How do we move conservation forward? How do we create a world that we’re proud to leave to our children? How do we inspire more people to get outdoors, to appreciate the natural world and subsequently care that it is sustained for generations to come?
We become leaders.
It’s one thing to work in the field of parks, conservation, and/or natural resources. It’s something else entirely to lead in that field. And I truly believe that if more of us stepped up to be the leaders the world needs us to be, we’d all be better for it. And so would the world.
Park employees build and maintain parks. But park leaders envision, then create, the types of places that by sheer merit of their existence, inspire people to want to experience them.
Conservation employees manage natural resources. Conservation leaders envision, then work to create, a world where natural resources are valued intrinsically by society. They do this not so much by managing the resources themselves but by building teams of people who share such a vision and then work collectively toward achieving it. People who share their vision outside of their work and inspire the masses with their enthusiasm, insight, character, good looks, whatever.
Leaders are not managers. Leaders are team builders. Coaches. Facilitators. Motivators. Visionaries. Evangelists. Inspirers.
Leaders are not necessarily the heads of organizations. They fill many roles – from field tech to division manager to department head. Leaders don’t always supervise others. Likewise, those in “leadership” positions are not always leaders. At least not in the way I define leadership. Anyone can be a leader; job title be damned. But not everyone who should be a leader, is. And that’s all too often problematic in so many ways.
We need more leaders. We need better leaders. We need people in influential roles to be the leaders we expect them to be. And if they don’t, then those of us that give a shit need to step up to replace them. Because that’s how you make progress. That’s how we move the world forward.
On this site I hope to share my thoughts on leadership (I have many). I hope to help you understand that “leader” is not a job title. It’s a way of being. It’s a philosophy you carry. It's a designation you earn. And the results of leadership are measured in the way your organization or team operates, not necessarily in what it specifically does. The results of leadership are not things you accomplish, but the things you inspire and empower others to accomplish. And the “organization” I refer to doesn’t necessarily mean your entire company or department. Sure, it could be, if you’re able to exert such influence. Or it could be your division of the organization, or a subset thereof. It's the team you have, or better yet, the team you build, formally structured or otherwise. Don’t get stuck on the semantics.
Hopefully, the posts here help you think differently about how you approach your job, or maybe even your life in general. Or at least certain aspects thereof. I’d count that as a win.
Obviously, what I share here is geared toward the conservation professional, especially those in Iowa’s County Conservation system, because that’s the world I know well. It’s the world I love. It’s the world I most seek to influence from all my leadership soapboxing. But the lessons, I think, have broader implications and often transcend industries. Probably.
Read my posts on Leadership and feel free to comment on them to push the conversation along. Leadership, by its nature, is meant to be collaborative. I’m not pretending to have all the answers, but a lot of answers can be uncovered through intelligent discussion.
We have one world to leave our children. Let’s leave them a good one by becoming the leaders they need us to be.
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