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

How I Obtained Leadership Skills and Which Were Most Important

Scott A. Bonar

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874608.ch4

“You’ll never get that done.” “That will never work.” “You aren’t the right person to do that.” If you receive comments like these, congratulations! You are probably exhibiting leadership! I have heard those comments frequently throughout my career. These phrases may be common for leaders to hear because it often means you are breaking new ground, you have a vision, and/or you are taking people where they may not have been before. Words such as these hurt at first, but when you put them in the context of what you are doing, they often make sense if you are pushing back boundaries or trying new things.

I have had to use leadership skills in many, many situations. Furthermore, leadership skills have often propelled me to coveted positions. I am now honored to be the president of the American Fisheries Society, an elected position. Before that, I was president of the Western Division and Introduced Fish Section of the American Fisheries Society. I’m also a unit leader and professor in the Arizona Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Arizona. I have been nominated and elected president of many other organizations throughout my life (university biology club, university student foundation, high school band, science club, and student council); authored 130 publications, including two books; managed more than 80 employees; received 27 scholarships and awards, including mentor of the year; and led the largest effort to standardize freshwater fisheries sampling in North America to date. In my most important leadership challenge, I helped raise two daughters! In all these efforts, I used previously honed leadership skills and developed new ones. The good news is that leading can be satisfying, and a group moving in a similar direction can get much more done than a single person. That said, the skills to lead are typically not innate; they must be developed.