Lessons in Leadership: Integrating Courage, Vision, and Innovation for the Future of Sustainable Fisheries
Leadership: It’s Not What You Think
Most of us spend our younger days in school thinking about anything other than leadership. I certainly fit that profile. There was little contemplation about leadership, what it meant, or how to be a leader. Unfortunately, this often remains the case, even when people are put in meaningful leadership positions as their careers advance. Consequently, you have good, bad, and just plain ugly leaders in positions of leadership. I believe that good leaders lead through inspiration and vision, bad leaders lead through lack of knowledge about leading, and ugly leaders lead through fear and intimidation. Everyone should strive to be a good leader.
I found that becoming a good leader was an inevitable evolution of learning experiences combined with formal training and self-learning through study and research. I strongly encourage you to take some leadership courses while in school. However, in today’s information age, you can jump-start yourself. I challenge you to go online and start browsing “leadership” and “leading” and begin exploring these terms and others that surface in your original searches. However, don’t think for a minute that you can just become a good leader by reading and education. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to ultimately reach the highest leadership role in fish and wildlife management in Florida, and I want to share my leadership path and hopefully provide guidance on how you can evolve into a good leader.
In the first 10–15 years of my career, I was with the Florida Marine Research Institute (now the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute) doing research on various applied marine resource problems in Florida. Looking back, I now see that during these years, several important experiences helped my evolution to be a good leader.
Learning to be led: I think this is the most important step in becoming the right kind of leader. If you learn to be led, I can assure you that you will begin to shape your view of what leadership should be. Learning to be led is simple; you must learn from the experiences taught to you by your bosses and your peers, be trusting and humble enough to follow their course of direction, and do this whether it seems negative or positive from your own perspective. I am not proposing that you become a blind follower, but that you learn from being led by taking in what your more experienced bosses and peers have to offer. Treat everyone, including your peers, as mentors. Ask questions and critically evaluate for yourself the leadership lessons in these experiences, beyond the scientific experiences. The key is to learn from both the negative and positive aspects of leadership to shape your view of good leadership. My observation is that those colleagues who never learned to be led early in their careers never grew into strong leadership positions or, if they did, were bad or even ugly leaders.