Everyday Leadership: Making your mark

At the Malaga, Ohio farm where I grew up, the original owners, the Howeillers, had cultivated an orchard. By the time we bought it, the orchard had grown up from neglect.

While gazing out the kitchen window, one could see a large yellow apple tree in the middle of the sweet corn field. My brothers and I loved to grab the ones on the lowest limbs just as they turned from green to yellow. Sometimes we sought them earlier to experience the ultra sour taste and watch the contorted face the other brother would make.

As the season continued, we climbed the apple tree, reached the higher apples and shook the others down. As a result, apple jelly was abundant on our breakfast table. The pigs loved the spoiled ones.

As the hill sloped to the ravine, yellow and red cherry trees flowered and developed huge clusters of fruit. We had to keep a watch on them to have a chance to taste their sweetness because birds of various species had an eye for them also. A huge blackheart cherry tree was our favorite because the fruit was the biggest. This tree also served as the site of our treehouse. We spent many hours engorging ourselves from the treehouse platform.

Further down the side of the ridge a patch of red raspberries flourished. The berries were as big as the cherries and added a distinct taste to our pallet. The orchard was completed with several rows of walnut and hickory trees. In the fall, we gathered the walnuts and put them in the driveway near the barn for the cars to dehull as they passed to and fro. A Chestnut tree closer to the house was ominous to a barefoot boy because of the thorns covering the hull. However, they were delicious as we enjoyed them in the living room in December.

One summer day, Dad gave us the job of clearing the maples saplings away from the fruit trees. The assignment had a valid purpose but it was also designed to keep three boys busy. When we had felled several trees, Joe had one of his many great ideas. Why not build a log cabin? The trees were small but for boys our size, they fit just fine. We called it the Ray Fort and even constructed gun ports we used for pretend Indian battles.

This orchard was a legacy from the vision of a family decades before us. We experienced it in early decline. Today, no evidence is left of our fort or treehouse and most of the trees except for the walnuts and hickories have died.

Everything we do as leaders makes a mark on the organization, good or bad. Leaders produce living processes that result in the organization’s culture. Today’s leaders are enmeshed in the day-to-day. Let me suggest you take a few moments occasionally and plan for a longer horizon. You may be remembered kindly for it.

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 or call him at 740-629-4536.