By J. Scott Angle, Vice President of UF/IFAS
When I felt the thrill of that first tug on the line, the red snapper wasn’t the only thing that was hooked. I was, too.
Reeling in that fish last month made management of the red snapper fishery personal. It created an empathy with those who make their living on the waters off Destin. Jon Dain had just worked his magic again.
There are a lot of reasons NRLI works, but Jon and his staff – Joy Hazell, Jocelyn Peskin and Wendy-Lin Bartels—are chief among them as the curators of conditions for cultivating leaders. First, they brought us to a remote location to remove distractions. They selected a diverse cohort of Fellows who can challenge each other’s thinking. They presented conflict management skills in compelling ways. They assembled stakeholders that brought fisheries management to life. Don’t anyone tell me if Jon set that snapper on my hook, too.
I said it at the session, but it bears repeating: I don’t believe people are born leaders. They become leaders the way they become anything else—through education and experience. Session 2 in Destin offered a lot of both.
Another reason NRLI works is you, Class XX. Even during what was supposed to be downtime, the meals and those spaces in between scheduled events, you educated me and shared your experience, adding to my own accumulation of both.
In my experience, the best thinking comes from synthesizing diverse points of view. I didn’t have to wait for the stakeholders panel to experience this.
Over dinner I learned from Darlene Velez how Floridians depend on ground water for their potable supply, while those in other regions more often rely on surface water. And I was lucky to be in her debrief group to hear her discuss how even if you can’t get a stakeholder what he or she wants, you may still be able to get buy-in to a process if you can listen and figure out a stakeholder’s motivations and then engage him or her in meaningful dialogue.
I was delighted by the chance to spend time with a new UF/IFAS faculty member, Mysha Clarke, who’s a walking synthesis of diverse perspectives. How else do you become an expert in both invasive species and urban forestry and combine them into the study of invasive species in urban forests?
Clarke’s background includes that diverse experience that will serve her well as she emerges as a leader—born in Jamaica, Ph.D. from a land-grant in Indiana, post-doc in Philly, study abroad in Ecuador, academic focus in Spanish, economics, and natural resource social science.
As I mentioned to the group during the session, I don’t believe leaders are born, they are cultivated. I am impressed with the cultivation of a cohort of leaders happening in NRLI. I am impressed, too, with the commitment of the Fellows to self-improvement so that they can make Florida a better place.
Getting to know some of you inspires me with hope and even confidence that we will have some of our most skilled and well-intentioned people at the table to address our thorniest natural resources challenges.
Thank you for having Kay and me with you in Destin. I enjoyed being around such a public-spirited group of people. I work for the people of Florida, and I found kindred spirits among the fellows of NRLI Class XX.
Best of luck in the remaining sessions. See you at graduation.
(photo below, from left to right: Scott Angle, Mysha Clarke, Darlene Velez)