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

Leadership for Generalists

Titus Seilheimer

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874608.ch41

As a mid-career scientist, I get a lot of questions from students and early-career researchers about how I became a leader in the fisheries community. I manage an outreach program that is focused on Great Lakes issues, especially fish. My day-to-day work is a combination of education, outreach, and research with Wisconsin Sea Grant. I could be counting fish on a commercial fishing boat one day and talking to middle school students about the Great Lakes the next. This was not the career path that I had in mind as I was working my way through college and graduate school, so I don’t think I was making a conscious effort to prepare for it. However, my combined experiences leading up to this job gave me the skills necessary to be effective in the position and become a fisheries leader. My goal in this vignette is to present some examples from my life in hopes that it will inspire readers to see how their own experiences and skill sets provide entry points into leadership.

The path to leadership for me began with millions of stinging insects. Honeybees. I grew up in northwestern Wisconsin on my family’s commercial beekeeping company surrounded by more than 5,000 beehives. The experiences I gained through working with bees and, more importantly, people, helped me develop the leadership skills that I use today. Working for my parents was different from “a normal summer job.” It was the family business, and expectations were higher. I don’t remember having to be told that the work needed to be done right; it was simply the only option while working alongside my dad. Some of the skills I developed, like loading a truck with a skid steer, have not been needed in fisheries … yet, but the many problem-solving and interpersonal skills I developed have translated into the leadership skills I use today.

Each summer, I arrived home from school (high school or college) and landed in the middle of whatever was happening at that time in the beekeeping season. The teams I worked with were assorted groups of whomever happened to be working for my parents at the time. Then, it was time to go out and get the work done. Working with animals, even insects, meant that I had to get things done on time. Just because I had a team that didn’t have all the skills to seamlessly get the job done did not mean that the job could be avoided—I just had to be creative in getting things done. I learned that beekeeping was not going to be the career path that I wanted to follow, but it was clear that leading beekeepers would be valuable in leading fisheries folks.