Lessons in Leadership: Integrating Courage, Vision, and Innovation for the Future of Sustainable Fisheries
Lifting Each Other Up and Building Leaders through Mentorship
What began as an initial acquaintance early in my career grew into an uplifting friendship that introduced me to an inspiring network of contacts and included more than a decade of priceless consul. Although this mentor was an expert in a different specialty than I ultimately pursued, I benefited greatly from observing his excellent leadership skills while he generously shared advice in navigating a career and life.
I share this anecdote because when it comes to a field like fisheries that exhibits ongoing resource limitations, developing environmental challenges (Martin et al. 2012), and changing workforce demographics, the ability to prepare the next group of leaders through mentorship that transcends institutional and traditional boundaries is more pressing than ever. I have been fortunate to know several good mentors at different stages of my career. These relationships have been instrumental in building my own leadership potential while teaching me key lessons in mentoring others.
The most effective mentors demonstrate foresight in bringing in and lifting up those who will be future colleagues. They are cultivating a future workforce that is capable of critical problem-solving and addressing complex management challenges, such as those so often encountered in the fisheries landscape. I learned the importance of this leadership quality as a mentee, I practice it now as a mentor, and I consider it essential that we continue to demonstrate it for those who may be learning from alongside us throughout our profession.
I was still in the entry-level and early young professional stage of my career when I first met someone who shared this mentality. He had an impressive career record and stood out as a recognized leader in his field. As we interacted more in professional settings, a mentorship dynamic began to form. He repeatedly stressed that he saw leadership potential in me and that he wanted that potential to be applied to the environmental field. I understood that while I had limited work experience at that time, he saw me as a promising member of the professional community that would be needed to address the complex issues impacting natural resources management and conservation. This inclusive affirmation helped me develop stronger faith in my abilities and eventual potential as a leader.
His authentic treatment of me as a valued colleague stuck with me, and it enhanced my emotional maturity in a way that made me a better mentor and leader. This lesson has been reinforced by those who have mentored me at various stages since then and therefore allowed me a personal vantage point for learning throughout my career.