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

Don’t Shout! Instead, Listen

William Rustem

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874608.ch9

We live in an age of outrage, and it is getting worse. Each and every day, there are attacks based on that outrage in politics, in religion, in race relations, and in everyday life. To be sure, such expressions of outrage have always occurred. The difference today is that literally billions of people can express their outrage anonymously, with no chance for the target of such outrage to respond or even to have a chance to engage in rational discussion and debate. Today, targets of outrage have expanded beyond politics and religion to the way people dress, what they eat, how they drive, how they spend their leisure hours, and even the findings of science itself.

Outrage is emotional and based on evoking fear and anger. Our genetic predisposition is to retaliate with a “fight or flight” response. There is little room to engage in rational thought or discussion. When two or more people are driven by their outrage, the situation simply becomes outrageous. Fight or flight is the immediate physiological response. So how does a leader who is intent on accomplishing something thrive in a world where anonymity and outrage seem so dominant?

The first rule is—don’t engage in the outrage. Rather, take the time to listen. Understand that everyone operates from his or her own paradigm, his or her own view of how the world works or how it should work. Appreciating another person’s view of the world and finding a place to meet on common ground is the place to start. Oftentimes, recasting the objective in a way that acknowledges the other person’s paradigm can be successful. As an example, I am currently involved in efforts to expand the scale of clean energy. I am interested in doing so because I have accepted the science of climate change and am convinced that humans are responsible for the increase in global temperature averages, for increasing ocean levels, and for changes in weather patterns.

Others, however, have not accepted that science. A leader needs to recognize the context he or she is experiencing. Rather than engaging in the debate about whether climate change is occurring or whether humans are the cause, we have changed the discussion to talk about clean energy and energy independence. That shift in the focus of the debate has resulted in support for expanding the scale of clean energy from a number of individuals and organizations that otherwise would not have engaged in the discussion or in the search for solutions.