Lessons in Leadership: Integrating Courage, Vision, and Innovation for the Future of Sustainable Fisheries
Servant Leadership and the 20/60/20 Rule
Born just after the midpoint of the last century, my background was not one that, at that time, normally led to a career in natural resources. I grew up in a suburb of an industrial Midwestern city in a home with an early color television and no family history of camping, hiking, fishing, or hunting.
My parents were, at best, perplexed by my interest in animals and nature but nonetheless decided that the Boy Scouts was a better place for me than Little League Baseball. Given the opportunity to hike, camp, and learn about the outdoors, I took to scouting and advanced through the ranks. My inability to hit a curve ball eliminated any competition for my time from Little League.
In order to advance through the ranks, a Boy Scout has to demonstrate leadership skills and, at each level, participate in (and later organize) useful community service projects. On the path to becoming an Eagle Scout, leadership and service are intertwined requirements for advancement. So the concept of “servant leadership” was already in use decades before its application to corporate management by Robert K. Greenleaf in his 1970 essay “The Servant as Leader” and eventual books on the subject (Greenleaf 1977, 2002).
The notion of a servant leader was inculcated into me as I rose through scouting, became an Eagle Scout, and later volunteered as an adult scout leader in college. Seeking out role models and mentors and later serving as a mentor myself were also important parts of that training.
These concepts all carried into my first professional assignments as a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources. They were particularly helpful in allowing me to quickly internalize the many responsibilities of being a good teacher and supervisor, including an important concept called “the 20/60/20 rule,” which I describe fully below.
My first post-academic assignment was as a policy analyst for a national trade association representing the forest products industry. I was largely uninformed about how a trade association works in representing an industry before the federal government. However, it did not take more than a week to appreciate that the concept of servant leadership is institutionalized (even hard-wired) into the mechanics of how a trade association represents and serves its members.