At least that was the case for me, as it has taken me a lifetime to hone the leadership characteristics that have served me well in the fisheries profession. So let me explain how leadership skills develop from a continuum of opportunities on your lifelong journey.
Leadership training opportunities build upon each other, so take advantage of all afforded to you. Don’t fall into the fallacy trap that anyone taking a leadership class is only doing so to advance into another position. While this might be the case for some, leadership programs will help you do your current job better regardless of future employment. So don’t shy away from these training opportunities.
I was fortunate throughout my career to have worked for agencies that recognize the value of training and I took classes such as Management in State Government, Supervisors Connect, and Systematic Development of Informed Consent. These all provided some informational nuggets that I used later in leadership situations. A particularly valuable training opportunity for me was the Middle Level Management Development Program early in my U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) career. This program spanned several months and allowed me to do a detail with another USFWS organizational unit and a state agency on work related to the 900-foot-wide Edwards Dam on the Kennebec River in Augusta, Maine. I coauthored a report on impacts of the dam and potential mitigation measures on seven diadromous species (Essig and Squiers 1995) that was just a tiny piece of the scientific evidence leading to the decision to remove the dam in 1999. But I am extremely proud that as part of leadership training, my contribution led to the first time the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ever voted, against the wishes of a dam owner, not to relicense a functioning hydroelectric dam in the United States (Lohan 2019).