Leaders predicting the future
The sixth day of following the Lewis & Clark Trail, we arrived at one of our favorite spots on the Oregon coast, Fort Clatsop, Lewis and Clark’s 1805 winter camp. The Corps of Discovery, as President Jefferson named Lewis & Clark’s expedition, left St. Charles, MO on May 14, 1804. Eighteen months later, on November 7, 1805, after countless setbacks, and near starvation, they spotted the Pacific Ocean. Lewis let the crew vote on where the winter quarters should be constructed, and they chose the high ground just across the mouth of the Columbia River.
The Corps of Discovery began many months before in President Jefferson’s mind. Thomas Jefferson, our third president, was a man of extraordinary vision. Jefferson championed the $15,000,000 purchase of the 820,000 square mile Louisiana Territory, for $15,000,000 from France in 1803. The purchase included the land that now compromises fifteen states and two Canadian provinces. This doubled the size of the United States, at a time when most of the U.S. population lived within 50 miles of the Atlantic Ocean. Before the ink had dried on the purchase agreement, President Jefferson asked Congress for the authorization and $2,500 needed for the Corps of Discovery. He had the decisiveness and courage to ask for the authority and resources required to move his vision forward.
President Jefferson knew the first nation to find the legendary Northwest Passage would control the commerce of the western part of the North American Continent. Jefferson chose Meriwether Lewis, who had been his personal secretary to head the exhibition. Jefferson described Lewis, “of courage undaunted, possessing a firmness and perseverance of purpose, habituated to the hunting life. For this express purpose, I could have no hesitation in confiding the enterprise to him. Steady in the maintenance of order & discipline, intimate with the Indian character, enkindled by an ardent devotion to science, experienced in astronomical observation, familiarity with the technical language of the natural sciences, and readiness in the astronomical observations necessary for the geography of his route.”
Jefferson’s ability to see and predict the future, ask for what he needed, find and staff the Corps of Discovery with the right person to lead his visionary project was key to the success of the expedition and his success as a leader.
Leaders look out over the horizon to see the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. Do you have the courage to ask for the funding needed for your projects? Do you staff with the qualified personnel needed to successfully lead your new enterprise? Do you grant your staff the trust, complete authority, and responsibility for the success of the undertaking? These are the abilities required for you to predict your future.