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

Taking the Plunge: Defining Moments and Lessons Learned

Jordan Pusateri Burroughs

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874608.ch33

In the past 20 years, I have experienced defining moments and learned valuable lessons that have ultimately contributed to my own ability to make positive change and grow as a leader. As a mother, spouse, conservation partner, and scholar, I have a multifaceted perspective on what it takes to be an effective leader and inspire positive change.

Learning through hands-on experience is not a modern concept. In 350 BC, Aristotle wrote, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” I consider myself a kinesthetic learner, and Confucius’ view of experiential learning has always resonated with me: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” The hands-on experiences I have gained throughout my life have not only fostered my professional development and confidence, but also enabled me to apply the skills I was learning to real-world situations. As I reflect, I now see and appreciate how my learning experiences often incited a new idea or opened the door to new leadership opportunities.

As an undergraduate at the University of Missouri, Columbia, I spent my first summer as a gypsy moth trapper with the Missouri Department of Conservation. I spent day after day in the sweltering Missouri heat driving the rural back roads to set pheromone-baited moth traps to help the Missouri Department of Conservation determine the location and size of the gypsy moth population. At the end of summer, I retraced my arduous path to remove the traps and assess whether any gypsy moths had met their demise on the glue inside the traps. During my long drives, I reflected on the process of conducting field work and data collection and how my efforts would contribute to the overall gypsy month data set. It was a long, lonely summer. I was beginning to realize that I might be more inclined to work at the intersection of people and wildlife.