Fishing for Transformational Leaders

906 1024 Ellen Ensher
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By Carris Clarkson

When I was in Kindergarten, my Dad came to speak to my class about his work as a fisherman up in Alaska. He entered the roomwith my brother’s Lego boat in one hand and a bag of Swedish fish in the other.My classmates and I circled around him –our eyes fixated on the sweet little red candies as he poured them into the boat. He refocused our attention as he spoke of his greatest fish stories and finally, told us to take as many fish as we needed. As you can imagine, all that us candy-crazed kids could focus on was how much we desperately needed those little fish to outshine our classmates and fulfill our little sweet tooth. The boy sitting closest to the boat grabbed the most, while the kids in the back were left empty handed with tears in their eyes.

This was my very first lesson on sustainability. My dad explained what would happen if him and his crew up in Alaska grabbed all of the fish like we did. He said it would stop fish from swimming upstream into the rivers where they spawn. And so, they may have a surplus of fish that year to sell, but they would be left empty handed (just like the kids in the back of the class) for all the years to follow. We may have been too little to understand the concept of sustainability and triple bottom line at the time, but what my Dad really inspired us kids to do that day was to think before we act. My Dad was the first transformational leader I had in my life, and I was lucky to grow up with him as my number one fan and greatest mentor.

Idealized influence and inspirational motivation are two crucial applications of transformational leadership that leaders should try and emulate. My Dad exemplifies idealized influence as he leads by example in everything he does; just as he did for my entireKindergarten class, and just as he did fishing up in Alaska. He walks the walk–just as a successful transformational leader should. His values are rooted in the belief that we are all here to create a kinder world. He constantly inspires those around him as he is devoted to this shared vision of morality and environmental mindfulness both in his personal and professional life. Transformational leaders are crucial in the effort to change the world as they encourage, motivate, and inspire others to think morally first and act humbly second.

I can’t help but wonder what our earth would look like today if more business executives took on the approach of transformational leadership and morally driven decision making. There’s a good chance not all of our problems would be solved, though the one thing I know for sure is that there would be more fish in the water and less tears in the world.