“Many go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after”
Henry David Thoreau
Not too long ago I was fortunate enough to go on a guided fishing trip with a great group of men. The purpose of our trip was to enjoy each other’s fellowship, unplug from the race of life, challenge & encourage one another in our roles as leaders, fathers and husbands and to have a great time catching some fish! As consumed as I am about leadership and as quickly as really good or really bad leadership ignites me I found myself contemplating what leadership lessons there were in fishing while on that trip.
I am not the first to write on leadership and fishing. Much has been written because the “battle” in fishing is a lot like life. There really is a lot to write about in this arena and many great men and women have touched on leadership and fishing. But I hope to bring a slightly different angle (pun intended) to the art of leadership that I observed and contemplated while fishing.
Like life, there is much that is out of your control when you are out fishing. You can’t control the weather; you can’t control whether the fish are biting. All you can do is apply good judgment and the principles of catching…because that is the goal – catching – vice just fishing!! Then see what happens. Leadership is like that – there is much that is out of your control. You apply principles that are tested (and maybe some that aren’t) and you wait to see the results. Sometimes you get “a bite” and if you are ready you can hook the fish and begin the process of bringing the catch in.
Leaders should know when to follow
Our fishing trip was guided. We had high expectations of the guide. His job was to know what to do, when to do it, where to go (so we could catch fish), and to get us back safely. Our guide delivered – it was safe and we caught a lot of fish! The guide was the leader and in our case his clientele were three strong leaders – no easy job to fill…but the first thing I observed was that everyone of us was willing to submit to the leader in that moment. Great leaders are excellent followers. They know when they should step up and when they need to step aside and let others take the lead. We knew that despite our knowledge of how to fish and reel we needed the guide to tell us where to cast, what to do when the lure hit the water, and how to best bring the fish to the boat. Do you do both of these things? Provide guidance to your team? And follow well when you need to follow? What could you do to improve your followership skills?
Leaders are Teachers
Our guide started the first day off with the first cast. He had prepped everything that we needed. Got the boat to where it needed to be and made the first cast – telling us what we needed to do – step by step. Of course, his cast and subsequent reeling technique nabbed a fish! Wow! We knew then it was likely to be a great day on the water.
As a leader – do you take time to demonstrate and teach your team? Are your instructions clear? Do you know what is required of your team? If you don’t you need to step in and learn so that you can offer clear guidance and direction to them while they endeavor to accomplish the mission!
Leaders are Listeners
While you alone are the leader – do you listen to your team? On the fishing trip uur guide took input from us on what we wanted to do and even what we were observing on the water. He did this after he taught us what he was looking for in picking a spot to throw in our lines (see principle above). Leaders who deliver extraordinary results listen, acknowledge what’s happening with their teams, and look to see what their team is seeing that maybe they are not. Narrow expertise is not always the best and can sometimes blind folks to other possibilities. The best leaders don’t find all the answers – they do make the decisions and are responsible for them – but they are able to take input in and move out. Our guide did the same and a time or two during our adventure our input to the guide resulted in some great fishing!
Fishing is not something that everyone likes to do…but like a lot of things in life there are great reminders from fishing of how leaders can make a difference. Live well, follow when required, teach, and listen…then watch what happens with your team!