Past, present and future play key roles for leaders

The farm where I grew up consisted of 60 acres. On the west side of our farm was an adjacent 60 acres owned by the Mann family. Eventually, the Mann farm was sold to a wealthy monument shop owner on the other side of Malaga. He ranged angus and later charolais cattle on his 60 acres.

My brothers and I enjoyed playing in and seining fish from a small creek, named Millers Run, that drained the entire Mann farm and ours. I once found a bi-colored spear point lying in the water there.

On the edge of the Mann farm, an old log cabin in its decline stood on the slope of a green field. It was the family homestead originally inhabited over 100 years ago. Of course, we boys explored the cabin or took refuge in it during sudden summer rains. While searching a bare spot near the cabin, I once found an 1883 Indian Head penny.

The Cabin had a spiral staircase leading to the second floor. It was somewhat rickety but its delicate condition didn’t deter us from the climb. The second floor had most recently been used to store hay and little else remained. However, in one corner sat a wooden cupboard covered with dust. With difficulty, the doors swollen with age popped open. As my brothers and I peered within, we saw several small hardback books. We opened the ancient pages and realized they were old schoolbooks.

A couple of books fell apart in our hands but at the bottom of the box one had fared better than the others. It was a geography book with an 1890 copyright date. One of its crop and resource distribution maps showed southeastern Ohio as one of the nation’s leaders in petroleum and tobacco production, an unknown fact to me.

On long summer days, my brothers and I lay in the shade of the log cabin and imagined the people who lived in this house 10 decades ago. What would they think about the lives we led in the 1960s? This discussion helped us realize that all around us very real artifacts attest to the fact that time moves on.

Leaders must have a concrete understanding of the past and its impact on the present to be able to plan effectively for the future. This connection between the past, present, and future is prescriptive for leaders. If any one of the three is ignored, the other two will suffer. Who were we, who are we, and who should we be are the questions leaders answer when they invent the future. And invent it they must.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of “The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success,” visit his Web site, or call him at 740-629-4536. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.