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

Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, and Development of Your Personal Leadership Style

Steve L. McMullin

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874608.ch34

James MacGregor Burns, one of the leading scholars of leadership, once wrote, “Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth” (Burns 1978:2). Understanding of leadership seems to be inversely related to the number of attempts to explain it. If you type “leadership” into the search bar on the Amazon Books Web site, it will list more than 70,000 titles. It seems that everyone from academics and generals to corporate chief executive officers and politicians to athletic coaches has tried to explain leadership. The conundrum expressed by Burns and the profusion of attempts to explain leadership in the literature provide ample evidence that no simple answer exists to the question “What is leadership and how can you become a better leader?”

Circumstance and good fortune have provided me with numerous opportunities to practice leadership throughout a long career. I have taught leadership to natural resource professionals for nearly 30 years, and thus, I have read and thought about leadership considerably more than the average natural resource professional. In the course of practicing, learning about, and teaching leadership, I concluded that anyone can lead effectively, but few people will choose to lead.

Furthermore, no two people will lead in exactly the same way. If you choose to lead, I believe that the five strategies discussed in the rest of this chapter will help you do so effectively.

Every person brings a unique combination of personal characteristics and skills to their job. That means each of us has a different set of personality traits, strengths, and weaknesses that collectively determine our leadership styles and may help or hinder our effectiveness as leaders. Good leaders are self-aware. They understand their strengths and learn to compensate for their weaknesses either by developing skills or teaming with other individuals who complement their skill set. As one of my colleagues, who held numerous positions of leadership in a federal natural resource agency, puts it, “You have to be comfortable in your own skin.”