Saturday, October 24, 2009

Working up high, and the burdens of leadership






Our work has been more uplifting lately.

Literally.

The building has proceeded to the point where we are working on ladders and on the decking for the hay floor, as we build that floor and it expands slowly but steadily across the open space delineated by our walls and internal timber frame.

We were also required to climb the old barn to remove roofing and rafters before demolishing it.

This has given us a new outlook on life. We can see a lot further from the top of the growing building, or the top of the shrinking one, than we can from the ground.

Demolition is never without its risks. In this case, we were forced to use a chainsaw in some difficult positions to get the pieces to fall safely. And then of course there are heavy pieces of timber falling, which is inherently unsafe.

My approach as instructor and foreman is to do the most dangerous things myself. That doesn't mean to say that no-one else gets to use a chainsaw. It does mean that no-one else is using a chainsaw while at the top of a step ladder, or balancing across two 2 by 8 rafters.

Is this actually safer?

Probably. I have more experience with the tools and the exposure and have more confidence than most if not all of our students.

Is it completely safe? Definitely not.

In a moments lack of concentration on Friday I came as close as I have come to an accident on this job site when a purlin broke under foot and I began to fall. I caught myself, but Rory, down below, got to watch as his instructor staggered around on open rafters with a running chainsaw in his hands.

Luckily, the chainsaw is well-serviced, so it idles without the chain spinning. And it was me that was doing the falling, not a student.

Which actually fits in well with our topic of conversation in class, which is about how society is constructed. Do society's leaders accept the same risks that they expect others to accept?

We were talking about the cases where society has a claim on your life, specifically the military draft, and when and where that may or may not be acceptable.

Do leaders take the same risks and carry the same burdens that followers do? Do they lead from the front? Should they?

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