Speedy decisions can be dangerous for leaders

In early spring of 1970, we had a cow, Rose, die in an accident on the highway. Rose was a beautiful Guernsey cow with a very docile disposition. She was killed instantly after being hit by a car. Ironically, the driver of the car was the wife of our veterinarian who only months before had saved her from milk fever. Rose was as much a pet as any animal on the farm. We were all saddened and stunned by this accident. Afterwards, we spent several weeks running the fences and replacing the old, rusty barbed wire and rotten posts with shiny wire and new locust posts.

Of course, we had to quickly dispose of the body. In the 1950s and 1960s, various companies would pick up dead farm animals to be processed for fertilizer. However, by 1970, no nearby company was in that business anymore.

After some deliberation, Dad decided to drag Rose to the far corner of the farm, pile brush on her, and burn the body. It was an all day event for my younger brother, Jack, Dad, and me. Shortly before dark, I had to leave the two of them to get ready for a basketball game where I was the head statistician. Dad and Jack were in search of more wood when a tragedy befell them. Dad was driving the old green John Deere tractor with a trailer carrying Jack behind. The trailer had six-foot high wooden racks and was built upon the frame of a 1953 Studebaker station wagon.

He started up the wrong path that was steeper than he expected. The tractor reared up when the trailer snagged on a maple sapling. The nose of the tractor tumbled down the hill shattering the trailer where Jack sat unaware of the danger.

Amazingly, neither Dad nor Jack received a scratch. When Dad told me the story later, he explained that his angel Mama told him to duck. Luckily, he ducked on the right side, because on the other side the steering wheel was dented. The only place on the trailer that was not completely destroyed was where Jack was sitting. The next day when I visited the crash site, I was amazed that anyone could have come out of it alive.

Dad was in a hurry and he thought he knew where he was going. As a result, he came close to killing himself and his youngest son. Sometimes carrying out tasks that seem commonplace can be dangerous. It is important for leaders when they feel things are moving too fast to stop and think about what they are doing. That way potential disasters can be avoided.

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.