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

Discover Your Leadership Journey

Amanda G. Guthrie

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874608.ch36

As a 9-year-old, I sat my parents down and read them 22 reasons why I should play on a competitive, travel soccer team. Playing on a travel team was a big step up from the local soccer league I had played on, but I was determined to play. To my amazement, my parents changed their no to a yes and my soccer career blossomed. Playing soccer grew to be my lifelong passion and teacher. I was enthralled by the competition and excitement, but soccer also provided me a space to develop my communication and leadership skills, which have been invaluable in my career.

As I reflect on my leadership journey, I am beginning to understand how my experiences in my personal and professional life have fostered my leadership development and shaped my career in fisheries. Playing competitive soccer for more than a decade provided me the framework to be part of and to lead a team. I have volunteered and been elected to lead executive committees, allowing me to put this experience into practice. Teamwork and team leadership are increasingly relevant to fisheries science as fisheries research and management need team science—especially when fisheries research includes social-ecological and ecosystem perspectives. Ultimately, I developed my leadership skills by following my passions.

Soccer players, like leaders, need to quickly make decisions as situations develop and change. Each player adapts to the situations on the field; each individual decision influences the team structure. These rapid modifications required trust and communication to make sure that we all moved collectively. We all had different perspectives of the field, and the defense would often provide guidance because they had a clearer vantage point of all the players. Soccer demonstrated to me that, particularly as a leader and a team player, it is important to be aware of my own and my team’s strengths and weaknesses, to maintain a constant awareness and flexibility, and to practice clear communication to become an innovative yet consistently successful team.

Thinking ahead of the current play and anticipating how the game could change was vital to our success. In many ways, I was developing a skill to simultaneously enact our current play while developing a contingency plan. Furthermore, this mindset allowed me to confidently adapt to changing situations. My ability to think through various options was enhanced by having the opportunity to play at multiple positions. Without realizing it at the time, my versatility allowed me to develop an understanding of how someone else may view a situation differently from me, and that was a good thing to collectively review a situation.