Leadership Spotlight

Fishing for Inspiration

Stock image of a man and his son fishing in the ocean.


Leadership requires constant inspiration. It encompasses various skills and abilities that we need to practice and polish. Sometimes inspiration comes from everyday events. I recently experienced one such event on a family trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. My young son had been anxiously looking forward to the trip, partly because he knew he would learn how to fish. How would you describe the experience of teaching a youngster to fish? Fun? Exciting? Miserable?

My experience on the shores of the Currituck Sound was fantastic! And, I noticed a few things that apply directly to leadership in the law enforcement world. First, my example as a father played an important role in the desire of my son to fish and in his ability to face the challenges of the sport. As leaders do we take for granted the importance of serving as an example? Can we expect behavior from others that we do not demonstrate?

Second, teaching a youngster to fish takes time. You cannot spend too much time on your own, but you must monitor, instruct, and practice with the child. Effective leaders do the same—taking the time to watch their people at work, learn what they do, and offer personal guidance along the way.

Third, you must share the success. When my son landed his first fish—a nice bass—you would have thought he had just caught a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl! All I could do in that moment was to cheer with him, then take a nice photo to share with the world. Effective leaders behave similarly, noticing and acknowledging the valuable work of others and never missing a chance to praise them and share in the success of a job well-done.

Finally, my son learned that sometimes you have to cut the line. Every fisherman catches the occasional branch or rock. As leaders we cannot lose sight of the big picture. Letting go of old personal habits or work programs that no longer prove effective can be difficult, but it ultimately pays off in ways we do not yet see. Take your leadership practices fishing, and see what you catch!

Special Agent Brendan Hansen, an instructor in the Center for Police Leadership and Ethics at the FBI Academy, prepared this Leadership Spotlight.