Before You Lead

We seldom reach a point in life where there is no one in front of us.

james-fenimore-cooper-the-pathfinder-001Okay. True. We become the head of our own household, owner of a company, leader of a team, but there will always be someone who is before us. Beckoning. Leading. Guiding. Setting the standard for everyone to follow.

Someone has gone before us, and by example we follow their principals and footsteps in life. We are never truly alone. Someone has gone before.

While it may be true we should never want to be the one responsible for everyone else, we also understand that before we can become a leader we must have time of training and soul-searching. We follow someone. Their words, actions and path. Ground breakers. Pathway makers. Leaders, even when they have no one immediately following.

There are some personalities who have the natural trait to be a pathfinder, the ground breaker who is willing to lead the way into the unknown.

Find one such character in the early American writer, James Fenimore Cooper. His series of stories were called “The Leatherstocking Tales.” It is thought that Cooper patterned his main character loosely based upon a personality we know so well from history, Daniel Boone. Cooper’s main character is none other than Natty Bumppo… Say, what? Okay. He has some other titles that are more eloquent: Deerslayer, La Longue Carabine, and Hawkeye. The nickname that always got my attention was “Pathfinder”, which sounds so much better than his given name of Natty Bumppo.

A point of fact, my CB handle (back in the days of CB radio proliferation) was Pathfinder. I do not like getting lost, nor do I enjoy not knowing what’s at the end of a lonely looking road. 

As I think about CB’s and Pathfinder, suddenly, I’m called to faraway times and faraway places of this nation when the west was a vast unknown land. Pathfinder yearns for the freedom from the advance of civilization and heads westward, eventually ending his tales on the plains of Kansas. Breaking ground for the future, he leads us from New York, westward.

In my mind I see him as a Pathfinder, showing the way west, blazing (maybe) trails for the future to follow. No fear of the unknown. At one with the land around him, surviving quite well on the sustenance he finds as he treks.

This concept of the unknown propels me ever to find stories of those who are seemingly fearless as they plan for travels faraway. Perhaps this is why I’ve enjoyed Science Fiction stories that deal with exploring the vast unknown of Space. The “out there” is still searched for “down here” in works from Jules Verne who writes about the unknown under the sea in “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” or “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”

In reality, and many centuries ago, are those intrepid explorers that braved the true unknown. Names like Coronado, Ponce de Leon, Balboa, Cabot, Henry Hudson, Christopher Columbus, Vasco Da Gama, Sir Francis Drake… History is replete with those who faced fears and failures. Hoping to find riches, fountains of youth, exotic foods and spices, these men were willing to risk the uncertain for the wealth they hoped to attain.

But reality sets in… My daydreaming and story search is put aside. For a while. The present is beckoning. Now is not the time for dreaming of faraway lands. There is so much to do. Here. Now. In front of me.

This is what a true leader does. They deal with the present, as they plan for tomorrow, as they dream about the future.