9781934874608-ch58

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

Leadership Wears Many Hats but Always Involves People

Vivian M. Nguyen

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874608.ch58

When I was first asked to contribute my thoughts on my personal leadership experience, I was both flattered and humbled to have been viewed as a leader—yet I still wondered, am I really a leader?

If so, what criteria did I meet to make me a leader? And if I do really meet it, how did I get here? What differentiates me from other leaders? What impacts have I made? How can I be better? These questions are hints into how my mind works; I am constantly questioning myself, my role, and how to make sure I have the most positive impact possible on the activities and people I engage with. This introspection has been a common thread in my personal and professional life but has been important for growth and is a key ingredient in my leadership skill set.

During my formative years, even before entering the crazy world of kindergarten, my dad always called me a leader. I was always dragging my cousins to do things and instigating activities such as collecting feathers or rocks and making up new games. I was the shining example for our family, with my aunts often bringing my cousins to show how a clean and tidy room should look. I was diligent and disciplined but could also be extremely bossy—there is even a home video of me delegating tasks and activities to everyone. That was how my parents viewed leadership, but is that actually leadership?

Growing up, I viewed leaders as those on the front line: visible, vocal, decisive, and taking charge. Their faces on posters and magazines, their voices heard, and everyone knowing their name. Yet, I did not see myself reflected in these people, perhaps because most leadership figures were male. Among the TV shows I watched, the leader was usually a male: Jason from Power Rangers, Captain Planet from Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Tommy from Rugrats, Bugs Bunny in Looney Tunes, and the list goes on. Even as my attention moved away from cartoons, presidents and prime ministers were mostly male figures. Growing up, leadership, for me, was defined as someone who takes charge, makes decisions, voices opinions, and displays courage in the face of adversity.

So, true to form, while considering what I would write for this piece, I started to research what a leader is. I discovered several articles listing top qualities of leadership. Here is one example from 2018 in Forbes Magazine listing eight essential qualities that define great leadership: