Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

By the Book – Mentoring

The MSU Fly Gals network is very near and dear to my heart, so when the god father of the group, Bill Taylor, asks for help I happily offer my assistance. In this case Bill asked if I would co-author a chapter in a book about mentoring. Bill wanted to include the Fly Gals program in the book because it has become a rather unique mentoring experience for the participants.

I am a leadership and mentoring geek so this was both and interesting and exciting assignment. I enlisted Kerryann Weaver, one of the early participant in the MSU Fly Gals program, to be the co-author. Kerry and I took a Socratic approach to our chapter and wrote it very conversationally. We hoped it would make for both entertaining and informative reading. Kerry not only contributed to our chapter, she handled all interaction with the editorial team, keeping our contribution to the book on track!

The American Fisheries Society published Future of Fisheries: Perspectives for Emerging Professionals, in July. Our chapter, Fly-Fishing for the Future: How the Michigan State University Fly Gals Are Mentoring Future Conservation Leaders is in the Leadership in Practice section.


Future of Fisheries contain 70 mentoring pieces from a vast array of fisheries professionals. The vignettes as they are called, offer a wide variety of personal “lessons learned” and insights into emerging challenges. The book is a handy reference tool to what has worked, creative problem solving and a look into the future.

From the AFS website:

Future of Fisheries: Perspectives for Emerging Professionals contains more than 70 short mentoring
vignettes on past experiences and visions for the future authored by many notable mentors from the fisheries field. The volume is intended to inspire and empower the next generation of fisheries professionals with advice from seasoned professionals by providing personal “lessons learned” and insights from the topics that most influenced their illustrious careers while also addressing the most urgent issues on the horizon for fisheries.

Like having a mentor on hand at the turn of a page, this book bridges a vital gap in our field by using the unique structure of mentoring vignettes to advise young fisheries professionals on how to achieve success as a fisheries professional and on what concepts will be relevant and important for the future of the fisheries profession.”

I am thrilled to have contributed to this project and look forward to reading and sharing the many other excellent insights in the book. If you are interested in fish, fishing and mentoring I think you will find this book a worthy addition to your bookshelf.

First Follower Theory

I am a student of leadership so when this showed up in my @tenkaraguide twitters this morning:

I hit the youtube link and watched. You can too. It is 3 minutes, worth watching, very entertaining and visually delivers an important leadership lesson.

There is no movement without the first follower

A leader needs the guts to stand alone and look ridiculous. But what he’s doing is so simple, it’s almost instructional. This is key. You must be easy to follow!

Now comes the first follower with a crucial role: he publicly shows everyone how to follow. Notice the leader embraces him as an equal, so it’s not about the leader anymore – it’s about them, plural. Notice he’s calling to his friends to join in. It takes guts to be a first follower! You stand out and brave ridicule, yourself. Being a first follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that makes the fire.

A little more research took me to Derek Sivers. He put up the video and narrates it. It is on his blog along with the transcript: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy.

The take aways for me:

1) Someone has to be the dancing guy, that is leadership but it is overrated. we can’t all be leaders.

2) The first follower is courageous and is the real ignition for the movement.

3) It takes time to build a movement and followers may come and go (read the comments).

Sivers summation works for me:

The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow.

When you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.

Tenkara? Sure.

The whole tenkara thing fits the first follower model hence @tenkarausa’s tweet to a couple of us early adopters.

Important keys to success in creating a movement are the leader embracing the followers as equals and the first followers showing others how to follow.

While calling the adoption of tenkara in this country a movement may be a stretch at this point, it clearly is gaining followers. The lessons of the Dancing Guy are pretty evident. Most importantly those early followers are showing others how to follow. Tenkara will continue to grow because of this willingness to share the knowledge and encouraging others to try tenkara.

There is a lesson here as well for those of us in the fly-fishing business:

  • Are you making it easy to follow you?
  • Are you welcoming them into the movement?
  • Are you sharing the knowledge?

From what I have seen the successful fly-fishing businesses can answer yes to these questions. Those who don’t look at new ideas and ways of doing business are not helping to build the fly-fishing movement.

Tenkara may be a good case study on how to help fly-fishing grow. It starts with the first follower theory.

What do you think?