Quoting author John Maxwell, Everything rises and falls on leadership ... leadership makes the difference.
Throughout the National Wildlife Refuge Systems rich history, we have hundreds of examples of how leadership at all levelsfrom wagegrade to refuge manager to field, regional and Washington officeshas made a huge difference in the growth and vitality of the Refuge System.
Fulfilling the Promise stated in 1999 that doing the right things in an environment of constant change will be the hallmark of leadership for the System in the next century. Now Conserving the Future is calling us all to address that change by focusing on our people and our organization through the lens of effective leadership.
The Leadership Development Councils authorizing charter directs it to transition the National Wildlife Refuge System into a more diverse, streamlined, efficient organization that promotes leadership in all positions by implementing Conserving the Future recommendations 21 through 24.
Those four recommendations cover a broad array of topics, including considering organizational realignments and programmatic efficiencies; recruiting and retaining a workforce reflecting the diversity of contemporary America; seeking innovative ways to reinvigorate the Refuge Systems commitment to leadership development; and developing and mentoring U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees in the Refuge System to equip them for leadership responsibilities. That is no small charge.
Council members have a wide variety of refuge and leadership experience covering all eight regions and representing several Service programs. Many have worked for other federal and state agencies.
On our first conference call in early December 2011, we grappled with the charter, its scope and deliverables. Realizing there is a wealth of existing information from both the Conserving the Future process and Fulfilling the Promise, plus many leadershiprelated reports produced for the Refuge System, the team members first order of business was to read and mine that information. We are using that information to help better frame where we want to focus in responding to the recommendations. A series of conference calls and a weeklong workshoptype gathering in early 2012 are helping us brainstorm specific objectives and strategies for achieving each recommendation and charting a course forward.
Some of our strategies for implementing the four recommendations may include asking outside experts to review and evaluate the ways that we do business. In other cases, we will establish subteams of additional employees and partners to continue developing strategies, timelines and products. Either way, the council members have committed to delving into the literature, studying timeless principles of effective leadership and looking at the examples of incredible leaders working alongside us each day to build our knowledge and ability for leading conservation into the future.
Mark Musaus, Southeast Region deputy regional director, is cochair of the Leadership Development Council. Rebekah Martin, deputy refuge manager at Eastern Virginia Rivers National Wildlife Refuge Complex, is a member of the council. The council is one of the nine Conserving the Future implementation teams.