What’s It Means To Be a Leader
Victor Alm – Zoological Manager
After the flight from the Bay Area to Winnipeg, I finally got a chance to sit down and meet my sixteen fellow campers/ambassadors along with the facilitators of the zookeeper climate change leadership camp hosted by Polar Bears International. After a short while, I came to realize that the folks at PBI want nothing less than for us to change the world, change the way we live our lives, all to help make a difference in the fight to mitigate climate change and save the planet and biodiversity that we love.
The camp itself is in investment in us to do this and they want to support us along with the American Association of Zookeepers (AAZK) to come up with and institute action plans in our communities to do just that. These statements were very overwhelming and spawned a discussion on what it means to be a leader. One statement on what a leader could look like resonated with me: A leader is not always the person who is sitting in the front of the room or the loudest voice, but can just be someone who is willing to take the initiative and make those first steps no matter how loud their voice is. I spent a lot of time that evening tossing and turning thinking about those words and connecting it to two other messages about leadership that the Oakland Zoo has invested in me over the years and how they can work synonymously with the statement above. These statements are to lead by example and to focus on the issue or behavior at hand, not the personality or attitude. When combined they create a trio of principles that may not be the specific pathway a leader must walk, but can aid in finding those first steps down the pathway towards making a difference, towards changing who we are, and how we can start change through our leadership in our communities. Having leadership that can facilitate and push change is needed by PBI, by AAZK, by the polar bears, by flamingos, and by all those in the natural world who can potentially be affected by climate change during their daily lives. When you look at it like that, why not expect yourself to change the world, and why not be enthusiastic doing it?
Please check out our PBI camp blog at
Coming soon: A post about my trip to the Churchill Polar Bear Alert Program.