WAFWA is the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Association. Each year regional and national conferences are held to support the professional development of our nations state, federal, and NGO fish and wildlife professionals. This summer the western regional conference was held in Reno, Nevada.
As part of my work with conservation leaders and the Management Assistance Team, I was asked to conduct a four-hour workshop for a group of WAFWA leaders on developing their leadership style through strengths. On July 17, we gathered at the Peppermill Casino and Resort to explore the concepts of leadership style, personal mastery, strengths and personal mission statements. A sunny day, a beautiful pool, casinos, multiple bars and restaurants could have tempted these remarkable leaders away but they came to learn, focus and reflect on who they are as leaders.
I invited the participants to play outside their comfort zone to step right to the edge of their growth zone. As they moved around the room in a series of experiential activities and conversations, they knew they were not in your standard workshop. In fact, we laughed together as we moved around the room talking about our leadership styles from the lenses of the four earth elements!
The WAFWA leaders are field and headquarters personnel. Their passion for wildlife and fisheries is what brought them into this field. As field personnel, they learned how to work with a variety of variables: climate, species, weather, terrain, and seasons. In the field, they quickly adjusted their plans and goals based on the conditions that surrounded them. They often were out of their comfort zone due to heat, cold, wind, rain, rough terrain and variable ground and cover.
As I watched the WAFWA leaders, it struck me that conservation leaders are poised to be exemplary change managers. They are used to working with changing conditions, multiple unknown variables, and at times, threats to safety. Learning to translate this adaptability in the field to leadership style is at the heart of becoming a resilient, sustainable, and adaptable leader.
There are so many resources on leadership style. A quick review of the literature takes you down a rabbit hole of books, websites and articles. Overview summaries such as leadership styles and Lewin’s Leadership Styles are a place to start if you want to learn about categories of leadership style, assessments, and how to adjust your style for different people and environments. But perhaps the greatest reference is your own life experiences of adaptability because there is not one leadership style that will fit all situations and all people. Your ability to assess, adapt and align with the needs of personnel and environment will be the best indicator of your success.
Where have you been adaptable and how can you translate those experiences to help you develop your leadership style? Tell me about your stories.