Unexpected dangers can be the most dangerous ones

My younger brother, Jack, and I spent some time in a jungle camp in western Belize near the Guatemalan border in 1999. One night our host told us some stories about the dangers that could be encountered in the jungle. He told us about the poisonous Fer-de-lance snake. He explained that once a horse was bitten by this snake in the field and died without taking another step. Jaguar and ocelot were also occasionally spotted near the camp. There was even a tree that oozed poisonous sap.

Some of the stories could have been exaggerated but we heeded his warnings. The next day, we took a hike to Vaca Falls on the Macal River. While we were there, a rafting excursion ported their rafts and gear over the falls and proceeded down the river. Toward nightfall we started back to the jungle camp. We saw colorful rows of leaf cutter ants carrying purple blossoms.

The last rays of sunlight were escaping when a huge banana owl morpho moth fluttered by us. Jack had his butterfly net with him and with a deft stroke captured the moth. Then, another followed the first and again he snagged it. A third appeared and he gave me the net. I, however, was unsuccessful and it escaped. We sat down to bask in the glory of the hunt.

Prior to leaving the camp earlier, I had sprayed my legs heavily with Deet to ward off any pesky insects. Jack refused to do likewise as he disliked the smell and the potential personal danger of the insect poison. We sat there for only a few seconds when I noticed that small black dots seemed to be moving up one of Jack’s legs. We looked closer and realized that thousands of miniature ticks we marching up his leg. When he tried to brush them off, they flattened against his leg and successfully held on. We were only a few hundred feet from the camp so we decided to return as quickly as possible.

When we arrived, I took a hunting knife and scraped the ticks from his leg and hip. I scraped parts of him I do not soon want to see again. After 45 minutes of scraping, I had done all that I could do to eliminate Jack’s discomfort and the possibility of disease from the ticks. The next day, he found several ticks we had missed. As far as Jack could tell there were no long lasting effects.

Leaders must realize that known dangers can often be avoided. The dangers that lie hidden or seem too small to worry about are the ones that can jump up and bite you in a way that is painful and potentially long lasting. The presence of danger is always a part of leadership. Leaders who are able to anticipate or detect the unexpected are the most successful ones.

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, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.